Wanted: Dead or Alive
July 22, 2008 11:39 PM   Subscribe

Butch Cassidy wanted to call his gang The Train Robber's Syndicate, but the name never stuck. The gang's core members - most notable among them The Sundance Kid - and a revolving cast of supporting outlaws were most commonly called The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and The Wild Bunch, and their goal was to be the most successful train robbers in history. The Butch and Sundance site is a comprehensive collection of "the hundreds, if not thousands, of theories, legends and folk tales" surrounding the gang, including an exhaustive list of biographies of the members, their associates, the lawmen who pursued them and the women who loved them, an archive of transcribed news articles dating from the 1880s (including a letter to the editor from Sundance himself), a picture gallery and more.

Note: Cassidy's Wild Bunch is not to be confused with the Doolin-Dalton Gang, who were also known as The Wild Bunch (which must have been awkward at outlaw conventions).
posted by amyms (26 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks, amyms, nice find.

I always found it a wee bit odd that the famous movie featured this Bacharach/David song... it seemed so out of place.

Love that letter to the editor from the Kid.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:53 PM on July 22, 2008


Excellent post, amyms.

Flapjax...ugh. Every time I watch that brilliant bastard of a movie that scene takes me right out of the story and into the 1970's.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:04 AM on July 23, 2008


Burt Bacharach said they wrote the song to "service the movie" (whatever that means) and that he thought it was a perfect fit for the bicycle scene. He also said that Ray Stevens was the first choice to sing it, but when they flew him out for a meeting he didn't like the movie and he didn't like the song, so they went with B.J. Thomas, who said "I was in the right place at the right time, and probably got their best song ever." Quotes courtesy of Songfacts.

But you're right, it seems weird and anachronistic in the context of the movie (and it's not raining in the scene, so that's an additional "huh?"), but damn good as a stand-alone song and now I have it stuck in my head.
posted by amyms at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2008


now I have it stuck in my head.

Muwaaaahhh-hahahahahaha!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:26 AM on July 23, 2008


This is cool. Look at at that picture of "Butch"/Robert Parker: your conventional young thug -- make him black, hispanic, shift his hair -- you've seen him before. He wants to call his gang the "Train Robber's Syndicate". Right. He's smart. In fact, he's a smartass. Then he runs into Sundance/Longabaugh whose earliest record is a Pennsylvania library card. This is the Geek Squad. Too Smart For School. Damn! Where can I sign up?
posted by CCBC at 12:56 AM on July 23, 2008


>>> Ray Stevens was the first choice to sing it ...

Obviously, Ray Stevens would've added a certain gravitas that the scene was lacking.

Lookithat, lookithat!
posted by grabbingsand at 2:17 AM on July 23, 2008


I always found it a wee bit odd that the famous movie featured this Bacharach/David song... it seemed so out of place.

I saw the film as a kid and watched it again a few years ago. It did not hold up well. That bicycle scene especially. What the hell?

The tag line "Think you used enough dynamite there, butch?" remains however in my vocabulary.

As for my recapture by Deputy Sheriff Davis, all I can say is that he did his work well and were it not for his ‘playing possum’ I would now be on my way south, where I had hoped to go and live a better life. – Harry Longabaugh

The film ending was better. The film also seems ripe for a "Batman returns" sort of remake - less silly and romantic and stupid than the original.
posted by three blind mice at 2:39 AM on July 23, 2008


The bike scene was odd, but I thought the other music did work. Other than momentarily thinking it was the Swingles. And all the other scenes worked very well, although it really feels like two movies. One being tracked across the sands of time, one showdown in Mexico.

What kind of outlaws get a formal group portrait?
posted by DU at 2:51 AM on July 23, 2008


DU, them's that can afford it. That kind.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:23 AM on July 23, 2008


What kind of outlaws get a formal group portrait?

Well, lessee, these kind, for example...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:25 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Har
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on July 23, 2008


Well I'll be darned. Around about the time the movie came out, there was some criticism of the casting of Katharine Ross as Etta Place, who was characterized as supposedly somewhat "plain" in real life. Well, not according to that portrait of her and Sundance. I'm thinking if anyone is entertaining the idea of a remake / "prequel" anytime soon, that part'd be tailor-made for someone like Maggie Gyllenhaal, based on the physical resemblance alone.

