Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

2009-07-06 09:04
Bonnie and Clyde

The story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, two bored drifters who robbed a few banks, killed a few people who got in their way, became media sensations for their exploits and met a grisly end was probably meant to be a cautionary tale against living life dangerously.

But the complete opposite happened. The couple became instant celebrities, whose cunning and devilish bravado – born out of youth, lust and desperation – enraptured a nation otherwise struggling with economic meltdown and social disintegration. Their victims were proud to say that they were held up by the Barrow gang – and not because they were the Robin Hoods of the 1930s, by all accounts they were in it for themselves – but because their criminal adventures represented a scintillating freedom that was a fantasy to many whose reality was nothing but destitution. It wasn’t called the Great Depression for nothing, you know.

Into this black void arise our anti-heroes, Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) a café waitress from Texas who wrote poetry, and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) the son of poor sharecroppers who had previously spent time in prison for robbery and hacked off two of his toes so he could avoid labour duty while inside.

What is immediately striking about these two is how gobsmackingly beautiful they are. You wouldn’t think it now, looking at Beatty’s well-worn 70-odd-year-old appearance, but as a young man he was an absolute heart-stopper. With his cock-eyed smile, soulful blue eyes and cheeky bashfulness he makes a dashing leading man. At his side he has someone who rivals his beauty – the seductive Dunaway, whose soft features look a bit more feral now that she’s discovered plastic surgery. Her simple but sophisticated style set a fashion trend, and the sale of berets apparently soared after the movie’s release. And the sight of the beautiful Bonnie wielding an automatic rifle while striking a provocative pose is one of the movie’s most enduring images.

Director Arthur Penn must’ve had a ball framing his stunning cast. The ease and confidence with which they traipse across the desolate landscape, so happy and uninhibited, despite the fact that the entire police force is out for their blood, is like blissful dream you know is going to end abruptly. Their adventures are more comical and alluring than they ought to be – they were criminals after all – but with additional characters like the dim but eager C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard), Clyde’s older brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his hysterical, country bumpkin wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) joining the rag-tag gang, there’s no denying that this tragic story is also highly entertaining.

Things take a more serious turn once the police bust in on an impromptu holiday the gang are enjoying – resulting in a shootout that leaves a few cops dead. With the heat building around them after they capture a sheriff and humiliate him by posing in photographs with him, their crime spree comes to an inevitably violent end along a quiet country road. The abject violence of Bonnie and Clyde’s comeuppance is considered one of the most controversial scenes ever filmed, and is in stark contrast with the almost accidental killings they perpetrated themselves.

There are a few oddities about Bonnie Clyde that also adds to its enduring power – Clyde’s unwillingness (or inability) to consummate the thrilling passion he shares with Bonnie is never explained, the missed cues and unsynchronised audio are more cute than clumsy, and the car chases between V-8 Fords that probably had a top speed of 60km/h were likely sped up post-production and look like something out of a comedy prank show.

Bonnie and Clyde have been described as the modern day Romeo and Juliet, and while their story may be more macabre, their legend has reinforced what has become only too apparent since; that we all love fame – and infamy even more so.

A bit of trivia: [from]

- Warner Bros. gave the movie a limited, "B" movie-type release at first, sending it to drive-ins and lesser theaters. When critics began raving about the film and young people began to show up at screenings, it was better promoted, given a wider release and became a huge hit.

- The poem that Bonnie is reading as the police open fire on the rented flat is "The Story of Suicide Sal" written by Bonnie Parker in 1932.

- 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.

- Michael J. Pollard's character, C.W. Moss, is a fictional conglomeration of all of Bonnie and Clyde's minor sidekicks including: Ralph Fults (their first sidekick), William Daniel Jones (nicknamed "W.D." and "Deacon", and was an attendant at the gas station owned by Clyde's father), Ray Hamilton, and Henry Methvin (who's father made the deal with Frank Hamer to set Bonnie and Clyde up).

- Cher auditioned for the role of Bonnie Parker, but when her husband/manager at the time, Sonny Bono, heard about the audition, he was furious at Warren Beatty for letting his wife audition for such a "controversial film".

Memorable quotes:

Bonnie Parker: I don't have no mama. No family either.
Clyde Barrow: Hey, I'm your family.
Bonnie Parker: You know what, when we started out, I thought we was really goin' somewhere. This is it. We're just goin', huh?
Clyde Barrow: I love you.

[after Clyde shows off his marksmanship with a handgun]
Bonnie Parker: You're good!
Clyde Barrow: I ain't good. I'm the best!
Bonnie Parker: And modest!

[after Bonnie reads him her poem]
Clyde Barrow: You know what you done there? You told my story, you told my whole story right there, right there. One time, I told you I was gonna make you somebody. That's what you done for me. You made me somebody they're gonna remember.

Young love and murderous mayhem. Has there ever been a better combination in movie history? The bewitchingly beautiful movie about the notorious bandits is our classic this week.

What to read next: Buy Bonnie & Clyde on DVD

PRESHEN GOVENDER 2010/02/23 4:45 PM
  • Rating:
Great movie it reminds me of dirk prinsloo and cezanne visser,but with less humping
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