USA / 1969
Director: George Roy Hill
Writer: William Goldman
Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Cloris Leachman
Classic western that, despite lukewarm reviews, took $100m at the box office, astonishing at the time, as well as receiving seven Oscar nominations (winning four) and has become firmly fixed as a favourite film with millions. The film also revived Paul Newman’s career as well as launching Robert Redford’s.
They are, respectively, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (real life figures who were, however, possibly not so attractive), who specialise in robbing banks and trains. But as the Wild West gets a little less wild and a little more lawful, they find, after one train robbery too many, that they’re being hunted by a super-posse. Decamping to Bolivia with Etta Place (Katharine Ross), Sundance’s seemingly prim schoolteacher mistress, they resume their robbing, holding up banks with hastily prepared Spanish primers until one day, they chose the wrong bank…
The plot does little justice to the pairing, who have a string of one liners from a script that William Goldman declared the one he was proudest of, ranging from the confrontation between the pair and their mutinous gang members via the conversation with the brave rail clerk protecting his money, the famous pre-cliff escape leap duologue to their final words. Aided by the stunning direction of Hill (the three were to re-unite four years later for the equally successful The Sting ), who segued seemingly contemporary 19th century film into his work and the luminous camerawork of Conrad Hall, the film, while removed from the fashion of Leone’s school of realistic westerns, set a benchmark for buddy movies that has rarely been surpassed.