Tim Anderson is a freelance writer/researcher with articles published in The Saturday Evening Post, Playboy magazine, TV Guide, and others.
Facts and Trivia About Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was the top-grossing film of 1969, and today is considered one of Hollywood's greatest westerns.
The movie was filmed in 1968 in Utah, Colorado, and Mexico. It cost $6 million to film, but earned over $102 million at the box office in 1969, which would be around $725 million in 2019 adjusted for inflation.
In other words, it was a monster success, and 2019 marks its 50th anniversary.
Overflowing With Success
One of the reasons the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie enjoyed such overwhelming success is due to the fact that the three main characters were perfect for their roles.
It's hard to imagine Marlon Brando as Butch, or Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner, or Warren Beatty as the Sundance Kid, but early on before filming started, these actors were actually being considered for the two title roles.
Even the beautiful Katharine Ross didn't have a lock on the Etta Place role as producers were thinking about offering the part to Natalie Wood or Joanna Pettet.
However, as cinematic fate often happens, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Ross were signed to star in what has become one of Tinseltown's most beloved and financially successful westerns of all time.
Awards and Achievements
The film won a still-record nine British Academy Awards, including Picture, Best Actor (Redford), Best Actress (Ross), Best Direction (George Roy Hill), Best Screenplay and many others. Although it didn't fare as well at the 1970 Academy Awards, it still won a handful of Oscars, including Best Screenplay for William Goldman.
Today, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is on the American Film Institute's Top 10 list of best "Western' films, and also ranked in the AFI Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
This year—2019—marks the film's 50th anniversary, and it continues to entertain millions of new young movie lovers, and is a favorite with Turner Classic Movie (TCM) fans.
Here are some of the inside stories of the affairs, sex scandals, and secrets of the great stars who made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid such a memorable classic.
Paul Newman—Steak, Hamburger, and Bacon
Paul Newman was born in Ohio in 1925, and he went on to become one of Hollywood's top stars of the 1960s. Some of his movies were Hud, Hombre, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, and others. In fact, in 1969 and 1970, Newman was #1 at the box office. But his ride to success had been a rocky one.
He'd married the pretty blonde model and actress Jackie Witte in 1949 and the couple had three children, one son Scott, and daughters Susan and Stephanie. They'd met while appearing in a Chicago play and soon married.
However, as Newman's career began to climb, the actor began spending less and less time at home. It seems in 1953 that Newman had met a comely young actress named Joanne Woodward and the couple began seeing each other privately.
In 1958, while filming The Long, Hot Summer with Woodward, Jackie filed for divorce. It was granted on January 28, 1958.
The very next day Newman married Woodward.
The marriage appeared to be a happy one, and although a few reports had Newman catting around occasionally, none came from reputable sources. But in 1968, while in Mexico filming the South American scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Newman became involved with a young photographer, writer, and occasional actress named Nancy Bacon.
Bacon had flown down from Los Angeles to write a story and take some pics for a magazine article. Insiders claim Paul and Joanne were going through a rough time after 10 years of marriage, and Bacon simply showed up when the marriage had begun showing signs of strain.
Bacon later claimed in a book that she and the handsome actor had an 18-month affair. Newman, she said, covered it up by telling his wife he was off making movies.
Hollywood wags were soon talking about Newman "bringing home the Bacon," and the actress said “We were hot and heavy for a year and a half and it was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood.”
Indeed, there were gossip stories published saying the Newman-Woodward marriage was over, but in response, the couple took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times denying any marital problems.
In any event, Newman's marriage to Woodward survived and appeared to thrive right up until his death. Once after being asked about the state of his marriage, and the temptations that came with being a celebrity superstar, Newman jokingly replied “Why go out for hamburger when you can have steak at home?”
Despite the actor's awkward attempt to pay a compliment to his wife, Woodward, it seems, wasn't too pleased at being compared to a "piece of meat."
Over the years, there were some whispers and rumors suggesting Newman was bi-sexual, but most observers dismiss them as mere gossip designed to sell books. However, the possibility the actor had fleeting affairs with actresses like Natalie Wood, Vivien Leigh, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe is given more credibility, although any serious proof of such liaisons never surfaced.
Whatever the case, the actor suffered a major blow in 1978 when his only son Scott died from a drug overdose. Newman had always felt guilty about leaving his first wife Jackie, and not spending more time with their three kids. Now he struggled with the pain he felt over Scott's death, and carried that pain for the rest of his life.
