Netflix, which periodically streamlines its back catalog, is set to remove the iconic film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) from its viewing list. Access to that celebrated Western will end on July 1st.

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Nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning four, the George Roy Hill-directed film saw the first pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, playing Cassidy and Sundance, respectively. In its dramatization of the last days of the two outlaws, the movie expertly mixes action, humor, and melancholic recognition of the passing of the Old West.

The historical Butch Cassidy (real name Robert Leroy Parker) and Sundance Kid (real name Harry Longabaugh) escaped the American West in 1901, travelling to South America. They were accompanied by Sundance’s girlfriend, Etta Place (played by Katherine Ross in the film). Current consensus is that the two outlaws met their end in a shoot-out with soldiers in San Vincente, Bolivia, on November 7th, 1908. Cassidy was 42, and the Sundance Kid was in his 41st year.

However, numerous anecdotal stories claim that perhaps at least Cassidy did not die in South America, and that he even returned to the United States. It is interesting to note that the Pinkerton National Detective Agency (now Pinkerton Government Services), which pursued the Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang across the West, has never officially closed their file on the two men.

Between Takes: Newman, Redford & Ross / Image –

This is a film that is recommended not only for first-time viewing, as it culturally transcends the Western genre, but for repeated screenings as well. The actors shade their characterizations in subtle ways that could be missed with just one showing.

One of this writer’s favorite acting moments from the late Newman is when Cassidy and Sundance are in breathless conversation on a mountainside while being chased by the railroad-hired “super posse”. Cassidy thinks he knows who is leading their pursuers, a (real-life) lawman named Joe Lefors. After making his case to Sundance, Newman gives a deliberate half-wink that says, “think about it, you know it could be” and simultaneously there is a joie-de-vivre spirit in the look, a perfect personification of the happy-go-lucky spirit of the Cassidy character. Here is a trailer for the film:

In addition to taking the opportunity to view Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on Netflix, occasionally the film will be played in movie theatres in its original and restored format. Having attended such a showing, this writer can attest that the big screen adds a further freshness to a Western that continues to resonate since its initial release.

 (Copyright – Chad Beharriell)


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