It’s been over 50 years since this blockbuster was released, and it still remains on the list of the greatest movies of all time. Tidbits visits the Old West with the facts on “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.”
• American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter William Goldman did research for eight years before penning his first original screenplay for “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.” Twentieth-Century Fox was authorized $200,000 for the screenplay, but ended up spending $400,000 (about $2.8 million in today’s dollars), the highest price ever paid at that time. The money was recouped many times over when “Butch Cassidy” was 1969’s top-grossing film. Goldman was awarded the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his work. He went on to write the screenplay for “All the President’s Men,” “The Stepford Wives,” and “A Few Good Men,” along with many others. He adapted his 1973 novel “The Princess Bride” for the big screen as well.
• The movie was inspired by outlaws Robert Leroy Parker, known as Butch Cassidy, and his partner Harry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid, whose band of bandits were known as the Wild Bunch, but were referred to as the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang in the film. While working as a butcher in a Wyoming shop, Parker earned the nickname Butch, which stuck when he struck out to work on area ranches. One ranch owner, Mike Cassidy, was especially kind to Parker, and the future outlaw’s new name was born. Longabaugh had served 18 months in the Sundance, Wyoming jail for horse thievery, which contributed to his moniker.
• The original title was “The Sundance Kid & Butch Cassidy.” William Goldman had Paul Newman in mind for Sundance and Jack Lemmon for Cassidy when he wrote the script. Lemmon wasn’t interested, and Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, and Marlon Brando were approached. McQueen wanted to play Butch and asked for top billing, dropping out when the director wanted Newman. Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward had seen the few films that Robert Redford had been in, and suggested him for the part of Sundance.
• Redford was frequently tardy to the set, and was scolded by Newman for his rudeness. Newman joked that the movie should be renamed “Waiting for Lefty,” referring to Redford’s left-handedness.
• Filming began in 1968 in Utah, Colorado, and Mexico. Lula Parker Betenson, the sister of the real Butch Cassidy, frequently visited the movie set, regaling the cast crew of her brother’s experiences. Cost of production was $6 million, with 1969 box office earnings of more than $102 million (about $725 million in today’s dollars), the top-earning movie of the year.
• Singer B.J. Thomas recorded the film’s song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” which shot to the top of the Billboard charts where it was No. 1 for four weeks. By March of 1970, the single had sold more than 2 million copies, and captured the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
• Nominated for seven Oscars, “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid” took home four. It lost Best Picture to “Midnight Cowboy.”
• With the law on their tail, in 1901, Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place fled to South America. Their first stop was Argentina, then Chile, although the movie places them in Bolivia. All of the Bolivia scenes were filmed in Mexico. Although their final end remains a mystery, it’s believed they were killed in South America in 1908.