Few American legends loom as large as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. People know the names if nothing else. The pair of outlaws have been the source of intrigue for decades, as well as the inspiration for movies and documentaries. A new documentary by historian Marilyn Grace attempts to shed light on how the lives of the two outlaws really ended.
Legends who will live forever: Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid
Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Longabaugh are not nearly as famous as the names they would be known as: Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, respectively. While the manner of the end of their lives continue to be a source of debate among historians and Wild West enthusiasts, some basic facts are known about the two. Both were members of a criminal enterprise called “The Wild Bunch.” They held up banks and robbed trains in the late 1800s. By 1901, they were on the run and fled the US for Bolivia.However, by 1905, the pair resumed robbing banks. Presumably, their money was running low after a few years of working regular jobs.
According to Grace’s account, Cassidy ended up in Paris for a while, living like a gentleman before returning to the US and settling in Spokane, Washington. She is obviously not the first historian to try to nail down exactly what happened to the infamous pair.
In the 1990s, husband-and-wife researchers Daniel Buck and Anne Meadows put DNA evidence to use to prove their own theories about the outlaws. According to the Los Angeles Times, the pair used “long lost Argentine police files” that indicate that Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did in fact, die in Bolivia.
Still, knowing where the pair died and how are two different things. Some historians claim that the two died in a shootout in Bolivia. Others maintain that Cassidy shot Sundance and then himself when it seemed they would be caught.
However, despite the Victorian custom of taking photographs of the dead, there seem to be no pictures of either man at his burial. Which might lead some to believe that either they died in the presence of those who knew them and to whom they could express wishes for no photographs to be taken, or they died in obscurity with the people around them unaware of their significance.
Various books from those who claim to be related to one or the other of the pair have maintained either that the pair died in Bolivia, or died in the US, after having lived in Bolivia.
But after 30 years of research, and after having written a few books on the subject, Grace offers a documentary that tells a slightly different story about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
“Butch Cassidy After Bolivia”: a new take
The short form of the documentary is narrated by an actor portraying Cassidy. Presumably his words have been gleaned from letters and other documents detailing his life as an outlaw needing to conceal his identity. Including getting plastic surgery to change his jawline and ears for example, while in Europe. Grace’s approach is as convincing as any. She is thorough and detail-oriented. Her previous work on the subject offers much to recommend her work. Viewers might question if the pair would have been able to live in obscurity until the late 1930s, however.
Interested parties should access all the recent work on the subject to come to their own conclusions. What makes a compelling argument for some, constitutes a point of contention for others.
As a Utah native, Grace likely had a front row seat to the mystery and legend of the two outlaws. Previously she has brought her curiosity to bear in the form of three books: “Finding Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” “Butch Cassidy: Mormon Boy Dies in Utah,” and ” The Secret Life of Butch Cassidy After Bolivia.” Grace’s books are available on Amazon.com and at SundanceKidDNA.com.
The short form of “Butch Cassidy After Bolivia” can be seen at the top of the article.