Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

 

 

 

 

Director:    George Roy Hill

Starring:     Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (Sundance Kid),  Katherine Ross (Etta Place), Strother Martin (Percy Garris), Henry Jones  (Bike Salesman), Jeff Corey (Sheriff Bledsoe), George Furth (Woodcock), Cloris Leachman (Agnes, prostitute), Ted Cassidy (Harvey Logan), Kenneth Mars (Marshal).   

This is mostly a movie about a super-posse never giving up in its relentless pursuit of the outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"Most of what follows is true."

Butch Cassidy checks out a bank.  He looks over al the details.  Meanwhile, the Sundance Kid is playing poker.  A player accuses Sundance of cheating.  He stands up ready to draw on Sundance.  Butch tries to cool down the tension and stop the dispute, but the stranger just won't budge.  Now Butch says:  "I can't help you, Sundance."  When he says "Sundance" the stranger suddenly changes his mind.  He doesn't want to go against the Sundance Kid.  Butch starts collecting the money on the table and Sundance starts walking out of the saloon.  The stranger asks Sundance how good is he?  Sundance shoots the man's gun belt off of him and then he shoots the man's pistol across the floor with rapid shots. 

They head out to their hideout at Hole-in-the-Wall, Utah.  Butch talks to Sundance about them heading down to Bolivia to rob banks.  When they ride into the hideout area, they see a fellow named News Carver packing up to take a ride.  Butch asks where's he going?  They're going to robe the Union Pacific Flyer.  It seems that in Butch and Sundance's absence Harvey, physically a very large man, has taken over the gang.  He tells Butch that they are not going after any bank.  They're hitting the railroads. 

The only way Butch is going to eliminate Harvey as a rival is to beat him in a fight.  Butch tells Harvey that if they are going to have a knife fight, they have to agree on some rules.  Harvey says there ain't no rules in a knife fight.  So Butch kicks him in the crotch.  Harvey goes down to his knees in pain and then Butch clasps his hands together and swings both hands across Harvey's skull.  Harvey is knocked out.  Now that Butch is back as the head of the gang, he says that they are going to rob the Union Pacific Flyer

From a low cliff, Sundance jumps on top of a train car and works his way up to the engine where he tells the engineer to stop the train.  Once the train is stopped, Butch talks to the man who handles the mail and the safe that holds the payroll money.  Butch tells him he might as well open the door because the money doesn't belong to the mail carrier anyway.  The guy inside says he can't do that because he works for E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad and it was that man who gave him this good job.  Meanwhile dynamite has been attached to the mail car.  Butch tries one more time to get Mr. Woodcock to come out, but the man won't budge.  So the fuse is lit and the explosion knocks the door out of there.  The concussion knocks out Woodcock and Butch asks him if he's okay.  Woodcock will live.  They now blow the safe. 

The sheriff in the local town talks to a group of men about forming a posse to go after Butch and Sundance, but there are no takers.  Meanwhile, Butch and Sundance are listening to the speech and having a good laugh about it.  They are on the second floor terrace of a brothel having a drink.  The madam comes over to tell the boys to join the party.  She is losing her piano player because he is going off to what became known as the Spanish-American War.  Butch suggests to Sundance that they should join the army.  They could be Major Parker and Major Longbaugh (their real names).  They clink glasses of beer on it. 

The sheriff is having no luck at all with the people.  And now a bike salesman steps up to try to sell some bicycles. 

Etta Place is walking back to her house.  She goes to her bedroom and gets a real shock there because Sundance is sitting in the chair in the room.  He tells her to keep on taking her clothes off.  And put down her hair.  He stops her before she is completely naked. 

The next morning Sundance and Etta are in the same bed.  Butch takes Etta on a bicycle ride.  He rides her down to the barn.  She watches from the second floor as Butch does some bike tricks for her. She claps at the performances.  Riding the bike backwards leads to Butch being sent flying through a fence.  In the enclosure is a bull and he starts coming towards Butch.  Cassidy gets back on the bike, gets the girl and rides away as fast as he can.  (All this set to the musical tune of "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head".)

