skip navigation
Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde(1967)

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (1)

DVDs from TCM Shop

Bonnie and Clyde The legendary bank robbers run... MORE > $13.95 Regularly $19.98 Buy Now blu-ray


powered by AFI

teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)



Bonnie Parker feels an excitement she's never known when Clyde Barrow enters her life (they meet while he's stealing her mother's car!). Almost immediately, Bonnie abandons her dreams of becoming a movie star and takes off on a whirlwind tour of Depression-era Texas, where they become legendary bank robbers. As their fame grows, so does their gang with the addition of gas station attendant C.W. Moss and Clyde's brother and sister-in-law. But with their growing notoriety as modern-day Robin Hoods and murderers comes the increasing threat of a fatal run-in with the law. After a heart-breaking visit with Bonnie's family, in which she realizes that she literally can't go home again, they are caught in a series of ever-more-deadly ambushes that decimate the Barrow Gang and threaten to end the legend of Bonnie and Clyde.

Director: Arthur Penn
Producer: Warren Beatty
Screenplay: David Newman, Robert Benton
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Editing: Dede Allen
Art Direction: Dean Tavoularis
Music: Charles Strouse
Cast: Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow), Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker), MichaelJ. Pollard (C.W. Moss), Gene Hackman (Buck Barrow), Estelle Parsons(Blanche Barrow), Denver Pyle (Frank Hamer), Dub Taylor (Ivan Moss), EvansEvans (Velma Davis), Gene Wilder (Eugene Grizzard).

Why BONNIE AND CLYDE is Essential

Film historians credit Bonnie and Clyde with inaugurating a new era in American film in the late sixties which resulted in a Hollywood renaissance that reached its peak in the mid-seventies. Suddenly directors were the center of the American filmmaking industry, and several studios, including Warner Bros. and Columbia, responded by creating low-budget production units dedicated to producing the work of exciting new talents like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich. To many, this is one of the most exciting periods in American film history. After more than a decade of amazing creativity, the movement came to an end with the rise of box-office blockbusters like Jaws (1975) and StarWars (1977) and the colossal box office failure of director Michael Cimino'sHeaven's Gate (1980).

With its glorification of a team of bank robbers and depiction of thelawmen on their trail as villains, Bonnie and Clyde captured theimaginations of the counter-culture audience in the late '60s as no filmhad done before. Some historians credit it with awakening film executivesto the existence of a youth audience that would patronize films thatreflected their own anti-establishment values.

In a December 1967 article in Time magazine, "The New Cinema:Violence...Sex...Art," critic Stefan Kanfer hailed Bonnie and Clydeas the harbinger of a new type of filmmaking characterized by a disregardfor conventional plotting, the jarring mixture of comedy and tragedy,sexual boldness and an ironic approach to moral issues.

Bonnie and Clyde set new standards for screen violence. It wasone of the first films to show blood splattering from bullet wounds andcapture the body's physical reaction to being shot (particularly in thefilm's shocking finale, in which Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow jerk aroundlike marionettes when hit with a barrage of bullets). Where previous filmshad rarely shown shooter and victim in the same frame, Bonnie andClyde presented the results of violence in graphic detail. In oneindelible image, a bank teller jumps on their running board as the gangescapes after a robbery, only to be shot in the face.

With Bonnie and Clyde, Warren Beatty became a new kind ofstar-producer, packaging his own film as a way of taking control of hiscareer and insuring the artistic integrity of his work. Although he wasderided for producing the film before it came out, afterwards dozens ofother stars imitated him. Today, the star-producer is a fact of Hollywoodlife.

Like The Graduate, which came out the same year, Bonnie andClyde sparked a revolution in film casting. Although stars WarrenBeatty and Faye Dunaway were both highly attractive, the film's supportingcast was chosen for their unglamorous but individualistic appearance. Actors likeMichael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons and Gene Wilder inBonnie and Clyde and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate changedthe face of American film as they inspired producers to search out moreauthentic-looking American types. And costumer Theadora Van Runkle's clothes for the main characters became a fashion craze after the film's release.

by Frank Miller

back to top
teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Earlier films inspired by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow includeYou Only Live Once (1937), starring Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney;Gun Crazy (1949), with John Dall and Peggy Cummins; and TheBonnie Parker Story (1958), with Dorothy Provine and Jack Hogan. Thestory also inspired Edward Anderson's novel Thieves Like Us, whichwas filmed in 1949 as They Live by Night, with Farley Granger andCathy O'Donnell, and re-made by Robert Altman in 1974, under its original title, withKeith Carradine and Shelley Duvall.

A year after Bonnie and Clyde's release, American InternationalPictures attempted to cash in on its success with Killers Three,starring Robert Walker, Jr. and Diane Varsi as married killers on the runwith criminal cohort Dick Clark. The film played mostly indrive-ins.

Bonnie and Clyde was heavily influenced by the films of theFrench New Wave, particularly Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, bothof whom were approached about directing the feature before Arthur Pennsigned on. Screenwriters David Newman and Robert Benton had been inspiredto write the screenplay after seeing Godard's Breathless (1959),while their repeated viewings of Truffaut's Jules and Jim (1962)influenced both the film's abrupt shifts in tone from comic to serious andthe psychology of Bonnie Parker's character.

Bonnie and Clyde triggered a fashion revolution. Itsingle-handedly brought berets back into style and triggered the move fromthe mini-skirts of the mid-'60s to the maxi.

Like the stars at Andy Warhol's Factory, Bonnie and Clyde, as depictedin the film, were famous for being famous. In fact, Bonnie andClyde was one of the first pictures to deal with America's fascinationwith celebrity.

For many members of the American counter-culture, Bonnie andClyde was a rallying cry. The main characters' bank robbing was seenas a form of revolution, while the film's moral paradox, in which thecriminals were more sympathetic than their law-abiding killers, seemed tolegitimize violence against the establishment.

The film's soundtrack brought country bluegrass mainstream popularity.In particular, it boosted demand for the recordings of Lester Flatt andEarl Scruggs, featured on the soundtrack playing "Foggy MountainBreakdown," "My Cabin in Carolina," "Bouquet in Heaven," "My Little Girl inTennessee," "Why Don't You Tell Me So?" and "No Mom orDad."

by Frank Miller

back to top
teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Many scenes in Bonnie and Clyde were inspired by events inthe careers of other notorious outlaws of the Depression years. As ClydeBarrow does in the film, John Dillinger once allowed a farmer who had justmade a withdrawal to keep his cash during a bank robbery. The sequence inwhich dispossessed farmers treat the wounded Bonnie and Clyde with awe andrespect mirrored the popularity of "Pretty Boy" Floyd, who used to burnunrecorded mortgages at the banks he robbed.

Michael J. Pollard's character, C.W. Moss, was a composite of twomembers of the Barrow Gang, William Daniel "W.D." Jones and Henry Methvin.The latter betrayed them to the law, helping to set up their fatalambush.

The real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed by the law inGibland, La., on May 23, 1934. The car they were driving was riddled with187 shots, catching the pair by surprise. Clyde was only wearing his socksat the time, while Bonnie was eating a sandwich.

The legend of Bonnie and Clyde endured at many of thelocations where the film was shot. One extra had witnessed one of the gang'srobberies when she was four in the very bank where her scene was shot.Other extras were actually relatives of the Barrow Gang members.

Faye Dunaway likes to include little bits inspired by her favoriteactresses in many of her performances. For one scene in Bonnie andClyde she walked down the street swinging her purse the same way JoanneWoodward had in The Long, Hot Summer (1958). Later in the film, whenBonnie poses for photographs while smoking a cigar, Dunaway put it in themiddle of her mouth rather than the side in imitation of Jeanne Moreau inThe Lovers (1958).

Dallas-born Morgan Fairchild got her start in films as Faye Dunaway'sstand-in during location shooting in Texas.

Cut from the film was a more violent version of Clyde's attack on thebutcher whose store he robs and Bonnie's attempt to seduce C.W. A stillfrom the latter scene can be found on the DVD version of thefilm.

When the film premiered triumphantly in Paris, Dunaway received a boxfull of berets from the inhabitants of a small village near the Pyreneesthat specialized in making them. Thanks to the film, the demand for beretshad risen from 5,000 to 12,000 a week.

Although he won an Oscar® for shooting Bonnie and Clyde,cinematographer Burnett Guffey hated his work on the film so much heclaimed making the picture had given him an ulcer.

The film marked the start of a long association between director ArthurPenn and editor Dede Allen, who worked on his next four films. She alsoedited and executive produced Reds (1981), which brought Warren Beatty anOscar® for Best Director.

Visitors to Whiskey Pete's hotel and casino, 20 miles outside of LasVegas, can see Clyde Barrow's bullet-ridden shirt and the car in which heand Bonnie were killed. The prop car used for the film is on display atPlanet Hollywood in Dallas.

Famous Quotes from BONNIE AND CLYDE

"They're young, they're in love...and they kill people." - Tagline forBonnie and Clyde.

"This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks." -Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow.

"I earned my share same as everybody. Well, I coulda got killed sameas everybody. And I'm wanted by the law same as everybody. I'm a nervouswreck, and that's the truth. I have to take sass from Miss Bonnie Parkerall the time. I deserve mine." - Estelle Parsons as BlancheBarrow.

"You know what. When we started out, I thought we was really goin'somewhere. This is it. We're just goin', huh?" - Faye Dunaway as BonnieParker.)

"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 the law 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." - Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker,reading a poem attributed to the character.

"You know what you done there? You told my story. You told my wholestory right there, right there. One time, I told you I was gonna make yousomebody. That's what you done for me. You made me somebody they're gonnaremember." - Warren Beatty as Clyde Barker, responding to Bonnie'spoem.

Compiled by Frank Miller

back to top
teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Robert Benton and David Newman got the idea for Bonnie andClyde when they were both working for Esquire magazine in 1963.They had fallen in love with the work of French New Wave directors FrancoisTruffaut and Jean-Luc Godard and realized they wanted to follow in theirfootsteps. Then they read John Toland's The Dillinger Days, anaccount of the great outlaws of the Depression. In particular, they werefascinated with the stories about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, whomBenton had heard about as a child in East Texas.

Benton and Newman worked on the script late at night while listening toLester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' recording of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown,"which would eventually become part of the film's score.

After finishing the script, the writers sent it to Truffaut, theirfirst choice to direct. He was interested, but eventually passed on thefilm, suggesting they offer it to Godard, who also turned themdown.

When the script was making the rounds of Hollywood studios, the biggestobjection was a sequence in which Clyde Barrow invites C.W. Moss to join him in a sexual menage a trois with Bonnie. The suggestion that Barrow might have been gay was inspired by the sexual revolution of the '60s, but it was too much for most studio executives tohandle.

Warren Beatty's career was in the doldrums when he decided to tryproducing his own film. His first experience came with What's New,Pussycat? (1965), a film whose title was inspired by one of his favorite waysof greeting female telephone callers. During scripting, however, his rolekept getting smaller. When co-producer Charles Feldman broke a promise notto put his protegee, model-turned-actress Capucine, in a leading role,Beatty walked on the film, which went on to become a big hit. Determinedto keep himself from being edged out again, Beatty decided that he had toproduce his own films. Ironically, Woody Allen, who wrote What's New,Pussycat? and made his screen debut in it (his role kept shrinking as Feldman decided to showcase other performers), also decided to producehis own work after that experience.

Beatty learned about Bonnie and Clyde when he andthen-girlfriend Leslie Caron had dinner with French director FransTruffaut in an effort to convince him to direct a film biography of EdithPiaf for Caron. Truffaut passed on that project, then suggested that ascript he had just received had a great part for Beatty. The role wasClyde Barrow.

When Beatty called Benton and Newman about reading the script, theydidn't believe it was really him. When he showed up a few minutes later topick up the script, they were shocked. Half an hour later, Beatty calledagain to say he wanted to make the film. They warned him to hold off untilhe'd read the entire script, including the menage involving Bonnie, Clydeand C.W. Beatty called again after he'd finished the script, to say hestill wanted to do it. He optioned the script for $7,500. When the filmwent into production, he paid the writers $75,000.

Beatty had worked with director Arthur Penn on Mickey One, asmall, surrealistic film that had failed at the box office in 1965. ButBenton and Newman thought the film had a distinct European-American flavorand suggested they offer Bonnie and Clyde to him. Penn's career wasat a standstill after the failure of Mickey One. He had just been firedfrom The Train (1964) by that film's star, Burt Lancaster, and shortly after that, producerSam Spiegel seized control of The Chase, (1966) another film Penn was directing.Naturally, he was depressed and turned down Bonnie and Clyde at first,complaining that he didn't like the script. Beatty almost had to browbeatPenn into taking the job.

Beatty then pitched the project to Warner Bros. According to legend,he offered to kiss studio head Jack Warner's shoes to get him to financethe picture, though Beatty denies it. Although the studio had little faithin the film, his offer to make it for a small salary and 40 percent of thegross made it seem like a safe investment. The deal would make him extremely wealthy.

Shortly before filming began, Penn tried to back out again. Beatty gothim to stick with the project by bringing in writer Robert Towne tore-write the script. His contributions included moving some scenes aroundfor greater dramatic impact. The comic sequence in which the gang kidnapsa young man and his fiancee, only to let them go in a panic when they learnhe's a mortician, was originally set near the end. Towne moved it up tojust before the reunion with Bonnie's mother to deepen the sense offoreboding in that scene. He also added a line at the end of the reunionscene. When Clyde suggests that he and Bonnie could move closer to herfamily after they retire from robbing banks, Towne had her mother say, "Youtry to live three miles from me, and you won't live long,honey."

Over Benton and Newman's objections, Towne also cut the homosexualangle from the script. Instead, he made Clyde impotent, suggesting thathis violent behavior grew out of his sexual inadequacy.

by Frank Miller

back to top
teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Originally, Warren Beatty hoped to cast French actress LeslieCaron, his girlfriend at the time, as Bonnie Parker. When he decided shewasn't right for the role, it led to the end of theirrelationship.

Other actresses considered for the female lead included Natalie Wood,Jane Fonda, Carol Lynley, Tuesday Weld and even Beatty's sister, ShirleyMacLaine. Weld was almost set to do the film when she learned she waspregnant and decided she couldn't handle the location shoot inTexas.

Faye Dunaway had tried to get an interview with Arthur Penn when he wasdirecting The Chase, but was rebuffed by a casting director whodidn't think she had the right face for the movies. When Penn saw her inscenes from her first picture (The Happening, 1967) before its release, hedecided to let her read for the role of Bonnie Parker.

In planning her performance, Faye Dunaway wanted to wear slacks asBonnie Parker, since the character would need to move freely to race in andout of getaway cars. In contrast, designer Theadora Van Runkle suggested amore glamorous look with long skirts, a beret and a short jacket. The"Bonnie and Clyde Look" became a fashion rage, and for years afterwardsDunaway would insist on having Van Runkle design her costumes.

Beatty and Penn rounded out the cast with actors they had worked withduring their days on Broadway, in live television and at the Actor'sStudio. Beatty had been impressed with Gene Hackman -- who played Clyde'sbrother, Buck Barrow -- when they had worked together on Lilithin 1964.

