Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Trains = Money week

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Rated PG

Legendary outlaws Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) display their gifts for perfect comedic timing and charisma as they pull off heist after heist in this Academy Award-winning film from director George Roy Hill. To evade a relentless posse, the boys flee to Bolivia, thinking they’ll find easier pickings there. But trouble finds the charming desperadoes wherever they go, prompting yet another run.

“Think you used enough dynamite there Butch?”

George Roy Hill directed his masterpiece here from a script by the prolific William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Misery). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is only peripherally a western. It begins with a wonderful credits sequence alongside “footage” of the Wild Bunch/Hole in the Wall gang and then segues into a nice sepia-toned scene followed by segueing into full color. Although Godfather II used sepia better, Butch predates Coppola’s film by several years. The film then touches on a few random events for the Wild Bunch before our three leads hightail it for Bolivia.

Butch Cassidy won four Oscars: Best Writing (William Goldman), Best Cinematography (Conrad Hall), Best Music (Burt Bacharach) and Best Song (Burt Bacharach, Raindrops Keep Fallin on my Head). It was also nominated for Best Sound, Best Director and Best Picture but lost to Hello,Dolly for Sound and Midnight Cowboy for director and picture. Please keep in mind that while Raindrops is now elevator fodder, it was very popular 40 years ago.

Paul Newman was already an ‘A’ lister when this came out but Butch Cassidy is probably the role he is best remembered for. Robert Redford had a few lead roles before this but this is the movie that made him a star. Their camaraderie is infectious and would lead to them being paired again in The Sting (also by George Roy Hill). Katherine Ross fills out the requisite romantic triangle as Etta Place.

There are plenty of other people in the film but this is primarily a vehicle for Newman and Redford – even Katharine Ross seems pushed to the side at time. George Furth as Woodcock provides several laughs and Ted Cassidy makes a good foil as Harvey Logan. Cloris Leachman and Kenneth Mars would seem to point to this being a comedy and while Butch is quite funny in spots, it is more of a light drama than a comedy.

George Roy Hill keeps the atmosphere very light in spite of the story being that of the downfall of the Hole in the Wall gang. We never see what happens to any of the members after Butch and Sundance head for Bolivia but trust me, historically it does not go well for any of them.

Sidenote: For a marvelous postscript to this story, see the independent film Blackthorn starring Sam Shepard or put it in your Netflix DVD queue.

People Watch: Perennial westerner Sam Elliott makes his film debut as Card Player #2. He would eventually marry co-star Katherine Ross although they didn’t meet until they filmed The Legacy (1978).

The Princess Bride

For the final day of swashbuckler week, I’ve chosen one of my all-time favorite movies (and my wife’s #1 favorite) – The Princess Bride. The Princess Bride is currently available on Netflix instant play.

The Princess Bride

WATCH: The Princess Bride (1987) – Rated PG for adult language and violence

“In this enchantingly cracked fairy tale, the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) and the dashing Westley (Cary Elwes) must overcome staggering odds to find happiness amid six-fingered swordsmen (Christopher Guest), murderous princes (Chris Sarandon), Sicilians (Wallace Shawn) and rodents of unusual size. But even death can’t stop these true lovebirds from triumphing. Fred Savage and Peter Falk co-star.”

Like Robin and Marian earlier this week, this film is all about love. William Goldman’s script is magical and Rob Reiner’s direction perfect. While I suppose this film would have to be categorized as a comedy, it works as an adventure story, a revenge fantasy and a romance as well. The dialogue is quoted more often at our house than that of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Rob Reiner underplays any effects – the rodents are cheerfully B-esque, the tree with a door is clearly a prop, and there is clearly a landing mat under the gymnastics bar used in one of the sword fights.

The performances – all from B-listers and character actors are uniformly wonderful – in fact for each of the actors involved I’d say that it is their best performance. Peter Falk is warm and loving as the uncle telling the story to his sick nephew (a cute Fred Savage). Cary Elwes plays the dashing hero with elan (sort of a snarky Errol Flynn) and Robin Wright infuses Princess Buttercup with a charming cluelessness. As played by Chris Sarandon, Prince Humperdinck is deliciously slimy and he is aided by a matter-of-fact Christopher Guest as his second. Wallace Shawn is all over the top ego as Vizzini. Everyone attempts to steal every scene that they are in and mostly succeed especially Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant.

People Watch: Several cameos in this film – an over the top Peter Cook as a clergyman, Mel Smith as a hilarious albino, and Carol Kane and Billy Crystal under almost unrecognizable makeup as an old bickering couple.