Butch and Sundance – Romanticisation.

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Butch and Sundance – Romanticisation.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 western movie directed by George Roy Hill, starring Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance kid. It depicts the exploits of outlaws Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabough, better known, respectively, as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Although the film is based on true events, the film romanticises the two titular characters and they’re exploits, depicting them as fairly happy and friendly people, making them likable characters, despite them being outlaws.

This is not an uncommon technique to do in all forms of story telling. The film Public Enemies (2009, Dir. Michael Mann) shows the outlaw John Dillinger as an almost Robin Hood character. Speaking of Robin Hood, in most pieces of fiction he appears, he is also an outlaw shown to be doing good, with his stories being romanticised. However, John Dillinger IS shown in a bad light at times in Public Enemies, but the film still manages to make us root for him.

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, however, they are consistently shown as “good guys” even when robbing trains and banks, going so far as to have Butch say that they’re only “taking the bank’s money.” and not the public’s. In one scene, when Butch and Sundance return the the “Hole in the Wall” (Their gang’s hideout) one member of the gang questions Butch’s leadership and challenges him to a fight. Butch consistently says that he “Don’t wanna shoot with you, Harvey!”, showing Butch to be non-confrontational and nonviolent. Even later, when they’re blowing their way into a train to take the money on board, he’s constantly friendly with the man on the train, pleading with him to let them on so they don’t have to hurt him and even going so far as to check on him once they’ve blown the door open.

The Sundance Kid is shown in a very similar light. However, this could just be because he is very loyal to Butch. Despite also being a “Good guy outlaw” in the film, he seems more willing to use violence than Butch. He even has a reputation for being very fast, accurate and deadly on the draw, as shown in the opening minutes of the film.

In one scene, Butch rides and a bicycle with Etta Place (Played by Katherine Ross) and what follows is a scene in which Butch performs some rather impressive and comedic stunts and poses on the bike (Image 1), before enraging a bull and falling off of the bike. Although the scene is not too out of place in terms of style when you consider the rest of the film, it does, however, seem a bit unlikely to have happened in real life. This sequence was, in fact, written for the film and non-factual, thus re-emphasising the films attempts to romanticise the protagonists and show them in a brighter light.

When a posse starts to come after Butch and Sundance, they deduce what it must include a marshal called Joe Lefors and a native american tracker named Lord Baltimore before being chased ruthlessly across the country by the posse. In actuality, they WERE chased by a posse that included marshal Joe Lefors, but it didn’t include Lord Baltimore as he didn’t exist, plus in real life Butch and Sundance actually escaped the posse with ease. This shows more creative freedoms taken by the filmmakers to romanticise the film and make it more exciting.

There is also one famous scene where they have the choice to either jump into a ravine or fight a posse that greatly outnumbers them. This scene was created by the writer (William Goldman) to add humour and drama to the film however, as stated above, they did manage to avoid posse with relative ease. The fact that it was added for entertainmaint purposes is more apparent when you look at how unrealistic the climax to the scene is and how humourous the dialogue between the two characters is:

Butch: I’ll jump first.
Sundance: Nope.
Butch: Then you jump first.
Sundance: No, I said!
Butch: What’s the matter with you!?
Sundance: I can’t swim!
Butch: [Laughing] Why, you crazy… The fall’ll probably kill ya!

This scene (Image 3) shares a similarity with a later scene, in that they’re both dramatic, yet have elements of humour:

Butch: We’re going to run out (of ammunition) unless we can get to that mule and get some more.
Sundance: I’ll go.
Butch: This is no time for bravery. I’ll let ya!

As this scene happened just before they get gunned down, we don’t know if this actually happened or not as, in real life, the whole story about this shootout and their deaths are disputed, but it makes a great comedic bit for the film.

Throughout the entire film, there is almost a “bromance” going on between Butch and Sundance and their undying loyalty to each other. Now, although we can’t know exactly how close those two were, the relationship could very well have been romantacised for the purposes of the film, making their friendship a major part of the plot. After all, after the gang goes their separate ways, Butch and Sundance stay together, along with Etta Place, and even travel to Bolivia with each other.

An article in The Guardian that actually looks at the film’s historical accuracy states “The film skips a respectable sojourn the real trio enjoyed running a ranch in Buenos Aires from 1901, because that would be boring.” actually agreeing with the point that the film does take creative liberties to show the protagonists in a nicer light and to make an entertaining film. However, also interestingly, some parts of the film that were deemed too “friendly” in an era of gritty westerns, such as blowing into the train and not killing the man on the train (Woodcock) (Image 2) are actually factually accurate, they DID even meet him twice during two separate train robberies showing that, though the film IS romanticised and has some elements and scenes thrown in for entertainment purposes and to show these two outlaws almost as heroes, some things like that can actually happen.



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