academy awards, amazon prime, burt bacharach, butch cassidy and the sundance kid, conrad hall, e.h. harriman, edith head, george roy hill, harry alonzo longabaugh, hole in the wall gang, itunes, katherine ross, netflix, oscar winner, paul newman, raindrops keep fallin' on my head, robert leroy parker, robert redford, slap shot, superposse, the wild bunch, union pacific railroad, william goldman
As far as iconic Westerns go, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid has to be up there. Despite being released in 1969 well outside the hey day of the Western, this film was a big hit and basically launched the film career of one Robert Redford. Playing alongside the best actor of his generation (and perhaps of all-time as he certainly is in my book) in Paul Newman probably didn’t hurt. This film is basically a who’s who of Hollywood production at the time – George Roy Hill (director of the best movie ever – Slap Shot) directs, William Goldman wrote the absolutely wonderful script, Conrad Hall is the cinematographer, Burt Bacharach‘s scored and wrote the still loved “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” for the film, and of course Edith Head did the costumes. Goldman, Bacharach and Hall all won Oscars for their work on this film with Bacharach winning two. Not a bad pedigree at all.
For those who don’t know, this story was based on the real lives of Butch Cassidy (real name Robert LeRoy Parker) and The Sundance Kid (real name Harry Alonzo Longabaugh). They were outlaws and bank/train robbers and had a crew of men called The Wild Bunch gang (The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang in the movie).
Goldman‘s script follows Butch and Sundance’s final years. When the rob the same train too many times, the owner of the train, E.H. Harriman (also a real person) of the Union Pacific Railroad sends out a group, known as the superposse (a Goldman creation), to track down the outlaws. With ruthless persistence, they stop at nothing to get the men. Following them all the way to Bolivia where Butch takes Sundance to get away. Traveling with them is Sundance’s girlfriend, Etta Place (played by the magnificent Katherine Ross), who eventually leaves them knowing they are destined to lose the game at which they play.
Here is one the best scenes in the whole film as Butch and Sundance are trying to escape the superposse:
The on screen chemistry between Newman and Redford is pretty amazing and carried over to another George Roy Hill classic, The Sting, which won seven Academy Awards . This is a buddy film like no other, a western that almost acts more like a comedy. Newman absolutely shines like he does in everything he’s in. The man was an unparalleled talent. The final shot of the film is pretty awesome. If only Truffaut hadn’t already done it with The 400 Blows, it might have blown to roof off of cinema…
This is one of the most fun rides you can take, so check it out. You won’t be sorry.
This movie streams on Netflix, iTunes and is free on Amazon if you’re a Prime member.
Here’s the trailer: