Vintage Movies: “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.


Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969, 110 minutes)

Now looked upon as one of the silver screen’s last epic westerns, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid went through many changes before its 1969 release. Robert Redford was looked upon at the time as a lightweight by some, more suited to his role in Barefoot In The Park than playing Sundance to Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy. “I always knew I could play that part and beat this stereotype that I was too clean-cut,” said Redford recently.

Rumors circulated that either Marlon Brando or Warren Beatty would partner up with Newman. Steve McQueen could have copped the part, so they say, if he hadn’t squabbled about who would get top billing. Even Newman was confused at the casting, uncertain whether he was playing Sundance or Butch, until just before director George Roy Hill began shooting in such glorious locations as Zion National Park. “What made the movie was its complete unconventionality,” said Newman, who died in 2008. “Whenever you expected something to turn left, it turned right.”

Winning every hand at cards, Sundance is accused of foul play by the man who’s losing. “I know you’re cheating, but I don’t know how,” he says. Sundance takes a gunslinger’s stance as Butch tries to avert bloodshed by saying to the loser, “All you have to do is ask us to stay around.” Now realizing he’s facing the notorious Sundance Kid, the man nervously mumbles the odd request. Before the stranger can make a move, Sundance fires six shots that blow the holster off the man’s hip and send his pistol scurrying across the room like a squirrel.

The boys attempt to rob the Overland Flyer car of the Great Northern train, pulled to a dead stop in the middle of nowhere. “Hey, Woodcock, open up,” shouts Butch, recognizing the voice of the man posted inside the car by the Pinkertons to guard its valuables. The robbery is interrupted by an old lady who leaves her seat and stomps directly toward the boys. “Get back inside there, lady!” warns Butch. “Oh, I’m not afraid of you. I’ve fought whiskey, and I’ve fought gambling, and I can certainly fight you!” Thinking the worst for one of the train’s passengers, Woodcock quickly opens the door to find Butch mimicking the voice of the old lady as Sundance has a firm hand placed over her mouth.

Recalling their past failure at blowing the safe on the same train, Butch grabs the dynamite from Sundance and says, “Gimme that, and get more, a lot more!” They weren’t short of explosives this time. The blast not only hurls the boys into a ditch, it completely levels the car down to its platform with tiny bits and pieces of the fortified unit, its safe, its money and even Woodcock, himself, fluttering down upon them like autumn leaves.