Screengrab: Butch, Randolph and Joel

Richard Lutz rides the range in search of buddy movies.

Screen Grab

Has there ever been a TV schedule that did not include, somewhere in its depths, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid(Friday, More4, 11.15)?

It is the buddy movie of all time and spawned not only a goodly array of lookalikes but also a TV series (Alias Smith and Jones) and a continual flow of references in film lore.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are two likely lads in love with the same woman, who hold up trains, make cute asides and live in the world of Hollywood love/hate relations. You can watch it, watch it and watch it.

The idea of two cheeky monkeys roaming the West in an unacknowledged homo-erotic pairing, causing havoc, is nothing new. And the Redford/Newman vehicle tips its ten gallon hat to a film distributed only six years earlier. In Ride the High Country.Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott play a pair of picaresque lowlifes who get tangled up in guarding a bullion shipment. McCrae is an ageing marshall hired to transport the gold to a bank. He hires old pal Scott to help him get it to town – but Scott just wants to steal it come hell or highwater. The two wrestle with a love/hate relationship and basically can’t live with, can’t live without, each other.

It was Scott’s last film after a career studded with B movie horse operas. He said he loved Ride the High Country and in his advancing years couldn’t make a better movie. He hung up his guns.

The film was directed by Sam Peckinpah in just 26 days and it had some strong supporting actors in a young Warren Oates and character actor Edgar Buchanan.

Peckinpah, still yet to evolve into an all action blood drenched movie maker, uses the beautiful California scenery well to create an Old West that was just beginning to change as the Scott/McCrea characters, embroiled in their devious half-baked plans, begin to realise they are yesterday’s losers.

There are great lines- just as there are in Butch Cassidy. McCrae plays Steve Judd the honest but weary marshal…and he has a thing about getting a new pair of boots to replace the beat up shoe leather he has on. Scott (playing Gil Westrum) notices his obsession with his boots:

Gil Westrum: [with sarcasm] Dandy pair of boots you got there.
Steve Judd: Juan Fernandez made those boots for me in San Antone – special order. I had a hell of a time getting him to put that hole in there. Fine craftsman, Juan, but he never did understand the principle of ventilation.
Gil Westrum: I remember Juan – always felt the boot should cover the foot.

Anyway, you get the idea. The movie was originally going to star Gary Cooper and John Wayne but nothing happened. And that is good news because Scott/McCrea, as B movie stars and B grade cowboys, were just right as almost people, almost heroes.

So, never turn your back on Newman and Redford. Their movie of Butch Cassidy is a gem. But try to download, record or steal a copy of Ride the High County to see where it all came from.