Bonnie and Clyde (film)

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Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde.JPG
film poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Warren Beatty
Written by David Newman
Robert Benton
Special Consultant:
Robert Towne
Starring Warren Beatty
Faye Dunaway
Michael J. Pollard
Gene Hackman
Estelle Parsons
Music by Charles Strouse
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Editing by Dede Allen
Distributed by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release dates
  • August 13, 1967 (1967-08-13)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.5 million
Box office $50,700,000[1] (domestic)
$70,000,000[2] (worldwide)

Bonnie and Clyde is a 1967 American crime film directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the title characters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The film features Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons, with Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor, Gene Wilder, Evans Evans, and Mabel Cavitt in supporting roles. The screenplay was written by David Newman and Robert Benton. Robert Towne and Beatty provided uncredited contributions to the script; Beatty also produced the film. The soundtrack was composed by Charles Strouse.

Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film, and is regarded as one of the first films of the New Hollywood era, since it broke many cinematic taboos and was popular with the younger generation. Its success prompted other filmmakers to be more open in presenting sex and violence in their films. The film's ending also became iconic as "one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history".[3]

The film received Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey).[4] It was among the first 100 films selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.[5]

Plot[edit]

In the middle of the Great Depression, Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) meet when Clyde tries to steal Bonnie's mother's car. Bonnie, who is bored by her job as a waitress, is intrigued with Clyde, and decides to take up with him and become his partner in crime. They pull off some holdups, but their amateur efforts, while exciting, are not very lucrative.

The duo's crime spree shifts into high gear once they hook up with a dim-witted gas station attendant, C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard), then with Clyde's older brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife, Blanche (Estelle Parsons), a preacher's daughter. The women dislike each other on first sight, and their feud only escalates from there: shrill Blanche has nothing but disdain for Bonnie, Clyde and C.W., while gun-moll Bonnie sees Blanche's flighty presence as a constant danger to the gang's well-being.

Bonnie and Clyde turn from pulling small-time heists to robbing banks. Their exploits also become more violent. When C.W. botches a bank robbery by parallel parking the getaway car, Clyde shoots the bank manager in the face after he jumps onto the slow-moving car's running board. The gang is pursued by law enforcement, including Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle), who is captured and humiliated by the outlaws, then set free. A raid later catches the outlaws off guard, mortally wounding Buck with a gruesome shot to his head and injuring Blanche. Bonnie, Clyde and C.W. barely escape with their lives. With Blanche sightless and in police custody, Hamer tricks her into revealing C.W.'s name, who was up until now still only an "unidentified suspect."

Hamer locates Bonnie, Clyde and C.W. hiding at the house of C.W.'s father Ivan Moss (Dub Taylor), who thinks the couple—and an ornate tattoo—have corrupted his son. He strikes a bargain with Hamer: in exchange for leniency for the boy, he helps set a trap for the outlaws. When Bonnie and Clyde stop on the side of the road to help Mr. Moss fix a flat tire, the police in the bushes open fire and riddle them violently. Hamer and his posse then come out of hiding, looking pensively at the couple's bodies.

Cast[edit]

The gang acquires a nemesis: After they humiliate Captain Hamer—and publicize the fact with photos—he returns in the third act, vowing "to get my picture took with them two one more time." In real life, Hamer never laid eyes on Bonnie and Clyde until the morning he and his posse fatally ambushed them near Gibsland, Louisiana.
"Step on it, Velma." Gene Wilder's film debut as amiable hostage Eugene Grizzard

Cast notes[edit]

Actor Gene Wilder portrayed Eugene Grizzard, one of Bonnie and Clyde's hostages. His girlfriend Velma Davis was played by Evans Evans, who was the wife of film director John Frankenheimer.

The family gathering scene was filmed in Red Oak, Texas. Several local residents were watching the film being shot, when the filmmakers noticed Mabel Cavitt, a local school teacher, among the people gathered, who was then cast as Bonnie Parker's mother.[6][7]

Production and style[edit]

The film was intended as a romantic and comic version of the violent gangster films of the 1930s, updated with modern filmmaking techniques.[8] Arthur Penn portrayed some of the violent scenes with a comic tone, sometimes reminiscent of Keystone Kops-style slapstick films, then shifted disconcertingly into horrific and graphic violence.[9] The film was strongly influenced by the French New Wave directors, both in its rapid shifts of tone, and in its choppy editing, which is particularly noticeable in the film's closing sequence.[9]

