A New Wave Gangster Film

        Bonnie and Clyde portrays the tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. They were bank robbers during the Great Depression and operated in the mid-west United States. The film was released in 1967 and directed by Arthur Penn. Starring as Bonnie Parker was Faye Dunaway, and Warren Beatty played Clyde Parker. Bonnie and Clyde is an important film for many reasons, but most of all, it broke several taboos making it popular with the younger generation. It is widely regarded as the first film of the New Hollywood era.

         The historical accuracy, like most Hollywood films, is simplified and glorified to add glamour and a superhero effect to the characters. In real life, Bonnie and Clyde had more members in their gang, several jailings, as well as many more murders and crimes. A major part of the film that is fictional is the character C.W. Moss, who is actually a creation of the combination of two Barrow Gang members: William Daniel “W.D.” Jones and Henry Methvin. Another myth of the film is the portrayal of the Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. In the film, he is seen as captured and humiliated by the Barrow Gang, but the only time they really met was at the deadly ambush where Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934. The poem that Bonnie Parker read as the police raided their hideout is “The Story of Suicide Sal,” which was one of only two poems written by the real Bonnie Parker (the other is “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde”).

         Production-wise, Bonnie and Clyde was filmed as romantic comedy to contrast the violent gangster films of the 1930s. The film was influenced by the French New Wave directors as seen with its rapid shifts of tone and choppy editing. Bonnie and Clyde was also the first feature film to have extensive use of squibs (explosive, red-liquid filled charges in the actor’s clothes to simulate bullet hits and blood).

         Gene Wilder made his acting debut in Bonnie and Clyde, and Estelle Parsons won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Blanche Barrow.

Brent Bauscher

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