(By the way, if anyone's counting votes, I liked the insertion of the bicycle scene and the choice of song. The movie was hardly a documentary, and that scene captured not only the tenor of the times in which it was made, but also played on the comic spirit of the whole movie.)
posted by Mike D at 4:57 AM on July 23, 2008


"Well, lessee, these kind, for example..."

flapjax, that REALLY cracked me up ...thank you!
posted by aldus_manutius at 5:57 AM on July 23, 2008


I'm a little worried that if I delve too deeply into all those links I'll find out that the Sundance Kid was in fact an excellent swimmer or something like that.

On the subject of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", I just want to mention the most inspired use of the song in a movie was in "Spider-Man 2".
posted by wabbittwax at 6:07 AM on July 23, 2008


Cool. I didn't realize the word "syndicate" was used in reference to organized crime before the 20th century and the advent of what we now call gangsters.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:15 AM on July 23, 2008


One being tracked across the sands of time, one showdown in Mexico.

I believe that was in Bolivia.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:19 AM on July 23, 2008


"Well, if there ain't gonna be any rules, let's get the fight started. Someone count '1, 2, 3, go.'" "123go."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The movie was hardly a documentary, and that scene captured not only the tenor of the times in which it was made, but also played on the comic spirit of the whole movie.


Thank you, Mike D!!

The bastards can dance a jig on the grave of the 1970s, but they can't take away my thrilling memories of the Kid on the porch in his Union Suit underwear, manfully handing his "used" woman over to bike-riding Butch!

(I knew my girlish thoughts were very, very, very wrong - but they were heaven!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:14 AM on July 23, 2008


While on the subject of train robberies, The Reno Gang comes to mind. The gang allegedly pulled off the first peace time train robbery in America and did so in not exactly wild or western Southern Indiana.
posted by whiskeynat at 7:34 AM on July 23, 2008


Wow...Butch Cassidy looks exactly like Kris Kristofferson in the group photo.
posted by spicynuts at 8:03 AM on July 23, 2008


The thing is ... I've never seen the movie as a mere comedy. It's far more complex than it appears. In my mind, it sits right alongside The Wild Bunch as one of the better post-modern Westerns. The "Who Are Those Guys?" through-line is probably the most brilliant thing about the film. We all know that the flashing glint in the distance is Joe Lafors and his posse, but it could also be taken as the inevitable march of progress and expansion that will soon make the cowboy lifestyle obsolete.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:18 AM on July 23, 2008


No, the fact that I am looking at the Butch & Sundance "Places" subsite does not mean that I am interested in purchasing real estate in the Sundance, Utah area.

No, the fact that I am looking at the Butch & Sundance "Image Gallery" subsite does not mean that I am interested in meeting lesbian singles in my area.

Thank you, google ads.
posted by googly at 9:23 AM on July 23, 2008


Recently finished reading one of the most entertaining travelogues I've ever encountered, Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia. I liked it because Chatwin sought out the same stories I'd be interested in -- stories of scientists, rebels, eccentrics, misguided geniuses and outlaws.

Among many other colorful figures, he has several nice accounts of the adventures of BC&tSD. Here's a googlebooks link to the first, which begins with the end of a letter written by Robert Parker (aka Butch Cassidy) after arriving in South America.

Later in the book, Chatwin also recounts several occasions when BC and/or tSD showed up here or there long after everyone thought they were dead (including after the great showdown depicted at the end of the movie version.)

And speaking of the movie version, a great account of the writing of its script can be found in William Goldman's book Adventures in the Screen Trade, which any aspiring screenwriter or filmmaker should read over and over.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 10:39 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


We all know that the flashing glint in the distance is Joe Lafors and his posse, but it could also be taken as the inevitable march of progress and expansion that will soon make the cowboy lifestyle obsolete.

I believe the flashing glint is specifically Mr. Lafors' straw boater, but you're right, the posse represents the ineluctable march of progress, which is also the point of the bicycle.

if anyone is entertaining the idea of a remake / 'prequel'

Another one?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2008


On the subject of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", I just want to mention the most inspired use of the song in a movie was in "Spider-Man 2".

Seriously, that scene was indisputably comedy gold ... and a bit sad, too. In fact I think that song was actually made for Spidey, but there was this weird time loop shenanigan, and we only think it was made for Butch and Sundance - that's how well it fits.
posted by bettafish at 6:21 PM on July 23, 2008


DU: For a Canadian version of the modern gang photo, see the picture associated to this recent story: Gun dealer sells to the UN Gang
posted by birdsquared at 7:09 PM on July 23, 2008


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