Beatty fought to shoot the film on locations around Texas, partly tocreate an authentic image of the Barrow Gang's exploits, but also to avoidinterference from Warner Bros. executives.

Writer Robert Towne accompanied the crew during the location shoot. Inpart, he was there to do last minute re-writes during filming. But he wasalso working with Beatty on a script that would later become their hitcomedy Shampoo (1975).

Beatty and Penn quarreled constantly during filming, as the starquestioned almost every one of the director's choices. As a result, therest of the cast spent hours waiting for them to settle their differences.One major bone of contention was Penn's insistence, early on, that they adda scene in which Bonnie and Clyde pretend to be dead. Beatty insisted theidea was ridiculously pretentious, but Towne tried to write it anyway. Thewriter soon realized that Beatty was right, but cautioned him to avoid aconfrontation on the matter. In his opinion, Penn was only holding ontothe idea out of insecurity -- he couldn't admit he was wrong. After a fewweeks of filming bolstered Penn's confidence, Towne was sure he'd drop theidea, which is exactly what happened.

Initially, director Arthur Penn went for a realistic depiction of rurallife in the '30s. Many scenes were modeled on Walker Evans' photographsand NRA posters. When he shot Bonnie's reunion with her family, however,he was entranced by the more romantic aspects of the story and used slowmotion and hazy photography to create a dreamlike feeling he would returnto for other scenes.

While they were shooting Bonnie and Clyde's confrontation in the fieldsafter she tries to run away from the gang, a cloud passed over the sun,casting an unexpected shadow over Faye Dunaway's face. Rather thanre-shoot the scene, Penn kept it in as a means of foreshadowing thecharacter's tragic end.

On the day the company shot the scene in which Bonnie and Clyde wadethrough a river after they're shot, a cold front hit Texas. It took threedays to film the scene as the actors fought not to shiver while the cameraswere rolling.

For the climactic ambush, Beatty and Dunaway were covered with dozensof squibs embedded in their costumes and makeup and wired to a centralcontrol that made them explode in sequence to create the illusion that theywere being shot.

The idea of shooting the final ambush in slow motion came from Penn,who wanted to make something more "balletic" out of their death scene. Thescene as written depicted the shoot-out as a series of stills with screamsand machine-gun fire played in the background. Penn also insisted that onesquib be placed to make it look as if the back of Clyde's head had beenblown away in a reference to the John F. Kennedyassassination.

Initially, Warren Beatty refused to have Faye Dunaway billed above thetitle with him. Even during shooting, he fought efforts to raise herbilling. Finally, after the film was shot, he realized how strong animpact she was going to make in the role and agreed to give her starbilling.

When Beatty and Penn showed the finished picture to studio head Jack L.Warner, he called it "the longest two hours and ten minutes I ever spent."A few weeks later, he sold his share in the studio to Seven ArtsProductions for almost $200 million dollars, but the new management was nomore interested in selling the film. They decided to premiere it at aTexas drive-in, then dump it in second-string theatres. Even when thefilm had a triumphant preview for industry insiders at the Directors Guild,they refused to change their plans. Finally, Beatty convinced them topremiere the film at the Montreal Film Festival, where the stars were given14 curtain calls and a standing ovation. And still studio management stuckto their original distribution plan.

To avoid censorship problems, Beatty held off sending a script to theProduction Code Administration (PCA), the industry's self-censorshiporganization, until just before shooting began. Even so, PCA head GeoffreyShurlock fought, unsuccessfully, to remove the intimation that Bonnie wasnude in the first scene, the suggestion of oral sex in one bedroom sceneand the scene in which a bank teller is shot in the face when he jumps onthe getaway car's running board. Later Beatty had another fight toconvince the head of the National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures (thesuccessor to the Legion of Decency) that Faye Dunaway was properly coveredwhen she runs downstairs to meet Beatty in the film's first scene. The official keptinsisting that he could see her breasts.

