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Best Shot: Butch & Sundance & Their Girl

It figures. I try to throw a curveball in our often actress-centric blogging by choosing a guy's guy movie, a buddy Western for Hit Me With Your Best Shot and the most frequent face that pops up in your choices is the momentary it girl of the late 60s Katharine Ross. In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) she plays the school teacher Etta Place, essentially "the girl" of the narrative (and not much more complex a role than that) and twice over, too, since she's shacked up with The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) but also in 'what if?' love with Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) as evidenced in the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head" interlude early in the film. Redford & Newman? Lucky girl.

Which leads me to this very scientific poll for TFE readers (as suggested by forever1267 in the comments). Butch and Sundance are a pair in the movie but unlike Katharine Ross you can only have one. Make your choice based on '69 only!  


Now that that's out of our systems, let's choose a best shot. And good God (God = Conrad L Hall) there was much to choose from)

It seemed like bad form to not choose a shot that contained both Butch & Sundance since the movie rises (soars really) and falls (nope, never) on their chemistry. Redford & Newman had it like few male co-stars have ever had it in the history of cinema. This is gold plated or at least sepia-toned history books ready chemistry. My choice for BEST SHOT of the movie stars together...

I love putting these shots in dialogue with each other.

The first, from the film's oldtimey opening is all danger, with Butch Cassidy warning people how lethal The Kid is... while at the same time seemingly genuinely nervous about what gun massacre might be about to break out over a poker game. But by the time we've reached the movie's second act (its  middle-weighted in terms of its best scenes -- the entire 35 to 60 minute mark is just "A+") Butch & The Kid have both been fully humanized though they'd rather be legends. In the great "I CAN'T SWIM" scene The Kid is still trying to hang on to that manly danger mystique while Butch's affability (he's an easy laugher) keeps getting punctured by these morose short beats where the his face goes grave (right after this) when you know he's fully cognizant of an earlier warning.

You're going to die bloody and all you can do is choose where."

But if you can't allow me that shot-to-shot dialogue, which so perfectly illustrates the transition from legend to reality, than I'll admit that I would be forced to also choose a shot involving Ross. I kept coming back to this one...

 Both because I love its color and its menage-a-trois suggestion. The film robs so joyfully from the French New Wave that it's hard not to see its playful but doomed romantic threeway as a Western tip of the hat to Jules et Jim (1962). It's so somber in such a light movie with the warmth of hearth and home just out of reach and only providing temporary solace anyway.

It's also a beautiful dramatic elipsis to an earlier awesome comic bit when Butch tells Sundance he's stealing his girl to which Butch merely scratches herself, momentarily caught off guard in his underwear. His reply

Take her"



  • While The Love Bug and Funny Girl were the top grossers of 1969, they were actually '68 holdovers so Butch Cassidy... was the biggest hit of its year!
  • Paul Newman was 44 and Redford 32 when the film was released.
  • Newman and Redford would reteam for another popular sensation a few years later, the best picture winner The Sting (1973) which was also the top box office hit of its year.
  • Butch Cassidy... was honored with 7 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) winning 4 statues in total losing only its nods for Picture, Director and Sound but winning both music prizes, Cinematography and Screenplay


NEXT WEEK'S "BEST SHOT" FINALE: Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers (2013). Help us go out on a hypnotic high note by watching the movie and publishing YOUR choice for best shot. 


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Reader Comments (9)

I'd like to thank the Academy, my dog, and all you little people I stepped on to get to this honor. Thank you!!!!

On topic: it's Redford, definitely Redford, and I really liiked the shot where they OVER blow up the train. I remember that shot most from viewings on ABC in the 70's.

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Newman. You cannot replicate that kind of class and masculinity. It no longer exists.

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

@forever1267 - that train explosion was my favourite shot of the movie, and I was kind of surprised no one else mentioned it.

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Redford - in 1969, 2013 and any year in between.

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I love the shot with Newman cracking up. The dialgoue and the whole scene are also priceless.

PS Can't wait for Spring Breakers!

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I really want to vote for Redford, except there is a picture of my dad circa 1970 that looks frighteningly similar with the sideburns and the mustache, so that just brings up weird daddy issues.

Definitely a great point on the French New Wave shout out. I think this is considered one of the few Hollywood New Wave Westerns.

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

I watched "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on TCM the other night- Taylor and Newman make a gorgeous couple. Newman was a perfect example of masculine beauty- and he aged better than Redford.

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

This was a very kinky movie for me in 1969 when I was 8 years old. The first scene with Sundance and Etta, when they play at non-consensuality before she says "What took you so damn long?" (or ...whatever that line is), that was HOT. I wanted to be Etta Place SO badly.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Deborah -- it wsa super sexy but also so icky with our more shall we say progressed notions of consent. I was like WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING OKAY, OKAY, I'M OKAY NOW HOTNESS

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

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