Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

3473 words - 14 pages

One of the more popular movies of the 1960s was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , which featured Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the two titled Western outlaws. The film portrays the careers of Butch and Sundance, and how they were forced by the law to leave the Wild West for South America. In the last scene of the movie, the two bandits are shown surrounded by a bunch of South American soldiers after a robbery-gone-bad. Facing capture and extradition to the United States, the two badmen charge out of their hiding place, guns firing away. The film stops there, giving the impression that the two outlaws died in a blaze of glory with their boots on. However, did the real Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid meet their end in some one-sided shootout in South America? Members of both men’s families, as well as some historians, believe that the two men survived the shootout and later returned to the United States. A number of men have claimed to be the notorious outlaws, the most credible being a machine-shop owner by the name of William Phillips who said he was really Butch Cassidy. Based on the available information, the debate could go either way.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid both came from respectable families that were trying to make a living on the wild American frontier of the nineteenth century. Butch, born Robert LeRoy Parker, was actually the grandson of one of the original bishops of the Mormon Church (Editors 91). However, early on in his life, Robert turned to crime. He started out small, rustling cattle and stealing horses (Meadows and Buck 22). Robert Parker picked up his alias from his short career as a butcher. The name Cassidy came from Mike Cassidy, the con who taught Parker how to rustle cattle (Editors 91). Caught trying to steal a horse in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1893, Butch was arrested and served time in the State Penitentiary. When he got out, Butch teamed up with several other outlaws and formed the Wild Bunch (Editors 90). One of the members was Harry A. Longabaugh, also known as the Sundance Kid. At first, the gang concentrated on cattle rustling and robbing an occasional bank. Eventually, the Wild Bunch moved on to bigger things, mostly train robberies because there was more money involved (Editors 21). When planning and carrying out robberies, Butch always tried to avoid hurting anybody. When being chased by posses, the gang would shoot at the other men’s horses. When asked by a reporter how many men he had killed, Butch honestly replied, “none” (Editors 90). Despite their careful concern for others, the gang stole so much money from the railroads that the iron horse called in the Pinkerton Detective Agency to stop the robberies. Pinkerton agents, armed to the teeth, rode the trains and sent out posses looking for the Wild Bunch. Sensing that their time was almost up, Butch and the rest of the gang decided to seek greener pastures in South America (Johnston 162).

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