In Unforgiven, it's understandable why Little Bill beat up English Bob--because he wanted to scare off anyone else who would come to collect the reward from the women and also keep aside the Big Whiskey from assassins.

But I couldn't understand, What is the history between Little Bill and English Bob?

Because the conversation between Little Bill and English Bob at the outside of Barbershop seems they had a strong history and of course, I couldn't interpret the conversation well enough.

Any help will be appreciated to understand the movie well.

  • Little Bill also speaks as if he was an exceptional fighter but when he is confronted by Eastwood, he shoots off mark too.
    – user11535
    Jul 7, 2014 at 0:28
  • All very perceptive comments! I always thought it was curious how drinking and guns are used or discussed in "Unforgiven". Early in the film, a sober Eastwood can't shoot a bottle. English bob accuses Little Bill as being drunk and and falling off his horse. Little Bill accuses English bob of being too drunk to shoot his pistol in his gunfight against Two gun Corcoran. Eastwood claims to have been so drunk when he killed people in his past. In the final shootout , Eastwood has emptied a bottle before entering the saloon. Little Bill and his deputies appear sober, but all die. . . . . The only
    – user40269
    Aug 19, 2016 at 23:48

5 Answers 5


If I remember correctly Little Bill had a run in with English Bob in another town while serving as a lawman. Bob is a known 'assassin', Bill's label for vigilantes, gun fighters, and bounty hunters. Bob is also well known for murdering Asian immigrants serving as railroad workers, something he himself alludes too when the character is introduced. All that aside, he does bring a firearm into town, something Bill demonstrates zero tolerance for.

Or maybe Bill just doesn't like wizards ;) , I jest.

  • Does it mentioned in the movie or taken from other sources? Mar 15, 2012 at 14:54
  • @VijinPaulraj All of the above are in the movie in one form or another.
    – user977
    Mar 16, 2012 at 0:00
  • Close, but I don't think Little Bill was a lawman in his earlier encounters with English Bob. I think Little Bill was just a thug and gunfighter during that time in his life. Little Bill, being a butt-kicker (to the point of sadism) was the only real requirement to be the sheriff of the town, which brings more meaning to his dying words, "I was building a house!" - he didn't deserve to go out like a thug because he had finally changed his ways (on the surface, anyway) and settled down. Just my own impression/interpretation on the story. Mar 27, 2017 at 19:53

Watch Little Bill's conversation in the jail to the writer. It shows that Bill ran in the same social circles as Bob when he was younger and that there is little real difference between them. He also knows about Munny and his history.

The old gun fighters have grown up and are trying to find ways in the world but the world has no real use for them anymore.

Bod tries to become a posh English assassin (notice his real accent comes out when he is being driven away). At heart he is, basically, an East End thug but is trying to become something else and it falls apart, he is beaten, humiliated and driven out. The only part of him that still works is his gun skill (notice the competition on the train).

Little Bill was a gun slinger and is trying to become an honest man but simply does not have the skills. Notice he is trying to build a house (very common skill for a man at that point) and he is terrible at it, he is also not a very good Sherrif. His spineless way of handling the girl having her face cut up just causes trouble for the town. His bullish way of trying to stop assassins from arriving does not work. He beats Ned to death even after getting the information about who was with him, which directly causes Munny to come back and kill several people.

Munny tried becoming a farmer but his farm was failing, to make enough money to set himself up he has to resort to his gun skills and to handle that stress he resorts to drinking (notice how the first time he drinks is just before he rides back to town to kill Little Bill).

In a deeper analysis you can say that these men know each other as well as they know themselves as once you cut beneath the surface they are the same.

  • +1 For an excellent, and informative answer. Remember, as well, that during Little Bill's conversation with the writer he tells the writer what really happened in the gun fight that English Bob is famed for: English Bob accidentally shot the other guy (I forget his name), but claimed it as an intentional kill. Jun 25, 2012 at 10:36
  • 3
    Thanks, I believe (it has been a while) that Bob tried to shoot the guy in the back but missed and his target shot himself in the foot trying to draw his gun. Bob missed again as he was drunk and the other guy's gun exploded in his hand. Bob then shot him when he was helpless on the floor. Which is, of course, slightly different to Bob's story!
    – Stefan
    Jun 25, 2012 at 11:08
  • 1
    That's the one. In fact, you can read the entire scene in the script: sfy.ru/?script=unforgiven (do a Ctrl+F for "The lurid cover, "The Duke of Death" by W. W. Beauchamp" for the beginning of the scene). Jun 25, 2012 at 12:13
  • You're welcome. I'd have linked to imsdb, but they look to have taken the direct link down. However, I know that The Clint authorised the publishing of the script to The Internet, himself. Jun 25, 2012 at 12:16
  • 1
    The name - Corky/ "Two-Gun" Corcoran Mar 27, 2017 at 19:57

English Bob alludes to the fact that Little Bill was a drunkard and (by implication) an outlaw. They definitely crossed paths before but it is not indicated whether it was adversarial. Little Bill refers to Bob and himself as rare examples of "dangerous men" - men who can remain cool under pressure and kill without hesitation or remorse. These two and William Money contrast starkly with everyone else who either are incapable of killing, panic during fights or are consumed with guilt for their actions.

To punctuate the last point, the kid who kills one of the cowboys in an outhouse swears off violence immediately afterward. Both Little Bill and William Money murder unarmed men and go on with their business, so does English Bob who shoots defenseless chinamen for the railroad and drunkenly murders a guy who hooked up with his crush. Whatever their past, Little Bill knows Bob is the real deal and he treats him much more seriously than the unfamiliar William Money who is beaten but not jailed or run out on a rail. Bill's biggest mistake was not realizing Money is a "dangerous man" until after the assassinations.


The character of English Bob is set to contrast with William Mummy. Mummy is a real killer, English Bob a self proclaimed killer.

The reporter hears the story of English Bob and after that, he sees him be humiliated by Little Bill, what makes him a liar, at least a great story teller.

In the last scene, he sees in Mummy what English Bob supposed to be.

But English Bob liked to be an outlaw being a fraud, and Mummy who is a real brutal killer, lives in regret.


Pretty sure there is a soliloquy delivered by the Sheriff in the film where he describes all of English Bob's "achievements" as frauds. They happened all right, but should be attributed to other people. Bob claims credit to build his "fame" as a gunfighter.

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