Back at the house, Etta asks Butch what would have happened if they had met before she met Sundance?  She and Butch hug each other.  Sundance comes out on the porch and asks what are they doing?  Butch says he's stealing Sundance's girl.  Sundance says:  "Take her!" 

The gang now robs the Union Pacific Flyer again. Mr. Woodcock is still in charge of the mail car.  Butch tricks him into opening the door and Butch gets access to the safe.  Dynamite is stuck to the safe and the explosion goes off.  The explosion, however, is way too strong and parts of the mail car are blown out too.  The money falls from the sky as if it's raining money.  Sundance asks:  "Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?"  The men start picking up the money.

While the gang is picking up the money, here comes another train, but it is pulling only one railway car.  The train stops.  The box car door is opened and out jump men already on their horses.  Butch doesn't know who they are, but he says:  "Whatever they're selling, I don't want it."  They get on their horses and ride away.  One gang is delayed because he was still trying to pick up more money and for his troubles he gets shot by one of the posse members.  Another gang member is shot off his horse.  There are four gang members left.  They break into two groups and each goes their own way. 

Butch and Sundance head up into the hills.  Butch asks how many of the posse are chasing them?  Sundance says: "All of 'em."   Butch wheels his horse around, points his hand and arm in the direction of the other part of the gang and yells at the posse:  "What's the matter with those guys?"  Butch and Sundance start riding very hard and over wildly different terrain.  They circle around and go back to the brothel.  Butch grabs an old man and tells him to go outside and tell the posse that the bad guys went in the other direction.  Butch grabs a prostitute and heads for a bed.  Sundance is in the room, but he's watching the old man from a room window. He sees the posse ride up to the old man and the old guy sends the posse in the wrong direction. 

The sounds of horses are heard again.  Sundance rushes over to the window.  The two bandits watch from the window and see the posse ride up to the old man.  And this time, he points right at the window of the room where the robbers are staying.  Now Butch and Sundance have to get out of there fast.  The fellows have to ride through the dark of night.  Up in the mountains they watch to see if the posse is still on their trail.  The boys are amazed that the posse is using torches and/or lanterns to follow their trail.  Butch asks Sundance:  "I couldn't do that.  Could you do that?  How can they do that?  Who are those guys?"

The guys start riding again.  They both now are only on one horse.  They hope the posse will follow the wrong horse.  They do, but they quickly get back on the right trail.  Butch repeats:  "Who are those guys?"  Now the boys ride around and back into town, but this time they break into the sheriff's office.  The sheriff in his long johns awakens.  He knows the guys but is infuriated by their coming to his jail.  He says:  "Now what do you think would happen to me if we was to be seen together?  I'm too old to hunt up another job!"  Butch tells him that they want to join the army and fight the Spanish.  The sheriff says both men are crazy. 

The sheriff has the outlaws tie him up.  They take off running again on one horse.  They keep riding, but when they check again and again they still see that the posse is on their trail.  They reach a pond and Butch jumps in to cool off.  He tells Sundance to relax.  They can't follow them over rocks.  Oh, but they can.  Sundance says there is an Indian, Lord Baltimore, who can track anybody anywhere.  He thinks Lord Baltimore is directing the posse on the trail.  The guys start riding again.  They ride upstream through a shallow creek for awhile.

They still can't shake the posse.  Butch asks Sundance: whose the toughest lawman he knows?  It's Joe LeFors.  Butch says he thinks that's the man who is the head of the posse.  The lawman always wears a white skimmer hat and the fellow with the posse has on his head a white skimmer. 

