1969 ushered in a new era. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the Vietnam War raged, Woodstock Music and Art Festival gave birth to the Woodstock Generation, and William Goldman’s blockbuster Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid walked away with movie-goers’ hearts and imagination.
Thirty-four years after its release, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 2003, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”
Loosely based on the escapades of Butch Cassidy (played by Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford), this movie paired two of the greatest Hollywood talents in one movie, bringing smiles to people around the world before gracefully riding off into the sunset.
From the opening scene, I was magically drawn into the story and found myself in the wild west near the end of its time, just as the iron horse and automobile were getting a foothold. If the acting and plot were not so riveting I might have enjoyed or even noticed the eye-catching scenery more.
One of the last great films to glorify the bad guys, you learn quickly these bad guys might not be so bad after all. Searching for the shortcut to success that eludes us all, Butch and Sundance get more than a glimpse into the good life, enjoying the spoils from robbing banks and trains yet they seem to enjoy the sport of the game as much as the money.
Right from the opening scene, it’s clear Butch is the brains and Sundance is the muscle whose expertise with a six gun is unmatched. He appears to dance as he sprays lead in every direction with deadly accuracy. He takes this skill in stride however, never flaunting his abilities except when required.
True to history, Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place (portrayed by the beautiful Katherine Ross) escape to Bolivia to dodge the posse assembled by the Union Pacific Railroad to track them down and bring them to justice dead or alive.
There, they encounter the language barrier as Etta, a school teacher, does her best to teach the duo phrases such as “raise your hands” and “where’s the safe?” Of course things don’t go so smoothly when the time comes and the “Yankee banditos” forget their lessons and are forced to read from cheat sheets as they point their guns.
Directed by George Roy Hill, just about every scene ends with a punch line both visual and verbal. Fortunately, the following scene allows a moment or two for the audience’s laughter to subside before the dialogue resumes. When the timing is right everything falls into place so the viewer has time to catch their breath, recuperate, and prepare for the next assault. which is funnier yet.
As their adventures escalate, the humor increases threefold. Accordingly, everyone is either on the edge of their seat, eyes wide, or on the floor clutching their sides, teary-eyed and gasping for air as the capacity for laughter has been exhausted and replaced with pathetic, barely audible whimpers.
Everyone has their favorite lines from their favorite movies but if you haven’t seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, stop the presses! You may have to trade your beloved lines in for better ones. Decorum prohibits me from enlightening you so you’ll just have to see the movie for yourself to find out what I’m talking about.