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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Movie Review

film awards screenplay george

1969 – George Roy Hill –

What's not to like about this enormously appealing film? Not much, but there may be a few reasons to quibble a bit with its rank as number fifty on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Best Movies. The general approach of presenting two outlaws as antiheroes, the anti-establishment tone, and the infusion of comedy all seem to derive from Bonnie and Clyde, which had come out two years earlier. But that film produces a better blend of those elements than Butch Cassidy, where the comedy is used more as a crutch to get an easy laugh and sometimes to evade rather than to reveal character.

The plot concerns the two legendary outlaws (Paul Newman, Robert Redford) who rob trains until one rail tycoon tires of being their favorite victim and hires a superposse to track them. The boys flee with Etta Place (Katharine Ross), an ex-schoolteacher, to Bolivia, where they try to go straight but are eventually gunned down. Initially, the comedy effectively breaks the tension and adds to some dramatic scenes, like Butch's showdown with the giant Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy) and the two train robberies. Eventually, however, the reliance on humor, usually a self-deprecating line at the end of a tense scene, becomes a way of evading a closer look at the personalities of the two leads.

One of the most unjustly overlooked scenes occurs when Etta suggests to Butch and Sundance some legitimate occupations they might try, and they reject ranching and farming because of the harshness of the labor and their inexperience with the work. The honesty of their comments lends weight to defining the shared characteristic of arrested adolescence that they express in their robberies, as well as how they sense the need to adopt a safer, if less exciting, way of life. An extra moment or two like this one would have added to the film's emotional range.

The final shootout begins at an outdoor cafe as Butch and Sundance sit to eat. After the first bullet flies by, Butch takes cover and quips, “That's the last time I bring my business to this place.” A funny line, but the circumstance might justify a deeper response. According to John Eastman, even William Goldman, the author of the Oscar-winning screenplay, thought his script had a “case of the cutes.” These are offered up as minor objections. The film appeals mainly on the strength of the performances and the chemistry of the leads rather than on its ideas. The banter is always appealing, even if there may be too much of it.

Cast: Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (The Sundance Kid), Katharine Ross (Etta Place), Strother Martin (Percy Garris), Henry Jones (Bike Salesman), Jeff Corey (Sheriff Bledsoe), George Furth (Woodcock), Cloris Leechman (Agnes), Ted Cassidy (Harvey Logan), Kenneth Mars (Marshal), Donnelly Rhodes (Macon), Jody Gilbert (Large Woman), Timothy Scott (News Carver), Don Keefer (Fireman), Charles Dierkop (Flat Nose Curry), Francisco Cordova (Bank Manager), Sam Elliot (card player) Screenwriter: William Goldman Cinematographer: Conrad L. Hall Composer: Burt Bacharach Producer: John Foreman for Twentieth-Century Fox MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 110 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1969: Cinematography, Song (“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”), Story and Screenplay, Score; Nominations: Director (George Roy Hill), Picture, Sound; British Academy Awards, 1970: Actor (Robert Redford), Actress (Katharine Ross), Director (George Roy Hill), Film, Screenplay; Golden Globe Awards, 1970: Score; Writers Guild of America, 1969: Adapted Screenplay Budget: $6.2M Box Office: $60M.

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