After bad notices in The New York Times, Time andNewsweek, what turned things around for Bonnie and Clyde wasa 9,000-word rave by Pauline Kael, who was just starting her career as afilm reviewer. When the magazine for which she regularly wrote, The NewRepublic, refused to print the lengthy review, she sold it to TheNew Yorker, which marked the start of her long tenure there. Accordingto rumor, she also got Joe Morgenstern to reevaluate the film inNewsweek. After initially panning the film, he reported that he hadtotally missed the point and gave it a rave.

With positive attention from the press and the critics, Beattypressured Warner Bros. to re-release the film. This was an unprecedentedmove at the time. At first, studio CEO Elliot Hyman said he would only doit if Beatty agreed to a cut in his profit participation. When Beattythreatened to sue, hinting that he knew more about Hyman's businessdealings than he did, the bluff worked. The film went back into theaters afew weeks later.

Bonnie and Clyde reopened the day the Oscar® nominationswere announced. The film received 10 nominations, including Best Picture,Best Director and Best Screenplay. The second release was a huge success.In some theatres, the film grossed 10 times what it had during it firstrelease.

by Frank Miller

back to top
teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

A tag line for the promotional poster for Bonnie and Clyde (1967) read: "They are young, they are in love, they kill people." Despite the rather glib come-on, it gave no indication of the incredible impact this film would have on the film industry, popular culture or the careers of those involved in its production. Originally conceived as a stark, black and white film about the infamous criminal couple from Texas with a visual look based on the Dust Bowl era photographs of Walker Evans and vintage NRA posters, the film experienced a stylistic overhaul on its way to the screen and became a colorful folk ballad which played fast and loose with the real facts. In addition to its abrupt changes in tone, which veered from high comedy to shocking violence, and an ironic use of bluegrass music, Bonnie and Clyde presented its murderous couple as romanticized and immensely attractive non-conformists (If you've ever seen portraits of the real Bonnie and Clyde, you know they DID NOT look like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway). It was a portrait that clicked with hip, young sixties audiences who strongly identified with the fugitive lovers.

The idea for Bonnie and Clyde began in the early sixties when two Esquire writers, Robert Benton and David Newman, came across a book called The Dillinger Days by John Toland which covered the exploits of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Both writers had recently seen Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) and it inspired them to do a screenplay about the notorious couple. In the book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind (Simon and Schuster), David Newman said, "...the thing we loved about Bonnie and Clyde wasn't that they were bank robbers, because they were lousy bank robbers. The thing about them that made them so appealing and relevant, and so threatening to society, was that they were aesthetic revolutionaries. In our view, what kills Bonnie and Clyde is not that they broke the law, because nobody liked the fuc*ing banks - but that they put a tattoo on C. W. Moss. His father says, 'I can't believe that you let these people put pictures on your skin.' This is what the '60s turned out to be about."

When their screenplay was completed, Benton and Newman presented it to French director Francois Truffaut whom they greatly admired. Due to prior commitments, Truffaut sent the script on to Jean-Luc Godard who briefly flirted with the idea of directing it but eventually it came back to Truffaut who finally agreed to do it. Unfortunately, no Hollywood studio was interested in funding an American gangster film directed by a Frenchman who could barely speak English. So, the project was shelved until Warren Beatty read the script, saw the potential, and contacted Benton and Newman.

Beatty knew that the ideal director for the film was Arthur Penn, even though the latter was keeping a low profile after two box-office failures in a row - Mickey One (1965), an arty film noir influenced by the European New Wave (Warren Beatty played the lead), and The Chase (1966), a potentially fascinating melodrama mangled by studio interference. Penn quickly accepted Beatty's offer and once the producer/star wrangled a favorable production deal from Walter MacEwen at Warner Bros., Bonnie and Clyde became a reality. Under the terms of his contract, Beatty accepted a flat salary of $200,000 and forty percent of the gross. At the time, Warner Bros. expected the film to be a modest success that would make back its production cost. Instead, it became a runaway hit, making Beatty a rich man and a powerful new Hollywood player. It also taught the studio to be tougher on future contract negotiations since they lost a fortune on Beatty's deal.

