It’s another Wednesday evening here at BCB After Dark: the hippest hangout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re so glad to see you stop by this evening. Are you hiding from the relatives? Come on in. We won’t tell anyone where you are. There are still a few tables available. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Last night, I asked you who you thought was the greatest Cubs reliever of all-time. By a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent, you picked Bruce Sutter over Lee Smith. Both are Hall of Famers, but only Sutter won the Cy Young Award.
Also, I’m just happy no one tried to get smart and say “Mordecai Brown,” who would pitch in relief on the days he didn’t start. And he was really good at it too. He threw 8.1 innings of relief, allowing just one run, in the historic re-play of the “Merkle’s Boner” game in 1908 that clinched the pennant for the Cubs. It’s also considered by many to be baseball’s first “playoff game” separate from the World Series.
So here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. Those of you who skip that can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.
Here’s our jazz treat to play with your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s Bill Henderson and the Oscar Peterson Trio playing “Gravy Waltz.” Henderson is on vocals, Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on double bass and Ed Thigpen on drums. There’s a whole lotta talent there.
I thought we might have a potential upset brewing in our first contest of the BCB Winter Western Classic, but in the end, the favorite Shane cruised to an easy 82 to 18 percent victory over Vera Cruz. I thought that Vera Cruz, which was directed by Robert Aldrich, could replicate the upsets that Kiss Me Deadly, also directed by Aldrich, had in the Noir Classic last winter. I also thought that many of you would be so annoyed by the kid in Shane that you’d vote against it out of spite. But Shane is considered an all-time classic for a reason and Vera Cruz is one of those films that film aficionados talk about how it’s criminally overlooked.
But the good news here is that Shane moves on and now many of you have learned a little about Vera Cruz. After all, learning about new films you haven’t seen is one of the purposes of this little game.
So tonight we move on to our second contest. First up is our #6 seed, 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katharine Ross. It takes on 1957’s Forty Guns, the #27 seed, directed by Samuel Fuller and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan.
I’m not predicting an upset tonight, but you never know.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (#6 seed)
“Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head/But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red”
You could consider Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to be the last great old Hollywood Western, or you could consider it to be the first great buddy action-comedy. The “New Hollywood” that emerged out of the wreckage of the old studio system was well underway by 1969, and Butch Cassidy certainly owed a lot ot Bonnie and Clyde. But it also has a much lighter tone than the other “New Hollywood” films of the late-1960s and that owes something to traditional studio Westerns like Rio Bravo.
The big difference in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with the lighter oaters of yesteryear was that the heroes of this film are the outlaws. But they are charming bank and train robbers—especially Paul Newman’s Butch, who is the talkative and gregarious one of the two. Redford’s Sundance is more the strong silent type, but he does serve a role in that he rolls his eyes at some some of Butch’s more outlandish ideas.
Butch tries to make friends with the people he robs. He admits halfway through the film that he’s never shot a man. There were Westerns made under the studio system with sympathetic outlaws, but only if they became heroes and renounce their old criminal ways. Butch and Sundance are heroes because they are outlaws and not in spite of it.
Honestly, there’s a bit of Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple going on between Butch and Sundance. There was an appetite for adult male friendships in movies in the late-sixties.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the reasonably-true-for-Hollywood story of two outlaws from “The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang” who rob banks and trains until the head of the Union Pacific Railroad gets sick of his trains being held up and hires a posse to hunt them down until they’re captured or dead. That forces them, along with Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place (Katharine Ross) to flee to Bolivia where they try to go straight but end up on the wrong side of the law again, basically because being criminals is the only thing they’re good at.
One thing that struck me re-watching Butch Cassidy is how thin the plot actually is. I pretty much described all of it in the last paragraph. But its charm and enduring popularity is the product of the relationship between the leads and the breezy and clever dialog by screenwriter William Goldman, who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The scene where they fail to rob a bank in Bolivia because they don’t speak Spanish and they can’t make their demands understood is just one of several classic beats. The screenplay was criticized at the time for having the characters talk more like it was 1969 than 1899, but it’s a big part of the appeal of the film today.
It’s interesting that in the love triangle between Butch, Sundance and Etta, Etta is really the third wheel here. There’s no real hint of homosexuality between Butch and Sundance, but their male friendship is much more important to them than any woman who might come between them.
You also can’t talk about Butch Cassidy without mentioning the incredible Burt Bacharach musical score that goes far beyond the famous “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” Again, the score at the time was criticized for being much more “Swingin’ Sixties” than Old West, but it’s a fabulous piece of music by one of the greatest American composers of all time.
I mention some of the criticisms because Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was not well-loved by the critics when it came out. Roger Ebert, for example, liked the first half, but thought a bad, self-indulgent second half brought it down. Other critics didn’t even like the first half. But audiences loved it—which is all the studio really cares about anyway—and in the decades since, most critics have come around to its charms.
Forty Guns (#27 seed)
“She’s a hard-riding woman with a whip”
I’m going to start both recaps tonight with lyrics from songs from the film. But whereas “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” isn’t really descriptive of Butch Cassidy—Robert Redford hated it (“There’s no rain in this picture!”) until he found out how much audiences loved it—the theme song to Forty Guns tells you immediately what the movie is about: Barbara Stanwyck plays Jessica Drummond, who is a hard-riding woman with a whip. She’s also the head of a criminal gang (of forty, of course) that controls all of Cochise County, Arizona.
There are Western noirs, although none of them made our tournament this winter. But Forty Guns comes the closest to being a film noir. But Jessica is no femme fatale. She has a lot more in common with Vito Corleone from The Godfather than the part she played in Double Indemnity.
