Bonnie and Clyde


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On its release in 1967, Bonnie and Clyde became an immediate great success, receiving two academy awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons who played the sister-in-law of Clyde) and Best Cinematography. The story starts in 1931 in West Texas, when Bonnie meets Clyde for the first time, and ends with their shooting in 1934 in Arcadia, Louisiana. It is the era of the Depression, a time of poverty, which is clearly shown. Warren Beatty starred as Clyde and was also the producer of the movie. Faye Dunaway played Bonnie Parker and had her breakthrough with that role.
Bonnie Parker was born in Rowena, Texas, 1910 and then moved to West Dallas. In 1931 she worked in a cafe before beginning her career in crime. Clyde Barrow was born to a family of sharecroppers. As a young man he became a small-time thief and robbed a gas station. He served two years for armed robbery and was released on good behaviour in 1931.
Bonnie and Clyde reminds one right from the beginning of a Western. They have cars instead of horses, rob banks, form a gang, and have to keep on driving to escape punishment. The sheriff, who is obsessed with chasing the Western-outlaw, is in this case a Texas Ranger. He never gives up until he has reached his aim and has tracked the criminals down — not giving up and following them over long distances until the final showdown. Late in the movie the idea of a Western is supported by a poem Bonnie has written and reads out loud about Clyde and herself.
The poem written by Bonnie Parker sums up the experience and the lifestyle of the Barrow gang. In the film Clyde is very proud of the poem as it has made him someone to be remembered. The poem was published by the press not just in the film, but in reality as well. Bonnie and Clyde had by that time become public figures; in the area they robbed banks, everybody had heard about their crimes.


The Story of Bonnie and Clyde

You´ve heard the story of Jesse James
Of how he lived and died
If you´re still in need
Of something to read
Here´s the story of Bonnie and Clyde...

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang
I´m sure you all have read
How they rob and steal
And those who squeal
Are usually found dyin´ or dead.

They call them cold-hearted killers
They say they are heartless and mean
But I say this with pride
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.

But ´laws´ fooled around
Kept takin´ him down
And lockin´ him up in a cell
Till he said to me: ´I´ll never be free
So I´ll meet a few of them in Hell.´

If a policeman is killed in Dallas
And they have no clue to guide
If they can´t find a fiend
They just wipe their slate clean
And hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.

If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat
About the third night
They´re invited to fight
By a sub-guns´ rat-a-tat-tat.

Some day, they´ll go down together
They´ll bury them side by side
To a few, it´ll be grief-
To the law, a relief-
But it´s death for Bonnie and Clyde.


Bonnie mentions Jesse James at the beginning of the poem and seems even proud to continue the legend of such a famous bank robber. The following parallels between Jesse James and Bonnie & Clyde can be found: they both formed gangs; the Jesse James gang consisted of the James brothers and the Younger brothers. They were like a family to each other. The same is true for Bonnie and Clyde. Furthermore the two gangs committed their crimes in the same area, the Southern Plains. In addition, the movie portrays Bonnie and Clyde as national heroes who sympathise with the poor and fight against greedy banks. The same applies to Jesse James. It has to be mentioned that critics argue that the image of Bonnie and Clyde being folk heroes has been invented by the film-makers. The film tries to create the illusion of authenticity and partly misleads the audience. At the beginning of the movie original pictures of Bonnie and Clyde are presented, followed by a short biographical note of their lives. Three major scenes that suggest that they were folk heroes are indeed fictional. The scene in which Clyde gives a gun to a poor farmer who has to leave his home because the bank drives him off his land never happened in reality. Clyde offers the desperate and helpless farmer, by shooting at the house that is no longer his, an outlet for his frustration and pictures the injustice of the situation. Another scene that has been criticised shows people living on the road giving food to Bonnie and Clyde. These two scenes remind one of the movie The Grapes of Wrath. The third scene depicts Bonnie and Clyde who refuse to take the money of a poor farmer when robbing a bank. In reality they were not so good-hearted and this is not portrayed in the film. When they had a car accident and were helped by local farmers, Bonnie shot one of the assisting women in the hand.
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Cars and guns are very prominent throughout the film. The cars in the movie are all stolen, of course. The Barrow gang needs cars to flee from the banks they rob and they have to keep on moving to escape the police. They spend most of their time in cars. They eat, drink, quarrel, read the newspaper in the car, to find out which of their robberies has hit the headlines, and sometimes they even sleep in the car. Clyde usually chooses new expensive cars, for style is very important to him, which can also be seen in his clothes. The cars have to change very often since the gang members do not want to risk to get caught. They are chased by the police who also use cars and thus recall Westerns in which the bandits are followed by the sheriff on horseback. When Bonnie first meets Clyde, she is fascinated by his gun and his criminal record. Clyde teaches her to shoot and to rob banks. They feel powerful with their guns and pose with them in front of the camera. Guns are their toys but also the tools they need for robbing. The Barrow gang needs guns to defend themselves. They also cover up their insecurity with guns. Unfortunately they tend to use their guns when they panic which leads to several deaths.

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The violence shown in the movie provoked criticism when it was released in the sixties. Scenes of death and injury are presented in a graphic way and in brutal detail, and alternate with humorous scenes. Bonnie and Clyde is a forerunner in depicting shocking violent acts. Moreover it had significance for the present as there was a growing awareness of violence and confrontation with it, due to the Vietnam war, antiwar demonstrations, racial tensions and the killing of John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X. Critics were concerned about the negative influence that such a glorification of a brutal gangster couple might have on teenagers. The movie is biased as the story is told from Bonnie's and Clyde's point of view. They strongly appeal to the young generation as they are rebels against the establishment who fight against banks that represent the power of institutions. The film indeed achieved cult status as young people began to imitate the hairstyle and the clothing (e.g. pin-striped suits for men and maxi-skirts) and started to listen to the music of the thirties. Several songs have been written about Bonnie and Clyde, among which there is the famous song 'The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde' by Georgie Fame.

speaker.gif (23424 Byte)audio clip:'The Ballad of Bonnie Clyde'


Art design
Set design
Special effects

Warren Beatty
Arthur Penn
David Newman
Robert Benton
Dede Allen
Burnett Guffey
Charles Strouse
Dean Tavoularis
Raymond Paul
Danny Lee
Thodora Van Runkle


Warren Beatty
Faye Dunaway
Michael J. Pollard
Gene Hackman
Estelle Parsons
Denver Pyle
Dub Taylor
Evans Evans
Gene Wilder
James Stiver
Clyde Howdy
Garry Goodgion
Ken Mayer
Clyde Barrow
Bonnie Parker
C. W. Moss
Buck Barrow
Frank Hamer
Ivan Moss
Velma Davis
Eugene Grizzard
Grocery Store Owner
Sheriff Smoot

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