The film was originally offered to François Truffaut, the best-known director of the New Wave movement, who made contributions to the script. He passed on the project to make Fahrenheit 451.[10] The producers approached Jean-Luc Godard next. Some sources claim Godard didn't trust Hollywood and refused; Robert Benton claimed that Godard wanted to shoot the film in New Jersey in January and took offense when would-be producer Norah Wright objected that that was unreasonable considering the story took place in Texas with its year-round warm environment[11] while her partner, Elinor Jones,[12] claimed they did not believe Godard was right for the project in the first place. After attending a screening of the completed film, Godard was asked what he thought of the film and reportedly replied, "Great! Now let's go make Bonnie and Clyde."[citation needed]

When Warren Beatty was on board as producer only, his sister Shirley MacLaine was a strong possibility to play Bonnie. But when Beatty decided to play Clyde, obviously a different actress was called for. Those considered for the role were Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret, Leslie Caron, Carol Lynley and Sue Lyon. Cher auditioned for the part, while Warren Beatty begged Natalie Wood to play the role. Wood declined the role to concentrate more on her therapy at the time, and acknowledged that working with Beatty before was "difficult." Faye Dunaway has stated that she won the part "by the skin of her teeth!"[citation needed]

The film is forthright in its handling of sexuality, but that theme was toned down from its conception. Originally, Benton and Newman wrote Clyde as bisexual and he and Bonnie were to have a three-way sexual relationship with their male getaway driver. However, Arthur Penn persuaded the writers that the relationship's emotional complexity was underwritten, it dissipated the passion of the title characters and it would harm the audience's sympathy for the characters who would write them off as sexual deviants because they are criminals. Others claimed that Beatty was not willing to have his character display that kind of sexuality and that the Production Code would never have allowed such content in the first place.[13] Instead, Clyde is portrayed as unambiguously heterosexual, if impotent. When Clyde brandishes his gun to display his manhood, Bonnie suggestively strokes the phallic symbol. Like the 1950 film Gun Crazy, Bonnie and Clyde portrays crime as alluring and intertwined with sex. Because Clyde is impotent, his attempts to physically woo Bonnie are frustrating and anti-climactic.

Bonnie and Clyde was one of the first films to feature extensive use of squibs — small explosive charges, often mounted with bags of stage blood, that are detonated inside an actor's clothes to simulate bullet hits. Released in an era where shootings were generally depicted as bloodless and painless, the Bonnie and Clyde death scene was one of the first in mainstream American cinema to be depicted with graphic realism.[citation needed]

Beatty had originally wanted the film to be shot in black and white, but Warner Bros. rejected this idea. As it stood, much of the senior management of the studio was hostile towards this film project, especially Jack Warner who considered the subject-matter an unwanted throwback to Warner Brothers' early period when gangster films were common product.[14] In addition, Warner was already annoyed at Beatty who refused to star in the film, PT 109 at his behest and was insolent enough to defy his favorite gesture of authority of showing the studio water tower with the WB logo on it by responding "Well, it's got your name, but it's got my initials."[15] In addition, Warner complained about the film's extensive location shooting in Texas which exceeded its production schedule and budget, until he ordered the crew back to the studio backlot, where it was planned to be anyway for final process shots.[16]

At first, Warner Brothers did not promote Bonnie and Clyde for general release, but instead mounted only limited regional releases that seemed to confirm its misgivings about the film's lack of commercial appeal, despite the fact the film was doing excellent sustained business in select urban theatres.[17] In fact, while Jack Warner was selling the studio to Seven Arts Productions, he would have had the film dumped but for the fact that Israel, of whom Warner was a major supporter, had scored a triumphant victory in the Six Day War, and he was in too defiant a mood to sell any of his studio's films.[18] Meanwhile, Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde's producer and star, complained to Warner Brothers that if the company was willing to go to so much trouble for Reflections in a Golden Eye (they had changed the coloration scheme at considerable expense), which was getting poor reviews, their neglect of his film, which was getting excellent press, suggested a conflict of interest; he threatened to sue the company. Warner Brothers gave Beatty's film a general release. It eventually became a major box office success.[19]

Music[edit]

The instrumental banjo piece "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by Flatt and Scruggs was introduced to a worldwide audience as a result of its frequent use in the movie. Its use is strictly anachronistic as the bluegrass-style of music dates from the mid-1940s rather than the 1930s, but the functionally similar Old-time music genre was long established and widely recorded at the period in which the film is set.[citation needed] Long out of print in vinyl and cassette formats, the film soundtrack album was finally released on CD in 2009.[20]

Historical accuracy[edit]

The real Bonnie and Clyde, March 1933

The film considerably simplifies the lives of Bonnie and Clyde, which included other gang members, repeated jailings, other murders and a horrific auto accident that left Parker burned and a near-invalid. One of the film's major characters, "C.W. Moss", is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang: William Daniel "W.D." Jones and Henry Methvin.[21]

The Gene Wilder-Evans Evans sequence is based on the kidnappings of the undertaker H.D. Darby and his acquaintance Sophia Stone, near Ruston, Louisiana on April 27, 1933.[22] In the film, Eugene and Velma are romantically involved; Darby and Stone were not.