Federal agent Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) comes to Cochise County, along with his brothers Wes (Gene Barry) and Chico (Robert Dix) to arrest one of Jessica’s men for robbing the mail. Jessica isn’t worried—she knows her political connections (the local sheriff works for her) will get her man off in no time—but she’s willing to throw the gunman overboard if Griff agrees to come work for her after the this is all over. This doesn’t go over well with her men.
Some of Jessica’s men decide to trash the town and her brother Brockie ends up shooting the feeble, partially-blind marshal. Griff stands up to the men and he pistol-whips Brockie. Jessica is more mad at her brother than Griff—she feels that Brockie had what was coming to him for doing something stupid like shooting the marshal.
Eventually, in a really well-shot sequence, Griff and Jessica get caught in a tornado together. Griff saves Jessica’s life and the two fall in love as they seek out shelter from the storm.
Wes also falls in love with the daughter of the local gunsmith and decides to marry her and become the new marshal.
Jessica’s men do not like the way that she’s taking the side of the Bonnell brothers or the way she treats her m and start to act against her interests and against her orders.
As you can probably guess from this description, Forty Guns is a pretty plot-heavy film. There is a lot going on here and it has more in common with mob movies than most Westerns. The big difference here is that the head of the mob is a woman, which gives the film a feminist feel, at least by the standards of 1957. But Jessica is willing to throw her criminal empire away for the love of a man, so it’s not all that feminist.
The other thing that makes this film noir-ish is that Fuller really does uses the shadows and angles of noir in the interior scenes. The story arc of Sheriff Ned Logan (Dean Jagger) is also something straight out of noir.
Here’s the trailer for Forty Guns. Please watch it and tell me that you see the noir influence in the interior shots.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid can be seen on Max. Forty Guns is on the Criterion Channel and Tubi, with ads. You have all weekend to vote.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Forty Guns?
This poll is closed
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Up next on Monday, we’ll have our first two John Ford/John Wayne pictures. The #7 seed is Stagecoach, the 1939 film that made John Wayne a star. It will be taking on 1948’s Fort Apache, which teams Wayne up with Henry Fonda in the first of Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy.” Stagecoach is available in a lot of places, including Amazon Prime and Max. It’s also on several of those “free with ads” services.
Fort Apache is not as freely available. I watched a copy of it online about three weeks ago, but it has since been pulled for “violating the terms of service.” So it was an illegal upload. But it is available for rent everywhere. Also, don’t confuse it with Fort Apache, the Bronx, which is not a Western.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
Last week I started picking up on online rumors about the Cubs’ interest in Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette. I didn’t know what to make of them at the time. I couldn’t tell if they were real rumors or just people speculating. But now Jon Paul Morosi went on the MLB Network earlier today and said it was a real possibility.
So that’s a lot. Bichette is one of the young superstars in the game and normally, there is no way that a playoff team like the Blue Jays would deal a player like Bichette. But Bichette will be eligible for free agency after the 2024 season and Toronto seems to be convinced that there is no way that they can sign him to an extension. So rather than see him leave and get nothing back other than a draft pick, they intend to deal him. And it makes more sense to deal Bichette with two years left on his deal for a bigger return than what they would get if they waited until next season, when teams would offer less for a one-year rental.
By the way, Brett Taylor over at Bleacher Nation has a good roundup of all the Bichette/Cubs rumors.
So the Cubs would have Bichette play third base, where his bat wouldn’t be quite as special but still easily good enough to be an asset. But while we don’t know if he can actually play third base, there is a general assumption that a solid defensive shortstop can be a superior defensive third baseman. That’s not always true, but I imagine the Cubs believe that Bichette could make that transition.
So there is no question that adding Bo Bichette makes the Cubs better. But at what cost? Two years of Bichette are not going to be cheap. The Blue Jays are a playoff team and are definitely going to want young players who can contribute right now or in the very near future. They would definitely ask for either Pete Crow-Armstrong or Cade Horton.
I don’t think that the Cubs would part with PCA. As Morosi reports, part of the strategy of getting Bichette means that the Cubs are not going to re-sign Cody Bellinger. So PCA would be needed in center field. Horton would be a tougher call. I personally love Horton and wouldn’t part with him, but the Cubs know him better than I do and maybe their metrics aren’t as high on him.
But Christopher Morel is a young hitting stud whose best (and maybe only) position is second base. The Blue Jays could use a second baseman and Morel isn’t eligible for free agency until 2029.
The Blue Jays would also want major-league-ready pitching. If Horton is off the table, then perhaps Jordan Wicks or Ben Brown would be someone the Blue Jays would want. And as Morosi points out, the Blue Jays love those Canadian players and outfield prospect Owen Caissie is Canadian. I can’t imagine a Bichette deal that didn’t include Caissie going home.
So would Morel, Wicks (or Brown) and Caissie be enough for two years of an All-Star like Bo Bichette? That’s close, but not quite in my mind. If the Cubs were to throw in another pitcher like Javier Assad or a prospect who was farther away like Jefferson Rojas or Jackson Ferris, that would probably do it.
So should the Cubs pursue a deal for Bo Bichette?
Should the Cubs trade for Bo Bichette?
This poll is closed
Yes, whatever it takes
Yes, but only if a deal doesn’t include PCA, Horton or Shaw
Yes, but only for a deal less than what is described in the article.
No. Bichette is not worth what he’ll cost
Thank you to everyone who stopped by this evening. I hope you have a great holiday weekend. Go Iowa. Thrash the Cornhuskers. Please get home safely and be safe all weekend. Top your waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.