- Directed by George Roy Hill
- September 23, 1969 (Premiere) / September 24, 1969 (New York City)
After a train robbery goes bad, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid find themselves on the run and escape to Bolivia.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is just a great western. They do not make them like this anymore. It is just an entertaining Western that does not try to make every character some shade of terrible. Despite the violent nature of the two characters in real life they crafted a fun film here. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) is the affable and cool leader with The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) being his loyal friend.
They play loose with the facts of their narrative and perhaps the rules of reality but who cares? You are not watching this necessarily for reality but more for a good story. And you get it. These are about two characters who embrace the life they have chosen and know just how it will end despite telling themselves otherwise. We follow them and hope it turns out otherwise despite knowing history.
Butch is the brains of the operation and a bit of a dreamer. He sees the rosier picture and thinks that somehow he will find his way out of every bad situation. He is more charmer than criminal. He talks up Bolivia as a robber’s paradise (which it is not necessarily).
The Sundance Kid is along for the ride even if Butch does chafe at him because of the way he is. He starts out the film as a much more deadly feeling character than he finishes as. He is willing to get into a gunfight over an accusation of cheating in a card game in the opening.
Katharine Ross was cast as Sundance’s lover Etta Place. In real life very little is known about her as she apparently kept the truth of her past and her existence after parting ways with Butch and Sundance, whatever that was, a secret. In the film Place is a woman who probably lived a dull and mundane life. These two bad boys came into her world and she was taken with them. They offered her the excitement she never had. She helps them out and then for a time follows along on their adventure as a member of their gang in Bolivia. Not that it is much of a gang. It is just them.
We get some faces that fans of older Westerns or just older films will surely recognize. Strother Martin appears as Percy Garris who is the gang’s employer when they briefly try to go straight. Character actor Henry Jones shows up as a bike salesman. Jeff Corey is their friend Sheriff Bledsoe. Ted Cassidy, known mostly for his role as Lurch on The Addams Family and who also served as the narrator for the live action The Incredible Hulk series, shows up as Hole-in-the-Wall Gang member Harvey Logan. I was surprised to find Cloris Leachman appearing as a prostitute named Agnes. I know her as a woman of comedy and she was not making jokes here. Kenneth Mars, who would later appear with Leachman in Young Frankenstein, shows up as a marshal who is trying to raise a posse-poorly-to go after the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. A very young Sam Elliot shows up as Card Player #2 in the opening scene.
A lot of the film is carried just by the interactions between Newman and Redford as their respective characters. Think about it. Etta is probably in a third of the film with the rest of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and their time amounting to slightly extended cameos. The bank robberies, wherever they are, only include brief moments of other individuals. And the moments in the whorehouse are not that long.
One of the best parts of the film is the extended chase where Butch and Sundance are fleeing from the posse assembled by Union Pacific head E. H. Harriman to chase them down until they are killed. Their ability to follow our central characters borders on the supernatural. Their minds even begin to work a little against them as they start to imagine who might be following. The efforts of the posse are only thwarted by Butch and Sundance making a desperate jump into some rapids.
This was the film that made Paul Newman as well as Robert Redford acting legends. This is probably their most iconic parts and the film itself is rather iconic. The ending scene when Butch and Sundance decide to charge headlong into the waiting Bolivian forces is one of the great scenes in Westerns.
George Roy Hill gave us a classic film. Among his list of credits are The Sting, The World According to Garp, Slap Shot, Funny Farm, and many others. It is great dialogue and a great story and great acting from beginning to end.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of those classic Westerns you should see. If you do not you are seriously missing out. Watch it!