The guys decide to abandon their last horse and climb up the mountain.  They keep climbing and running until they reach a gorge.  They don't want to jump because they are up very high over the river, but Butch says they have to jump.  Butch tries to convince Sundance to jump with him but Sundance keeps saying no.  What's wrong?  Sundance says he can's swim.  Butch starts laughing and says:  "Why, you crazy?  The fall will probably kill you."  Together the two jump off the cliff into the river below.  The white water takes them downstream.

The two outlaws reach Etta's house.  The two men embrace Etta.  They learn from the newspaper that it was Joe LeFors and Lord Baltimore trailing them.  Etta tells them the posse won't stop because E. H. Harriman is mad that Butch's gang keeps robbing just the Union Pacific trains. 

Sundance tells Etta that they have decided to head off to Bolivia.  Sundance in sort of a rude way asks her to come with them, because the law won't be expecting two guys and a gal.  Etta says she'll go.  They head out for Bolivia by way of New York City.  In the big city they enjoy being regular tourists.  Then they take passage on a ship sailing for South America. 

They finally reach their destination in Bolivia.  They are dropped off at Santa Ines.  The place looks like its in ruins.  Right behind the station are a lama and some pigs.  There is also a tiny run down settlement there.  Butch comments:  "All of Bolivia can't look like this."

The boys are going to rob a bank.  They go inside to check the bank out and a Bolivian starts speaking to them in Spanish.  Butch is supposed to know some Spanish, but he can't understand a word the man is saying.  The guys now go to Etta to learn just some basic Spanish phrases used in a bank robbery.  She's a school teacher by profession and she does a good job of teaching the fellows, but Sundance resists learning the language and Etta has to browbeat him somewhat.

The guys rob the bank while Etta holds the horses.  It's comical because Butch keeps messing up his Spanish phrases.  They get away successfully.  The guard in the bank runs over to the sheriff's office to say that two men robbed the bank.  It was two men and one woman.  The sheriff quickly gathers a posse and the chase begins again.  When the sheriff and three other lawmen round a bend they are fired upon by the outlaws.  This scares the posse and they turn around and ride away from the area. 

The next robbery is done by Sundance and Etta   They pretend they are some bigwigs from the USA and the head banker takes them on a tour of the bank, including the safe.  He opens the safe for his guests and they take the money.  Another posse is sent after the robbers.  Seven lawmen are on their trail.  The gang shakes them and robs another bank.  The posse is after them again.  The same process is done all over still again.  Now they are living a high life style. 
But then the honeymoon was soon over.  Joe LeFors has come to Bolivia to catch Butch and Sundance.  Butch says they'll stymie him by stop robbing banks for awhile. 

The two guys try to get jobs as miners.  An American fellow does the hiring.  He tells them he can't guarantee that they will be paid because of the payroll money thieves.  The director now wants to know if Sundance can shoot.  Sundance shows him how he shoots.  The fellow American hires the two Yankees to be payroll guards. 

The next day the director takes his two guards on a little journey.  They go down the mountain.  The guards are a bit skittish and the director says he has two morons working for him.  The bandits are not going to rob them going down the mountain because they don't have any money.  They will wait until the fellows start back up the mountain with a load of money.  They get the money from the bank and start back up.  Suddenly a shot rings out and the director falls dead off his horse.  The two Yankees get off their horses and dive for cover.  Sundance is able to retrieve the payroll from the dead body.  He then tosses the saddle bags to Butch, who, in turn, throws them up higher on the mountain side.  Then the two guards run off. 

The six robbers are dividing up the payroll between them.  The leader then looks up and sees the two Yankees standing quietly near the trail  Sundance tells Butch to tell the guys what they want the robbers to do.  Butch tells them in Spanish, but the robbers are not going to leave the money behind.  Sundance asks Butch if he can eliminate the two on the right?  Butch says the problem is that he has never shot anyone.  Sundance's reply is:  "One hell of a time to tell me."  The leader of the bandits says that these two guys are not going to kill them.  With this view, the bandits draw on Butch and Sundance.  All six are killed in a blaze of gunfire.  Their bodies roll down the hill. 

