Butch and Sundance ride

January 17, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach

Paul Newman and Robert Redford play history's handsomest bank robbers in 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (4 p.m., TCM), a turn-of-the-century Western that has little to do with the West or the turn of the century, but everything to do with friendship, charisma and good-old movie magic.

Butch and Sundance were real outlaws, and the character Etta Place (played by Katharine Ross) was Sundance's companion (though probably not a schoolteacher, as she is in the movie). But that's about where the truth of Butch Cassidy ends. Screenwriter William Goldman, who won the Oscar, is far more concerned with bonhomie and byplay, with good friends who fill in the gaps in each other's personalities. True, the film deals peripherally with the passing of an era, with how the 20th century would have no more room for people like Butch and Sundance. And there are some masterful cinematic touches, such as the decision to never show the posse pursuing our outlaw heroes as anything but a series of small dots on the far horizon.

But really, don't go into this film searching for deep meaning.

Instead, relish one of the most enjoyable movies ever made. Both Newman, as Butch, and Redford, as Sundance, are at their crowd-pleasing best: easy on the eyes, absolutely at home in front of the camera and with each other. This is what star power is all about.

The film even tapped into the late-'60s outlaw zeitgeist, as these two engaging characters resolutely go their own way, the establishment be darned; it's not hard to see why college audiences at the time embraced this film.

Putting all the pieces together is director George Roy Hill, who won an Oscar four years later for reuniting Newman and Redford in The Sting.

Elsewhere, Arnold Schwarzenegger gets to play a murderous cyborg from the future on the side of the good guys in 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (8 p.m., AMC) and 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (10:30 p.m., AMC).

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