This is my entry in the William Goldman Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room
I have stated before that I am a director groupie. My favorite directors include John Carpenter, Marin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, Ron Howard and Rob Reiner. But directors would just be nobodies without a good script to with which to work. I admit I never paid much attention to the scriptwriter's credit in movies however, until I saw The Princess Bride.
I loved the movie, and the dialogue just zinged. So I began to check out past credits for the screenwriter, William Goldman. I found out that he was a two-time Oscar winner, for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men, both of which I had seen, but well before I recognized that scripts made a movie better.
Goldman started out as a novelist and migrated to Hollywood as some novelists do to be a fixture on the movie set. While not all of the movies he wrote the screenplay play for were fantastic (Memoirs of an Invisible Man, anyone?), it wasn't entirely the fault of Goldman. (Even Invisible Man has some good dialogue).
Goldman's best work was when he was adapting his own novels. Magic, Heat, and the aforementioned The Princess Bride among them. The Princess Bride novel reads kind of like a movie adaptation until you realize he wrote the novel some 15 years earlier.
I like All the President's Men, even though he didn't really have much to work with as far as dialogue went. But Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has about as much quotable dialogue as the Princess Bride. And you'll be remembering it long after you have finished watching the movie.
And it could've been pulled off with any number of leads, but the movie scored big time when it landed Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the leads. Along with guest appearances by great character actors, the highlight of which is Strother Martin, the movie made a big splash.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969):
In the late 1890's Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) is scoping out a bank for potential robbery. Meanwhile The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) is playing blackjack in a saloon (and if you have quick eyes or good ears you will notice one of the players is Sam Elliott in possibly his first big screen role). After a brief tense confrontation with one of the players accusing Sundance of cheating, the two take off for their hideout.
Back at the hideout there is a confrontation in store. Butch is ostensibly the leader of the gang, but Harvey Logan (Ted "Lurch" Cassidy) has eyes on taking over. He challenges Butch to a fight.
It turns out that Harvey had an idea to rob the Flyer, a train both on the going and coming routes, which Butch thinks is a pretty good idea. They rob the train on the going with an exchange with a young dedicated guardsman named Woodcock (George Furth). They hideout in a nearby town where an industrious sheriff tries to marshal a posse to go after them, unaware that the culprits are in the building above him.
While Butch fools around with the whores in the whorehouse Sundance goes off looking for a woman of his own. He finds her, but as it turns out Etta Place (Katherine Ross) is already involved with the two.
Later, the gang pulls it's second attempt on the Flyer. Finding an extremely difficult safe, Butch calls for more dynamite to blow it. He ends up blowing the entire railroad car to smithereens, scattering the money everywhere.
The fly in the ointment, however, is the arrival of a second train which has what is called a "Super Posse". As Butch an Sundance and the remaining gang take it on the lam, they split up, with Butch and Sundance going one direction and the rest going another.
Butch: "How many of them are following us?"
Sundance: "All of them."
Butch "ALL of them?" (turning and pointing to the rest of the gang) " What's the matter with those guys?"
The pair determine that the "Super Posse" consists of several well known lawmen. They run but are ended up cornered on a mountain overlooking a river. Their only options are to fight it out or surrender. Until Butch comes up with a better idea...
After their narrow escape, the pair head to New York with Etta, and eventually to Bolivia. Where they revert to their old ways of robbing banks. With some rather inept first attempts since neither of them speak Spanish. They have to be taught rudimentary Spanish by Etta.
Well, eventually the law in Bolivia is on the trail of the pair, known as "Los Bandidos Yanquis", so they come to the conclusion that they need to go straight and get legitimate jobs. They take on jobs as guards for Percy Garris (Strother Martin), a mine owner who is consistently getting robbed of his payroll.
But on the trip Percy is killed and the bandits corner Butch and Sundance. They give up the payroll, but later get the drop on the bandits and take the money back. Deciding that the legal life is not much fun, they decide to go back to robbing. But Etta has had enough and leaves them. A final scene occurs as, after they have robbed another bank they are cornered in an abandoned building.
The great thing about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is that the script makes it all worthwhile (not to mention two actors who could pull off the repartee with such panache). Goldman has such an ear for dialogue the movie is a treat to listen to, even if you aren't actually watching it.
Well folks, time to saddle up and head home. Drive safely.