Etta wants them to buy a farm or a ranch.  The guys say they are no good at farming and ranching.  This sobers up Etta and now she tells Sundance:    "I might go back ahead of you."  So the guys go back to robbing to get some money for Etta's voyage to San Francisco.  The men they rob of the mine payroll recognize the two as the wanted Yankees. 

The guys go into the town of San Vicente.  A boy recognizes the brand of  "A" on the donkey with the Yankees and he figures out who these Yankees are.  They robbed the Alpoca Mine payroll.  He immediately goes to report this to the captain.  He says that they are at his father's restaurant now.  The guys are served their food, but a shot puts an end to that.  The Yankees have to retreat to a building to stay out of the way of the bullets.  They have a serious problem.  They are running low on ammunition.  So Butch says that Sundance can cover him, while he makes his way over to their saddlebags on the donkey. 

Sundance shoots and Butch runs a short distance.  This pattern is followed until Butch reaches the donkey.  He gets the saddlebags.  To get back he tries to stay between a horse and the donkey.  But the donkey falls or is killed and falls.  Now Butch has to make a run for it.  A bullet wounds him.  Sundance has to come out and provide more cover and he gets wounded.   But Butch makes it back into the building.  There are now out there a great many law officers and that's despite the loss of many men Sundance has wounded or killed. 

And now the army arrives.  Their many men take up positions on top of the walls around the building where the bad guys are.  Every one is just waiting for the bandits to come out. 

Inside the building Butch talks about them heading down to Australia.  The men prepare themselves for a run to their horses.  Butch asks if Sundance saw Joe LeFors out there?  No.  Butch says:  "Oh, good.  For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble."  The two men start running for the horses while firing at the men out to kill them.  They die in a sense by numerous firings squads. 

 

This is a famous American Western film and deservedly so.   It's an action film and a comedy.  The laughs keep coming throughout the film.  And there's constant action in the film with many bank robberies and hold ups.   The three main actors were all great.  The several well-known character actors were also good.  The history is not correct in its details (see the Historical Background below), but overall it roughly follows the main plot of what actually happened.  The film is an excellent one for children and adults. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

1866  --  Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy) was born in Beaver, Utah of strict Mormon parents.

18?? -- as a teenager Robert was befriended by the outlaw, Mike Cassidy, who taught him how to rustle cows.

1884 -- Cassidy is sought for cattle theft; flees to Telluride, Colorado; takes a job as a mule driver.

1884 -- goes to Wyoming to work as a cowboy.

1887  --Butch leads a cowboy's life in Wyoming and in Montana, before returning to Telluride in 1887.

1889 (June 24)  -- Butch returns to Telluride and robs the San Miguel Valley Bank.  They fled to the Robbers Roost, a remote hideout in southeastern Utah.

1890  --  1890, Parker purchases a ranch near Dubois, Wyoming. This location is across the state from the notorious Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural geological formation which afforded outlaws much welcomed protection and cover. The formation is located in the Big Horn Mountains of Johnson County in northern Wyoming.  Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and other desperados met at a log cabin in the Hole-in-the-Wall country which has been preserved at the Old Trail Town museum in Cody, Wyoming.

1894 (early)  --  Parker becomes involved romantically with outlaw and rancher Ann Bassett.

1894 (early) -- he is arrested in Wyoming for horse theft (he may have been innocent of this one); got two years in state prison, Laramie, Wyoming.  He was out in 18 months. 

1896 (January) -- Butch is released from prison.  Upon his release, forms the Wild Bunch -- sometimes called the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang after his outlaw hideout located about 60 miles northwest of Casper, Wyoming. Cassidy joins forces with Elzy Lay (Chicago Kid) and Harvey Logan (Kid Curry).

1896 (August 13)  -- bank robbery at Montpelier, Idaho, the first committed by the Wild Bunch; for the next 12 years Cassidy acts as a bank and train robber.  Shortly thereafter he recruited Harry Longabaugh, alias "The Sundance Kid", a native of Pennsylvania, into the Wild Bunch.