The film strays furthest from fact in its portrayal of the Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (played by Denver Pyle) as a vengeful bungler who had been captured, humiliated, and released by Bonnie and Clyde. Hamer was already a legendary Texas Ranger when he was coaxed out of semi-retirement to hunt down the duo; he had never seen them before he and his posse ambushed and killed them near Gibsland, Louisiana on May 23, 1934.[23] In 1968, Hamer's widow and son sued the movie producers for defamation of character over his portrayal. They were awarded an out-of-court settlement in 1971.[24]

The film portrays an unarmed and unsuspecting Clyde walking away from the car to investigate the broken down truck when he was ambushed. It suggests that Bonnie, still in their car, may also have been unarmed. The real couple remained in the vehicle and had weapons at the ready in the front seat; the back seat contained a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.[25] Neither outlaw got out of the car alive.

Bonnie and Faye: Infamous 1933 cigar photo branded Bonnie as a gun moll; 1966 publicity reenactment with Faye Dunaway

The couple's notoriety in 1933 came from photos found by police as undeveloped film in a hastily abandoned hideout in Joplin, Missouri. In one, Bonnie holds a gun in her hand and a cigar between her teeth. Its publication nationwide typed her as a dramatic gun moll. The film portrays the taking of this playful photo. It implies the gang sent photos—and poetry—to the press, but this is untrue. The police found most of the gang's items in the Joplin cache. Bonnie's final poem, read aloud by her in the movie, was publicized only posthumously by her mother.[26]

Regarding the themes of Barrow's homosexuality/bisexuality and impotence, those notions seem to have been solely advanced in Pulitzer Prize winner author John Toland's 1963 novel, The Dillinger Days. However, when asked, contemporaries of Barrow, like W.D. Jones denied knowing anything about that being part of Barrow's life. Additionally, critiques of Toland's novel, particularly those by Nelson Algren in 1968, indicate that there might be no historical basis for those rumors. Algren refers to Dillinger Days as "a volume of conjectures, surmises and easy assumptions", and states, "one can only marvel at this writer's presumption. Clyde Barrow might have been a latent heterosexual without even his mother knowing"?[27]

The only two members of the Barrow Gang who were alive at the time of the film's release were Blanche Barrow and W. D. Jones. While Blanche Barrow approved the depiction of her in the original version of the script, she objected to the later re-writes. At the film's release, she complained loudly about Estelle Parsons's portrayal of her, saying, "That film made me look like a screaming horse's ass!"[28]

In 1968, W.D. Jones outlined his time with the Barrows in a Playboy magazine article.[29] That same year, he filed a lawsuit against Warner Brothers-Seven Arts, claiming that the film Bonnie and Clyde "maligned and brought shame and disrepute" on him and damaged his character by implying that he was complicit in the betrayal of his old partners. He repeated what he had said at his arrest in 1933, that far from being a willing member of the gang, he had tried to escape several times.[30][31] There is no record that his petition was ever heard by a court.

The movie was partly filmed in and around Dallas, Texas, in some cases using locations of banks that Bonnie and Clyde were reputed to have robbed at gunpoint.[32]

Reception[edit]

Producer-star Warren Beatty got a 40%-of-gross deal because the studio viewed the film as a short-run drive-in "programmer"

The film was controversial on its original release for its supposed glorification of murderers, and for its level of graphic violence, which was unprecedented at the time. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was so appalled that he began to campaign against the increasing brutality of American films.[33] Dave Kaufman of Variety criticized the film for uneven direction and for portraying Bonnie and Clyde as bumbling fools.[34] Joe Morgenstern for Newsweek initially panned the film as a "squalid shoot-'em-up for the moron trade." After seeing the film a second time and noticing the enthusiastic audience, he wrote a second article saying he had misjudged it and praised the film. Warner Brothers took advantage of this, marketing the film as having made a major critic change his mind about its virtues.[35]

Roger Ebert gave Bonnie and Clyde a largely positive review, giving it four stars out of a possible four. He called the film "a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance." More than 30 years later, he added the film to his "Great Movies" list. Film critics Dave Kehr and James Berardinelli have also praised the film in the years since.

The fierce debate about the film is discussed at length in For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism. This 2009 documentary film chronicles what occurred as a result: The New York Times fired Bosley Crowther because his negative review seemed so out of touch with the public, and Pauline Kael, who wrote a lengthy freelance essay in The New Yorker in praise of the film, became the magazine's new staff-critic.

