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'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' blasts its way back into theaters
Star power on display
Newman, Redford star as legendary bandits
The Western has long been a distinctive cog in the mighty engine of American cinema.
One of the more unique offerings in that time-honored genre is “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969).
Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the PG-rated comedy-drama is returning to the big screen for showings at select American theaters.
More than 650 movie screens nationwide are scheduled to show one of the most highest-grossing Westerns ever made.
The presentations are set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time on Sunday, Jan. 17, and Wednesday, Jan. 20. Visit http://www.fathomevents.com/event/butch-cassidy-and-the-sundance-kid/more-info/theater-locations for a list of participating theaters. Visit http://www.fathomevents.com/event/butch-cassidy-and-the-sundance-kid/more-info/details for general information and tickets.
The showings include commentary by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.
The main characters in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” are not traditional Gary Cooper/“High Noon” figures, according to film instructor and cinema author Wes Gehring.
“There’s a lot of dark comedy in it,” he noted.
Nominated for seven Academy Awards, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” rattles the conventional format of the Old West film.
“It is really kind of a spoof of Westerns,” said Gehring, although stating its rogue nature is not as broad or as irreverent as Mel Brooks’ audacious “Blazing Saddles” (1974).
Absent from the big screen for almost two generations, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” puts a likable spin on two turn-of-the-century outlaws with different personalities, who hightailed it to Bolivia.
“They really were an odd couple,” said Gehring, distinguished professor of telecommunications at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
Butch (Newman) is a schemer with designs on getting rich quick, while Sundance (Redford) handles a gun well, according to promotional material from Colorado-based Fathom Events and television’s Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which are presenting the fictionalized account of the real-life desperadoes.
Gehring -- the author of numerous movie-themed books -- exchanged written correspondence with William Goldman, who won an Oscar for his original screenplay for the Newman-Redford “buddy” vehicle.
Gehring said Goldman, as inspiration, looked to the 1939 adventure flick “Gunga Din,” which starred Cary Grant.
“He wanted this movie to be in that spirit,” Gehring said.
“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” lacks the high-drama confrontational element of “High Noon” (1952).
And although Butch and Sundance are train and bank robbers fleeing from the law, audiences warm up to their less-than-imposing personas.
“Butch never had to shoot anybody,” Gehring said. “They’re nice guys.”
Having fun with Western clichés, director George Roy Hill used a lilting Burt Bacharach song as the musical linchpin for a rough-and-tumble saga.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” snared a “Best Original Song” Oscar.
“It pulls you out of the genre; it‘s so light and bouncy,“ said Patricia Hales, continuing lecturer in music at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” did not represent the type of score that mirrored the grand sweep of music in the “The Magnificent Seven” (1960) or matched the moodiness of scores from Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns.
Instead, Hales said, there is a light, pleasant air to the Bacharach song.
“You hear it, and it just brings a smile to your face,” the music teacher said.
“They wanted to make the music contemporary,” Gehring related.
The song accompanied a memorable, sun-dappled bicycle scene that featured Newman and actress Katharine Ross, who played Etta.
The inclusion of the tune helped filmmakers beef up Ross’ role, according to Gehring.