Ah . . . the sepia-tinted fantasy world of the old west, South American getaways and a bicycle made for two.
It hardly needs saying that the star quality and sex appeal of Paul Newman and Robert Redford contributed enormously to the box office bonanza this movie enjoyed.
Newman and Redford appeared as the most friendly, likeable pair of outlaws ever seen in a Western. Their knockabout, adventuresome relationship recalled the mischief of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (and the wisecracking slapstick of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis).
The central theme of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a common one in 1960s westerns – The dying of the old West and the reduction of the cowboy to an anachronism. At the start of the film, Butch is dismayed to find a new automated bank that will be much more difficult to rob (“What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful”).
Butch and Sundance are inseparable buddies to the end.
They may bicker over whether to jump off a cliff, and they may be in love with the same girl – Etta (Katharine Ross), whose 1960s eye makeup seems a trifle excessive for a 19th-century spinster school ma’am – but they never contemplate parting.
Throughout the film, the pair are relentlessly pursued by a posse, which is scarcely seen but which seems unshakeable and sophisticated in its tracking methods.
In a sense, the posse symbolises progress, which will overtake Butch and Sundance sooner or later and signal their death as they break cover to die at the hands of a small army of Bolivian soldiers.
The film has the standard Western trappings – a daring train raid, slow-motion deaths, a violent last stand – but the tone is more important than the theme.
The film seems cool and modern rather than stately and serious, as in the classic Western, and in a decade when style counted for a great deal, Butch and Sundance had style in abundance.
Burt Bacharach provided a bouncy score, featuring the classic Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, as sung by B J Thomas.
The Rogue River in Oregon provided the backdrop for the famous plunge (into Hellgate Canyon). Newman and Redford actually did jump – but they landed on a mattress on a ledge two metres below.
The Sundance Kid
Flat Nose Curry
George Roy Hill