Bonnie and Clyde (film): Wikis


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Bonnie and Clyde

film poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Warren Beatty
Written by David Newman
Robert Benton
Robert Towne
Warren Beatty
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 date(s) August 13, 1967 (1967-08-13) (US)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$2,500,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $23 million

Bonnie and Clyde is a 1967 American crime film about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the bank robbers who operated in the central United States during the Great Depression. The film was directed by Arthur Penn, and stars Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker. The screenplay was written by David Newman and Robert Benton, with Robert Towne and Beatty providing uncredited contributions to the script.

Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film, and is regarded as one of the first films of the New Hollywood era, in that it broke many taboos and was popular with the younger generation. Its success motivated other filmmakers to be more forward about presenting sex and violence in their films.

Bonnie and Clyde received Academy Awards for "Best Supporting Actress" (Estelle Parsons) and "Best Cinematography" (Burnett Guffey), and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.



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 do 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. Soon a simmering feud between Bonnie and Blanche begins; the once-prim Blanche views Bonnie as a harpy corrupting her husband and brother-in-law, while Bonnie sees Blanche as an incompetent, shrill shrew.

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. After a raid kills Buck, injures Bonnie and Clyde, and leaves Blanche sightless and in police custody, Hamer tricks Blanche, whose eyes are bandaged, into revealing the name of C.W. Moss, still only an "unidentified suspect."

The Ranger 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 elaborate 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 their bodies with bullets in a blood bath.


Cast notes

Actor Gene Wilder made his film debut as one of Bonnie and Clyde's hostages. His girlfriend was played by Evans Evans, who was the wife of film director John Frankenheimer. Ironically, three years earlier, Frankenheimer had replaced Bonnie and Clyde's director Arthur Penn as director on The Train at the insistence of actor Burt Lancaster. Wilder's and Evans's characters are based on real life undertaker H.D. Darby and Sophie Stone who were kidnapped and later released by Bonnie and Clyde. The character C.W. Moss is a composite character based on Barrow gang members W.D. Jones, Henry Methvin, and Raymond Hamilton.

Production and style

The film was intended as a romantic and comic version of the violent gangster films of the 1930s, updated with modern filmmaking techniques.[1] Arthur Penn deliberately portrayed some of the violent scenes with a comic tone, sometimes even reminiscent of Keystone Kops-style slapstick films, then shifted disconcertingly into horrific and gory violence.[2] The film was heavily 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.[2]

The film was originally offered to François Truffaut, the best-known director of the New Wave movement, who made contributions to the script, but eventually passed on the project to make Fahrenheit 451 instead.[3] The producers approached Jean-Luc Godard next. Some sources claim Godard didn't trust Hollywood and refused; others allege he planned to change Bonnie and Clyde to teenagers and relocate the story to Japan, prompting the film's investors to force him off the project. 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."

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 himself, for obvious reasons he decided not to use MacLaine. Other actresses considered for the role were Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret, 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." Before deciding to play the role himself, producer Warren Beatty's first choice for the role of Clyde Barrow was musician and composer Bob Dylan, who resembled the actual Barrow more strongly than Beatty.

The film is forthright in its handling of sexuality. 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 further 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 fake blood, that are detonated inside an actor's clothes to simulate bullet hits.

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 chosen to play Bonnie Parker's mother.[4]

Beatty had originally wanted the film to be shot in black and white, but Warner Bros. rejected this idea.


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 anachronistic, however: the bluegrass-style of music from which the piece stems dates from the mid-1940s.