Scott's death also had a sobering effect on the grieving actor, and Newman began to spend more time developing his charities. The actor created Newman's Own food products, and over the years more than $500 million in profits went to various charitable organizations.
In the late 1960s, Newman was Hollywood's #1 box office star. But after the release of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a new male superstar emerged to take his place.
His name was Robert Redford.
Robert Redford: Tired and Wired
He was a bad boy.
Literally. He once described himself in his teenage years as "tired and wired."
How about boozer, pill popper, thief, gang member, and sex addict?
Charles Robert Redford, Jr.,was born in 1936, the son of a Santa Monica milkman who later became an accountant. The family eventually moved south to Van Nuys, and Redford attended Van Nuys High School where his athletic skills blossomed. He was so good at tennis, he sometimes played with tennis legend Pacho Gonzales at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. And at high school, one of his baseball team members was future L.A. Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale.
During his time in high school Redford said he was a "bad" student, sometimes stealing beer, crashing parties, and once getting arrested for driving a car with stolen jewelry in the trunk. He was a member of The Barons, a street gang who raced their hot rods all through the valley, doing drugs and drinking beer to excess, and was fortunate to survive a car crash after hitting 90 miles per hour. He began experimenting with marijuana and hashish.
And then there were the girls. Lots of girls. The future actor would look back at his skirt-chasing days and say, "I was impatient. I didn't know what it was, but I wanted it, as much as I could get."
He was fortunate to graduate from high school and attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship. However, the restless Redford just couldn't stay out of trouble and eventually lost his sports scholarship after being expelled from school for repeated bad behavior, including excessive drinking.
So in 1956 he packed his bags and headed to Europe where for a time he lived in Italy, France, and Spain. When he returned to the United States, he settled in New York City for awhile to study art and drama, and landed some choice work on Broadway, including Tall Story, The Highest Tree, and Sunday in New York.
On one of his visits home to California, he met a young Mormon girl from Utah named Lola Van Wagenen, and they were married on September 12, 1958 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For awhile the newlyweds lived in a rented apartment in Provo, Utah while the actor commuted to New York or California for Broadway or film/television jobs. He considered converting to Mormonism, but never did.
During this time, the actor began picking up occasional television work in shows like The Twilight Zone, Maverick, and Route 66. But by now, even with his career rising, the actor found himself battling depression and often turned to pills and booze to deal with his inner demons. An admitted loner, he sometimes left Lola and their children for weeks at a time, driving in his car to no particular location, only searching for respite from the depression he was fighting.
In 1965, Redford got his first juicy role for acting opposite Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover which won him a Golden Globe for best new star.
But it also opened the door for temptation. Hollywood insiders began whispering that Redford and Wood were having an affair, and the whispering only grew louder when a year later Redford and Wood were teamed again in Sydney Pollack's This Property is Condemned, where he once again played Wood's lover.
Later when he reflected back on working with the beautiful actress, Redford never copped out to having the serious romance others claimed had occurred, only admitting they'd enjoyed "a closeness beyond friendship."
"Butch Cassidy' was the only film I ever enjoyed making."
— Robert Redford
Redford became a bonafide movie super star after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released. By 1974 he was Hollywood's #1 box office star, and stayed there for two more years.
But with his new fame and fortune came new pressures and temptations. While filming Legal Eagles, his marriage was falling apart and Hollywood gossip suggested he was having an affair with co-star Daryl Hannah.
Whether that was the case or not, in 1985, Redford and Lola divorced.
Over the next few decades the actor would have a number of public girlfriends and there were unfounded rumors linking him with Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda. None of them were ever proven.
But what is known is that in July 2009, Redford married German artist Sibylle Szaggars. The quiet ceremony took place in Hamburg, Germany. Szaggars had been living with the actor at his home in Sundance, Utah since the 1990s.
Today it might seem that the restless Redford has finally found some peace of mind. Nowadays he largely devotes his time to philanthropic efforts and overseeing the Sundance Film Festival which he created in 1978.
He came out of semi-retirement in 2018 to film a cameo in The Avengers: Endgame, however his last starring role was in 2018's The Old Man and the Gun.
Katharine Ross and Her Five Husbands
Katharine Ross was a cutie, and she knew it.
Born in Hollywood in 1940, her incredible beauty helped open many doors of opportunity for the aspiring actress.