1897 (early)  --  Parker is joined at Robbers Roost by his off and on girlfriend Ann Bassett, Elzy Lay, and Lay's girlfriend Maude Davis.

1897 (early April)  --the four hide out until Lay and Parker sent the women home so that they could plan their next robbery.

1897 (April 21)  --  in the mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, Parker and Lay ambushed a small group of men carrying the payroll of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company from the railroad station to their office, stealing a sack containing $7,000 in gold, with which they again fled to the Robbers Roost.

1899 (June 2)  --  the gang robbed a Union Pacific overland flyer near Wilcox, Wyoming, a robbery that became famous and which resulted in a massive man hunt.

1899 (July 11)  --  Lay and others were involved in a train robbery near Folsom, New Mexico, which Parker may have planned and may have been directly involved in, which led to a shootout with local law enforcers in which Lay, arguably Parker's best friend and closest confidante, killed Sheriff Edward Farr and posseman Henry Love, leading to his imprisonment for life in the New Mexico State Penitentiary.

The Union Pacific Railroad, under chairman E. H. Harriman, attempts to meet with Butch on the subject of amnesty. 

1900 (August 29)  --  Butch, Longabaugh and others rob a Union Pacific train near Tipton, Wyoming.  This violated Butch's earlier promise to the governor of Wyoming not to offend again in that state, and this effectively ended the prospects for amnesty.

1900 (September 19)  --Parker, Longabaugh, and Bill Carver rob the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada of $32,640.

Butch, Longabaugh and the gang rob a Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana,

????  --  one theory is that Etta Place was first the lover of Parker, becoming involved with Longabaugh later, and that she met them both while working in a brothel as a prostitute.

1901 (February 20) --  Etta  sailed with Harry Longabaugh and Robert Leroy Parker (who was now posing as one James Ryan, her fictional brother), aboard the British ship Herminius for Buenos Aires in Argentina.  The trio settled on a ranch which they purchased near Cholila in Chubut Province of West Central Argentina.

1902 -- sails to Liverpool, England, where his trail disappeared.

1902 (March 3, 1902)  --  Etta Place and Longabaugh sailed on the SS Soldier Prince from Buenos Aires to New York City, probably to visit family and friends.  They went out to Denver, Colorado.

1902 (July 10)  --  Etta and Harry return to Buenos Aires from New York, aboard the steamer Honorius, posing as stewards.

1902 (August 9)  --  Etta was with Longabaugh at the Hotel Europa in Buenos Aires.

1902 (Autust 15)  --  Etta and Harry sail aboard the steamer SS Chubut to return to their ranch.

1904 (summer)  --  Etta and Harry back in the USA for a visit.

1904 -- the duo resumes their criminal life.

1905 (early)  -- the trio sells the Cholila ranch as once again the law was beginning to catch up with them.  The trio fled north to San Carlos de Bariloche where they embarked on the steamer Condor across Lake Nahuel Huapi and into Chile.

1905 (late in the year)  --  the trio and another outlaw the Banco de la Nacion in Villa Mercedes, 400 miles west of Buenos Aires. Pursued by armed lawmen, they crossed the Pampas and the Andes and again into the safety of Chile.

1906 (June 30)  --  Longabaugh and Place go from Valparaiso, Chile, to San Francisco, California, USA.  She stays behind and he returns to South America. 

19?? -- migrated to Bolivia.

1908 -- not sure what happened to him, but several eyewitnesses maintain they saw Cassidy in the U.S. But another man said that Cassidy and Sunday had been killed in a gunfight with a troop of Bolivian soldiers in the village of San Vincente in 1909.

1970  --  Cassidy's 86-year-old sister maintained that her brother Butch had visited the family in Utah in 1925 and died peacefully in Spokane in 1937.

 

 

 

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