The next stop in the recommendations from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of The Wild Bunch, is yet another one of my all time favourite westerns, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.
From it’s opening shots, made to look like an early silent film, this movie took me in completely the first time I saw it, and has been a joy to watch each and every time since. The chemistry between the film’s leads Robert Redford and Paul Newman is amazing, and it makes you wish they had done more than two films together (this film and 1973’s The Sting also directed by Hill).
As the Old West is giving way to the new, Butch (Newman) and Sundance (Redford) find themselves trying to stay one ahead of the law, and making enough money to get by. They and the Hole in the Wall gang soon find themselves trying to outdistance the long arm of the law.
So, with Sundance’s girl, Ella (Katharine Ross) in tow the duo head to Bolivia to get away from the American authorities, live it up on the US dollar and maybe do a little prospecting (or robbing banks – if only they knew the language)..
Unfortunately, history and the law aren’t far behind them.
Hill tells the tale perfectly, balancing the occasional historical fact against razor-sharp dialogue (a lot of it endlessly quotable) and beautiful locales. If you throw in the sheer charm of watching Newman and Redford on screen, playfully tempered by Ross and you have a jewel of a film.
This movie was a part of my life long before I saw it (in fact I saw The Sting first). When I was a child, not much more than a babe, I had a wind up Fisher Price ‘radio’ that played the theme song of the film, which also won an Oscar for Best Original Song, ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.’ That song is ingrained in my childhood, and was a welcome surprise to me when I watched the film for the first time and felt wave of wave of nostalgia when I hear that tune.
Newman and Redford make everything look just so easy in this film. The dialogue feels so naturalistic from them that it feels improvised, and the camera was just lucky enough to catch it.
The film is still a treat to watch, and it remains so much fun… and that ending… It couldn’t have been more perfect.
I don’t revisit this one as often as I should.