It performed well at the box office, and by year's end had grossed $23,000,000, becoming the studio's second highest grossing film of all time, right behind My Fair Lady (1964).[36] Listal lists it as one of the top five grossing films of 1967 with $50,700,000 in US sales, and $70,000,000 worldwide.[37]

The film has been criticized for opening the floodgates for cinematic violence.[38]

The film has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes[39]

Awards and honors[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Estelle Parsons won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow, and Burnett Guffey won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

The film was also nominated for:

Others[edit]

Influence[edit]

A replica made for the film of the Ford V8 in which Bonnie and Clyde died, currently on display at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment.

Some critics cite Joseph H. Lewis's Gun Crazy, a 1950 film noir about a bank-robbing couple (also based loosely on the real Bonnie and Clyde), as a major influence on this film.[citation needed] Forty years after its premiere, Bonnie and Clyde has been cited as a major influence for such disparate films as The Wild Bunch, The Godfather, The Departed,[41] and Natural Born Killers.[42] Bonnie and Clyde were also the subject of a popular 1967 French pop song performed by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. Some aspects of the Bollywood movie Bunty aur Babli are inspired by this movie.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Bonnie and Clyde, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Bonnie and Clyde, Box Office Information". IMDb. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Bonnie and Clyde (1967)" The New York Times
  4. ^ "The 40th Academy Awards (1968) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. 
  5. ^ "25 American films are added to the National Film Registry". The Courier. Associated Press. December 7, 1992. Retrieved July 22, 2009. 
  6. ^ Handbook of Texas Online: Red Oak, Texas Texas State Historical Association
  7. ^ Ballinger, Frank R. "From Real to Reel, the 1967 movie". Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout. 
  8. ^ The Movies by Richard Griffith, Arthur Mayer, and Eileen Bowser. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981 edition.
  9. ^ a b Giannetti, Louis; Eyman, Scott. Flashback: A Brief History of Film (4 ed.). Prentice Hall. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-13-018662-1. 
  10. ^ Toubiana, Serge; de Baecque, Antoine (1999). Truffaut: A Biography. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40089-3. 
  11. ^ Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of the New Hollywood. The Penguin Press. pp. 66–67. 
  12. ^ Harris 2008, p. 66.
  13. ^ Harris 2008, pp. 205-206.
  14. ^ Harris 2008, p. 325.
  15. ^ Harris 2008, p. 192.
  16. ^ Harris 2008, pp. 258-259.
  17. ^ Harris 2008, p. 346.
  18. ^ Harris 2008, p. 327.
  19. ^ Harris 2008, pp. 368-369.
  20. ^ "Bonnie And Clyde Soundtrack CD". cduniverse.com. 
  21. ^ "Bonnie and Clyde Trivia". tcm.com. 
  22. ^ Barrow, Blanche Caldwell, edited by John Neal Phillips (2005). My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3625-1.
  23. ^ Guinn, Jeff (2009). Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-5706-7.
  24. ^ Guinn, p 364
  25. ^ The Posse. Texas Hideout. Accessed 25 May 2008.
  26. ^ Roger Maserang (December 31, 2008). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Bonnie and Clyde Garage Apartment" (PDF). National Park Service. pp. 20–21. Retrieved January 24, 2014.  (39 pages, with apartment plans, map, newspaper clippings and 11 photos)
  27. ^ "Bonnie & Clyde History". A. Winston Woodward. 
  28. ^ Barrow with Phillips, p 245n40
  29. ^ "Riding with Bonnie and Clyde." cinetropic.com
  30. ^ Sinclair, Molly (1974). "no title". Houston Post. 
  31. ^ James, Ann (21 Aug, year not legible). "Bonnie and Clyde driver loses life to shotgun blast". Houston Post. 
  32. ^ Ballinger, Frank R. "Locations, scenes and more". Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout. 
  33. ^ Gianetti; Eyman. Flashback, p. 306.
  34. ^ Kaufman, Dave (9 August 1967). "Bonnie and Clyde". Variety. 
  35. ^ Harris, Mark. Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of a New Hollywood. Penguin Press, 2008, p. 341-2.
  36. ^ "Bonnie and Clyde". tcm.com. 
  37. ^ "Top Grossing Films of 1967". Listal.com. 
  38. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/aug/26/thriller.romance
  39. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bonnie_and_clyde/
  40. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  41. ^ Scott, A. O. (12 August 2007). "Two Outlaws, Blasting Holes in the Screen". The New York Times. 
  42. ^ Lavington, Stephen. Oliver Stone. London: Virgin Books, 2004.

Further reading[edit]

  • Friedman, Lester D. (2000). Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-59697-1. 
  • Desilet, Gregory (2005). "Modern 'Noir' Melodrama: Bonnie and Clyde". Our Faith in Evil: Melodrama and the Effects of Entertainment Violence. McFarland. pp. 288–298. ISBN 078642348X. 

External links[edit]