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USA, 1969, 110 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Action/Adventure, Archival, Buddy Picture, Comedy, Western
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: George Roy Hill
Producer: John Foreman, Paul MonashEditor: John C. Howard, Richard C. MeyerScreenwriter: William GoldmanCinematographer: Conrad HallPrincipal Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine RossUS Distributor: Criterion Pictures
It’s easy to forget that, back in 1969, many critics were downright frosty toward Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Some were confounded by scriptwriter William Goldman’s bold commingling of melancholy and cheek, while others blamed the tonal irregularity on George Roy Hill as the director of the semirevisionist, seriocomic Western. Time Magazine’s anonymous critic was especially incensed by composer Burt Bacharach’s pop-flavored score, claiming it made the film “as absurd and anachronistic as the celebrated Smothers Brothers cowboy who played the kerosene-powered guitar.”
Bacharach, however, went on to earn an Oscar for his handiwork, as did Goldman and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall. Meanwhile, even the naysayers couldn’t deny the immensely appealing chemistry generated by superstar Paul Newman and relative newcomer Robert Redford as two rollicking, wisecracking outlaws who can’t ride far or fast enough to escape their own infamy. Years later, Redford would credit Newman as being the dominant factor in that casting equation: “Paul and I began a process of bonding during the first few days [of production]. We found a common bond of humor and values off the set that could be carried into the work on the set. It stripped away, almost immediately, the age difference of thirteen or fourteen years between us, [as well as the differences in] professional notoriety. That was stripped away pretty quick. And it was Paul who did that. He just accepted that we were colleagues working together as actors. And that meant a lot to me. What developed between us—we never questioned it.”
Nor have audiences ever since. As part of its Homage to Paul Newman, SDFF 31 will present Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in a brand-new 35mm print courtesy of Criterion Pictures.
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