Thursday, July 18, 2013

Butch Cassidy: Good Guy or Villain

I guess most of us remember the famous movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid. In the movie, they were portrayed as witty, fun loving men who just happened to rob banks and railroads for a living. Robert Redford liked his character so much he named his film festival Sundance. At the end of the movie, the two sort-of heroes are battling it out with the government officials in Bolivia, South America after they robbed a mining payroll and we assumed they both died that day.

So, is that what Butch Cassidy was really like? Was he a happy-go-lucky guy who just made a living by stealing, or is there more to the story? Did good ol’ Butch have a dark side? And did Butch die that November day in Bolivia with his friend, Sundance?

First, a few factoids: Butch Cassidy’s real name was Robert Leroy Parker and he was born in Utah to Mormon parents on April 13, 1866. I guess that would make him a post Civil War baby like my Grandfather McNeal who also was born the year after the Civil war. He worked as a rancher and a butcher before he took up his life of crime. Cassidy formed the Wild Bunch gang in 1896 after he got out of a short term in prison and they went on a string of robberies unmatched in American history. The Union Pacific Railroad exerted great effort as well as the U.S. government to do something about the robberies and the pressure on Cassidy became so great he intended to surrender, but when that didn’t work out, he fled to Bolivia with the Sundance Kid.

With theatrical license, movies about Butch Cassidy and his partner seem to tell the story of two guys who hated violence and were just having a good time, but as it turns out, Butch wasn’t exactly a nice guy. He actually murdered innocent people.

There is a bit of mystery surrounding Butch Cassidy’s death. Some report that he died with his partner and friend, Sundance at that shoot-out in Bolivia on November 6, 1908, but there is evidence that suggests he may have escaped and returned to the United States to live in obscurity until July 28, 1938. Since there is dispute between historians about the date of his death, I suppose we will never really be certain about when he died. I am of the mind that a good mystery is always way more intriguing than cut and dry facts. Until I did this research, I always thought that Paul Newman’s portrayal of Butch Cassidy was the whole truth and nothing but. I have to admit that I am disappointed to learn that Butch Cassidy was just a villain after all.



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  1. This is why I never see Biblical movies. It's hard to keep the movie version from influencing us. When most of us think of Butch Cassidy, we think of that sweet blue-eyed Paul Newman and meld the two characters. Paul Newman was a great guy, Butch Cassidy was not. Good point, Sarah.

  2. Sarah--well said, and well done. Yes, he was a common thief and murderer, after all. I'm with Caroline on the Biblical movies--they always gave some skewed version of the event and/or the character. In fact, I don't care for historical films, as a general rule...with one exception--"Lincoln." I think Daniel Day Lewis nailed "Lincoln", the man.

    I actually never did like the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I have always loved Paul Newman, but never like Robert Redford.
    The true history of the two men might never be known, as you say. I do recall a controversy about whether or not Butch Cassidy really died in Bolivia.

    Thanks, Sarah. Stories about the two men never get old, do they?

  3. Sarah,
    I have always wondered if Butch really died in that shootout. I remember loving that movie when it came out and I had a life-sized posted of the two of them, running out of the building in the very end of the movie, just the two of them. It was a great poster. How I wish I still had it! LOL Very interesting post, as always. Food for thought, huh? I remember when Paul Newman played Billy the Kid in THE LEFT HANDED GUN. Very sexy and hot...not at all like the true Billy the Kid. LOL

  4. Exactly, Caroline. Movie producers wants something that sells, even if they have to change history to do it.
    I was very disappointed to learn the truth about Butch Cassidy.

  5. Celia, I haven't had a chance to see Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. My sister saw it and said it was great.
    I used to think so highly of Rober Redford, but in recent years, I have been disappointed by him. Paul Newman on the other hand, was a truly wonderful guy. I love that he started a company making salad dressings and so on where all the profits go to charity. I miss him. I loved in Long Hot Summer.
    Thank you for your kind comments and for coming to visit.

  6. I thought the movie was great, too, Cheryl. They seemed like such nice guys and they were so funny. I should have known it was just bunk.
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

  7. I loved that movie with the two dynamic actors portraying the outlaws. I love the mystery, too. There were so many outlaws running rampant throughout the country, I guess my heart goes out to those who were forced into the lifestyle due to their circumstances. It was not a good time after the Civil War. I enjoyed your post.

  8. Hey Paisley. I noticed when I was researching Ringo, that there were so many outlaws and gangs of outlaws in those years following the Civil War, that they actually ran into eachother...amazingly.
    Thank you for coming by and commenting.

  9. Butch Cassidy was a popular fellow. Most everyone liked him--he was quite charming. I wasn't aware that he killed anyone. Killing was left to Kid Curry.

    Around here, most people are convinced that Butch Cassidy came back to Washington and lived out his days in Spokane. There's evidence of that, plus his sister is adamant that he visited her. You'd think a sister would know her own brother, even after a 20-year separation.

  10. Jacquie, I know, I thought Butch Cassidy was Mr. Sweetie...and then I researched him and learned the truth. Sometimes it's just better not to know, isn't it?
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

  11. Sarah, I kind of suspected Butch and Sundance weren't the lovable anti-heroes they were made out to be in the movie, which I loved. It's sad to have my suspicions confirmed, but real life isn't as romantic as the books we write. Or the movies.


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