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Sunday June 23rd 2024

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid | 1969

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid film location: Grafton, Utah
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid location: the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang hideout: Grafton, Utah | iStockphoto / Robert Ford

TA spiffing romantic Western, originally written for Jack Lemmon (Butch) and Paul Newman (Sundance), though both Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty were considered for the Kid before director George Roy Hill insisted on newcomer Robert Redford, fresh from his success in Barefoot In The Park.

Most of the filming was around Zion National Park in Utah, where the little town in which Butch and Sundance hole up with schoolteacher Etta Place (Katharine Ross) is Grafton, a deserted Mormon community on the Virgin River, six miles west of Springdale on State Route 9.

Etta’s home was built for the film but the schoolhouse is the ghost town’s abandoned church, which was restored, and the barn is the existing Historic Ballard barn.

Butch’s face off with Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy, famous as TV's Addams Family butler, Lurch) to establish his leadership of the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang is filmed in Cave Valley, in the Kolob Region of the Park.

The railway robberies were filmed on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway in southwest Colorado, which is the railway featured at the beginning of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and in the 1956 epic Around The World In 80 Days.

The local town, where Butch and Sundance relax under the noses of the law, is nothing more than the 20th Century-Fox backlot in Los Angeles, much of which was sold off and redeveloped as the Century City complex.

The lighthearted tone turns darker as railway magnate ER Harriman hires a relentless superpose to track down the two outlaws.

Apart from Zion, the cross-country trek takes in Snow Canyon, near St George, on Route 15 in Washington County – which was also, notoriously, the location for John Wayne’s disastrous Genghis Khan pic The Conqueror.
Swirling petrified dunes.

When the only option is a reckless leap into a river canyon, this was filmed at Trimble Bridge on the Animas River, near Durango, southwest Colorado. Newman and Redford start the jump in Colorado, to land on a hidden mattress only a few feet below. The leap was completed by stuntmen at Century Lake on the studio’s Century Ranch near Malibu, California. In those pre-digital days, the crane was obscured by a matte painting of the cliffs.

Realising that their days of robbing Harriman railways are over, Butch and Sundance along with Etta disappear into the anonymity of the big city. These ‘New York’ scenes were to have been filmed on the huge set built on the Fox Los Angeles backlot for their massive new production, Hello Dolly. Since the musical had yet to be released, studio head Richard Zanuck had reservations about revealing this expensive new showpiece, so the montage of period photos was used instead.

When the three choose, not very wisely, to seek their fortunes in ‘Bolivia’, these ‘South American’ scenes were shot in Taxco and Cuernavaca to the south of Mexico City, Mexico.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid location: Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid location: the final shoot-out in ‘Bolivia’: Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico | Google Maps

Their final heroic showdown against the Bolivian army is staged in the Market Square of Tlayacapan, a town in the northeast part of Morelos state in central Mexico, about 60 km east from the state capital of Cuernavaca and a couple of hours by bus or car south from Mexico City.

Tlayacapan, a popular day trip destination for some Mexico City residents, was also a popular filming location for many Mexican and American films, including Don Siegel's Two Mules For Sister Sara, starring Shirley MacLaine and Clint Eastwood, and Oliver Stone's Salvador (1986), with James Woods and James Belushi. The classic Western, The Magnificent Seven, was also filmed in the area.

And US rock band The Killers, filmed the music video for When You Were Young here in 2006.

In real life, Butch Cassidy (whose real name was Robert Leroy Parker) returned to the United States and lived under an assumed identity. He led the Hole-in-the-Wall gang from the Parker Ranch in Circleville, and his home can still be seen five miles south of Circleville on U.S. 89.