Her family moved to the San Francisco area when she was young, and after graduating from high school she began studying acting in college before joining The Actors Workshop in 1959. Soon she was getting small guest roles in various TV series, including Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Mr. Novak, Arrest and Trial, and she played Lee Major's love interest in an episode of The Big Valley.
It was during this period when she met and married her first husband, Joel Fabiani. The couple married in 1960, but the marriage only lasted two years and they divorced in 1962.
She made her first film in 1965's Shenandoah, playing Jimmy Stewart's daughter-in-law. By now, Ross had married her second husband, John Marion, and this marriage lasted from 1964 to 1967.
Still, no juicy film roles came her way and the struggling young actress continued making TV guest shots on TV shows like The Wild, Wild, West, and The Loner.
However, in 1967, the little-known actress was cast as Elaine Robertson opposite another young and unknown actor named Dustin Hoffman in the film The Graduate. Ross' youthful looks allowed her to play Anne Bancroft's daughter, even though she was only eight years younger than Bancroft.
The movie went on to earn over $100 million dollars and was hugely popular. The movie won the director an Oscar, Ross a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, and suddenly she and Hoffman were big stars.
After the film's release, offers came flooding in, and Ross did a handful of movies, including Hellfighters, with John Wayne. She also filmed a movie called Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, and for the first time she was paired with a rising star named Robert Redford. The movie was shot by a cinematographer named Conrad Hall, and the newly-divorced Ross began a relationship with the married cameraman.
It was about this time when the actress was offered the role of Steve McQueen's girlfriend in Bullitt, but she turned it down and the part went to Jacqueline Bisset. It turned out to be a smart move, as Ross signed to play Etta Place in the about-to-be-filmed, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with Redford as her screen lover, and her real-life lover, Hall, would be filming the movie.
It was during the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the romance between Ross and Hall fully blossomed. Hall divorced his wife that year, and he and Ross married shortly after the film wrapped.
Ross' career kicked into superdrive after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released. and the movie was the top box office draw for 1969, grossing more than the next two films (Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy) combined. Today it is ranked in AFI's Topp 100 movies of all time, and in the Top 10 for westerns.
The Graduate made her famous, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made her a superstar
After playing Etta Place, Ross did a handful of movies before filming The Stepford Wives in 1974. Here, true to her pattern, she met a handsome actor and occasional director/producer named Gaetano Lisi. Lisi was the associate producer for the 1976 TV movie Wanted The Sundance Woman, and having just divorced Conral Hall, Ross wasted no time in adding Lisi to her list of husbands.
This marriage would last until 1979 before Ross filed for divorce for the fourth time.
"I made four pictures before 'The Graduate,' and nothing ever happened. And after that - wow!"
— Katharine Ross
Husband No. 5 turned out to be a keeper: ruggedly handsome actor Sam Elliott, whose movie credits include Mask, Tombstone, A Star Is Born, and others. Although she and Elliott both had parts in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they didn't actually meet until 10 years later in 1978 while working on the movie The Legacy.
Ross was still married to Gaetano Lisi at the time, so her budding relationship with Elliott had to fly under the public radar. She divorced Lisi a year after the movie's release and she and the four-years-younger Elliott were now officially a couple.
Still, bitten by bad relationships for so many years, this time Ross didn't rush into marriage. But in early 1984 after learning she was pregnant at age 44, Ross and the never-married Elliott tied the knot on May 1, 1984, and she gave birth to her daughter Cleo Rose not quite six months later.
By all accounts, Katharine Ross's fifth and final marriage has been relatively solid. Her relationship with her daughter hasn't been so smooth; in 2007, 26-year-old Cleo apparently attacked her mother with a pair of scissors during an argument. Katharine ended up getting a restraining order to prevent her daughter from coming anywhere near her, claiming the girl had been verbally and emotionally abusive to her ever since Cleo's childhood. Cleo was required to stay at least 100 yards from her mother’s home or workplace and ordered not try to contact her in any way.
Thankfully, over time the rift was mended, and mother and daughter are now back on friendly terms.
Today, still happily married to Elliott and nearly 80-years-old, Katharine Ross splits her time between her home in Malibu, and her farm in Oregon.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2019 Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson (author) from Utah on May 10, 2019:
Thank you Patty Russell! I enjoyed learning about the lives of these three great movie stars. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has always been one of my favorite movies. I've met Robert Redford several times over the years, and he's one of the nicest people you could ever meet!
Patty Russell on May 10, 2019:
Another really enjoyable read and I learned something about each Actor I did not know. Great job Tim Anderson.