It’s another morning where I don’t feel like writing a great deal, so for posterity, I’ll mention that before we got started with 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I told him that Paul Newman and Robert Redford were among the biggest movie stars of their day, and that he should look out for Ted Cassidy in a small role as a really big guy. But mostly we talked with our son about postmodernism and the film’s writer, William Goldman. I made sure to point out that Goldman wrote the novel The Princess Bride a few years after this. I won’t swear that the film is necessarily among his favorites, but his mom and I think it’s fantastic.
But the late sixties was a time when really good writers, like Goldman, were experimenting with expectations in popular media, and one of the trillion reasons I think Butch and Sundance is among the all-time greatest American films is that this movie does not do anything at all the way audiences in its day expected it to. The protagonists are villains, but they’re so affable that they never appear villainous. For almost the entire film, they break laws, but they are never cruel or sadistic, and don’t wish to hurt anyone. The narrative wants to force the protagonists to engage with the rising action of the posse that is chasing them; instead they spend a full quarter of the movie running away from it. And then there’s the end.
Despite the thirty minutes of running away, our son says that he really enjoyed this. His favorite moment was certainly the “too much dynamite” explosion, but some of the dialogue had him giggling good as well. “If he’d just pay me what he’s paying them to stop me robbing him, I’d stop robbing him” is certainly one of my all-time favorite lines in any movie. I can see why many viewers in 1969-70 were unhappy with Butch and Sundance because it was so unlike typical westerns, but the unusual structural things that it did are a little more commonplace today, and so it didn’t seem quite as weird to our son. It’s just an amusing film, photographed beautifully, with occasional action and an unforgettable finale. If you haven’t seen it, you really, really should.