“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” aptly titled and bearing strong exploitation potential as well as the Paul Newman name for marquee voltage, should prove a handy entry for 20th-Fox. A lighthearted treatment of a purportedly-true story of the two badmen who made Wyoming outlaw history, film emerges a near-comedy of errors. Action dwells upon the misadventures of the pair as they pursue the outlaw trail, but more importantly, packs the type of fast movement the title indicates.
Newman plays Butch, one of the most deadly outlaws of the West whose gang variously was known as The Wild Bunch and Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Robert Redford, who costars with him, portrays the Kid, wizard with a gun and in real life a vicious killer. Here, the William Goldman script projects them in friendlier terms.
Butch is an affable, almost gay, individual who can turn on the power when he wishes but usually is a sociable, talkative sort of cuss; Redford, silent, menacing in the power of his fabled guns, displays no evidence of the evil temper which gained him his reputation. Together, they make a fine team, accompanied by frequent banter and modern-day dialog which makes them both interesting characters.
The John Foreman production is episodic, but George Roy Hill’s direction is so satisfying in catching the full value of the Goldman screenplay that a high degree of interest is sustained. Film openers engagingly with flash-on of the titles, as a small portion of the screen is devoted to the unreeling of what appears to be an old silent flicker of the earliest days of motion pictures, showing Butch and his gang staging a train hold-up. The click of the old-fashioned projector is heard to further set the mood for what is to come. Indeed, this filmic preamble will probably cause audiences to ignore the credits which accompany the clips.
Narrative starts in Wyoming where Butch and his gang are involved in various train holdups, pursuits by posses after bank robberies, efforts by Union Pacific president Harriman to capture the man responsible for his railroad’s losses. This leads to Butch and the Kid trying their luck in Bolivia, which Butch assures the Kid is a land of milk and honey. It isn’t, but they continue their outlawry despite the disappointments, to a grand climax as they take on practically the whole Bolivian army after their identity is discovered.
Novelty is inserted in an interlude sequence as the two outlaws and Katharine Ross, the Kid’s woman, pause in New York en route to sailing for South America. This is shown through a series of fast amusing oldtime stills of the period a la daguerreo-types as the trio is limited in various poses in Gotham, Coney Island, etc. Effective use is made of music in this sequence to give a lilting lightness to the whole idea.
Newman and Redford both sock over their respective roles with a humanness seldom attached to outlaw characters and Miss Ross, who shares star billing, is excellent as the understanding girl friend who refuses to remain with them in Bolivia to see them killed. George Furth, too, has an amusing brief bit as the agent on the express car who defies Butch during two different holdups.
Technical credits without exception are superior, topped by Conrad Hall’s color photography, Burt Bacharach’s music score, and editing by John C. Howard and Richard C. Meyer. B. J. Thomas sings Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
1969: Best Original Story & Screenplay, Cinematography, Song (‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’), Original Score.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Sound