Historical accuracy

The real Bonnie & Clyde, March 1933

The film considerably simplifies the facts about Bonnie and Clyde, which included other gang members, repeated jailings, other murders and a horrific auto accident which 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. In 1968, Jones outlined his period with the Barrows in a Playboy magazine article "Riding with Bonnie and Clyde". In that same year, he also filed a lawsuit against Warner Brothers, claiming that the film Bonnie and Clyde "maligned" him and damaged his character.[5] There is no record of him having collected any damages.[6]

The film strays farthest from fact when it portrays Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (played by Denver Pyle) as a vengeful bungler who had been captured, humiliated, and released by Bonnie and Clyde. In reality, Hamer was already a legendary Texas Ranger when he was coaxed out of semi-retirement to hunt down the duo, and never met either of them until the moment he and his posse successfully ambushed and killed them near Gibsland, Louisiana in 1934.[7] In 1968, Hamer's widow and son sued the movie producers for defamation of character over his portrayal and were awarded an out of court settlement in 1971.[4]

The film also depicts an unarmed and unsuspecting Clyde walking away from the car to investigate the broken down truck when he was ambushed, and that Bonnie, still in their car, may not have been armed, either. In reality, the back seat of Bonnie and Clyde's car was full of guns, and neither of them got out of the car alive.

The only two members of the actual Barrow Gang who were still alive at the time of the film's release were Blanche Barrow and William Daniel Jones. While Blanche Barrow approved the depiction of her in the original version of the film's script, she objected to the later re-writes, and at the film's release, complained loudly about Estelle Parsons's Oscar-winning performance of her, stating "That film made me look like a screaming horse's ass!"[4]

The movie was partly filmed in and around Dallas, Texas, in some cases using reputed locations of banks that the real Bonnie and Clyde were to have robbed at gunpoint.[8]

The poem that Bonnie Parker is reading as the police raid their Joplin hideout is “The Story of 'Suicide Sal',” one of only three poems by the real Bonnie Parker known to exist. The others are “The Street Girl” and “The Trail’s End,” also known as “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” which she is shown reading aloud later in the film.[9]


Warner Bros.-Seven Arts had so little faith in the film that, in a then-unprecedented move, they offered its first-time producer Warren Beatty 40% of the gross instead of a minimal fee. The movie then went on to gross over $70 million worldwide by 1973.

The film was controversial on its original release for its supposed glorification of murderers, and for its level of graphic violence and gore, 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.[10] Dave Kaufman of Variety also criticized the film for uneven direction and for portraying Bonnie and Clyde as bumbling fools.[11]

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

Estelle Parsons won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow, Clyde's sister-in-law, and Burnett Guffey won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

The film was also nominated for:


In 1992, Bonnie and Clyde was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

American Film Institute recognition In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Bonnie and Clyde was acknowledged as the fifth best in the gangster film genre.[12]


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. Forty years after its premiere, Bonnie and Clyde has been cited as a major influence in such disparate films as The Wild Bunch, The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs and The Departed.[13] Bonnie and Clyde were also the subject of a popular 1967 French pop song performed by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot.


  1. ^ The Movies by Richard Griffith, Arthur Mayer, and Eileen Bowser. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981 edition.
  2. ^ a b Giannetti, Louis; Eyman, Scott. Flashback: A Brief History of Film (4 ed.). Prentice Hall. p. 307. ISBN 978-0130186621. 
  3. ^ Toubiana, Serge; de Baecque, Antoine (1999). Truffaut: A Biography. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375400893. 
  4. ^ a b c Ballinger, Frank R. "From Real to Reel, the 1967 movie". Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout. 
  5. ^ Sinclair, Molly (1974). "no title". Houston Post. 
  6. ^ James, Ann (21 Aug, year not legible). "Bonnie and Clyde driver loses life to shotgun blast". Houston Post. 
  7. ^ Guinn, Jeff (2009). Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1-4165-5706-1.
  8. ^ Ballinger, Frank R. "Locations, scenes and more". Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout. 
  9. ^ Ballinger, Frank R. "Bonnie Parker’s Poems". Bonnie & Clyde’s Hideout. 
  10. ^ Gianetti; Eyman. Flashback, p. 306.
  11. ^ Kaufman, Dave (9 Aug 1967). "Bonnie and Clyde". Variety (magazine). 
  12. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  13. ^ Scott, A. O. (12 Aug 2007). "Two Outlaws, Blasting Holes in the Screen". The New York Times. 

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