I am writing to you from the land of the culturally ignorant; until this evening I was probably the only one of my age-peers never to have seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As I write this, JP is rolling his eyes because I asked him who the actor playing Butch was. “What?” he said. “What did you just say? Are you talking about Paul Newman?” Oh…is that who that was?
So when I say that I’m taking a fresh look at this movie, I mean a truly fresh look…and I can honestly say that this movie has stood the test of time. Made back in the day, when Hollywood still had original ideas (and didn’t have to rely on technology to make the old ideas interesting, as in Avatar), Butch Cassidy had me (and my six- and twelve-year-old children, to whom it was also new) riveted. For me, that’s saying a lot. I’m not a big fan of movies–books are much faster moving and, in my opinion, a far better value for your two hours. I tend to wander away from movies or, if a movie interests me enough to keep me in one place, I still manage to fall asleep before it’s over. This movie I stayed awake and in one spot for…why?
First of all, the banter between Newman and Redford, which gets better the tighter the spot that they are in. (Watch the clip for a sample of what I’m talking about.) Secondly, the characters–not just Butch and Sundance, and the strong friendship they have, but also the supporting characters: Sundance’s girlfriend, played by Katharine Ross, who agrees to go with them to Bolivia but tells them she won’t watch them die, and makes sure she returns home when it becomes clear that’s what will probably happen; the marshal who has some undisclosed personal connection with Butch and instructs the two on how to tie him up so he can be found bound and gagged later in case people were watching when the outlaws arrived; the Bolivian payroll guard commander who hires the two as guards and proceeds to make fun of them for being “morons” and “beginners.” (Yes, that was a very long sentence–deal with it.) The main characters in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are not so much developed as disclosed over the course of the film. Late in the movie, for example, we learn that Butch has never shot anyone. A train robber who never shot anyone? That’s the kind of original idea that Hollywood would never use now unless it had been done in some other classic movie first.
Third, the scenery. Fourth, the music. Yes, that’s right, the music. I happen to like “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” This movie gets a rose.