Bonnie and Clyde was shot on location in Texas, far from the threat of studio interference. Although Beatty and Penn clashed constantly over creative issues, they both agreed that the violence in the film had to shock people; Penn was clearly referencing President Kennedy's assassination in the final massacre sequence when you see a piece of Clyde's head blown away.

In her autobiography, Looking for Gatsby, Faye Dunaway recalled the film's electrifying climax: "My whole body and costume had to be made up in layers. I still know the exact position of at least three places on my face where I take bullets - my upper left check near my nose, the middle of my right cheek, and my forehead...there was a black center where each bullet hole was, and around that was painted a little red rim. On top of that they put wax, which they covered with makeup. Then attached to the wax was a squib and a tiny wire, not much bigger than a strand of hair so that it was virtually invisible. During the scene, each of the squids would be detonated. They're little dynamite charges, and when detonated they explode like little bombs. When they finished with me, there were dozens of wires coming from my body and my face. Up close I looked like an escapee from a mad scientist's laboratory. For that final scene, the question became how would I react to the bullets that would be hitting me?....What I evolved was a Saint Vitus' dance, Bonnie's dance of death."

When the film went into release, it generated considerable controversy due to its excessive violence. Many prominent film critics attacked the film for glamorizing the deadly duo while others rushed to the film's defense. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called the film "a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick" yet Pauline Kael of The New Yorker proclaimed it "the most excitingly American American movie since The Manchurian Candidate (1962)." Some reviewers even reversed their opinions completely such as Newsweek's Joseph Morgenstern who first labeled the film "a squalid shoot-'em-up for the Moran trade," then a week later retracted his original opinion and praised it. Despite the mixed critical reception, Bonnie and Clyde was a huge hit with audiences, particularly younger viewers, and Theadora Van Runkle's costumes had an incredible impact on the world of international fashion. In addition to earning Beatty and Penn new respect in Hollywood, the film also elevated Faye Dunaway to star status and rapidly advanced the careers of Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard, and newcomer Gene Wilder. The crowning glory was its recognition at Oscar time: it garnered ten nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Even though, it only won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey), it still stands as a 'watershed' film, far surpassing 1967's Best Picture winner - In the Heat of the Night - in terms of its cultural impact and its influence on future filmmakers.

Producer: Warren Beatty
Director: Arthur Penn
Screenplay: Robert Benton, David Newman, Robert Towne (uncredited)
Art Direction: Dean Tavoularis
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Costume Design: Theadora Van Runkle
Film Editing: Dede Allen
Original Music: Charles Strouse
Cast: Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow), Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker), Michael J. Pollard (C.W. Moss), Gene Hackman (Buck Barrow), Estelle Parsons (Blanche), Denver Pyle (Frank Hamer), Dub Taylor (Ivan Moss), Evans Evans (Velma Davis), Gene Wilder (Eugene Grizzard).
C-112m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford

back to top
teaser Bonnie and Clyde (1967)


Bonnie and Clyde was nominated for 10 Oscars®: BestPicture, Best Director, Best Actor (Warren Beatty), Best Actress (FayeDunaway), Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard), BestSupporting Actress (Estelle Parsons), Best Original Screenplay, BestCinematography and Best Costuming. Only Parsons and cinematographerBurnett Guffey won.

David Newman and Robert Benton won Best Screenplay awards from theWriters Guild, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society ofFilm Critics.

Gene Hackman was named Best Supporting Actor by the National Society ofFilm Critics.

Faye Dunaway and Michael J. Pollard won awards from the British Academyof Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) as Most Promising Newcomers to LeadingFilm Roles.

In 1992, Bonnie and Clyde was voted onto the National FilmRegistry, earning recognition as a national treasure.

The Critics Corner: BONNIE AND CLYDE

Despite the misgivings of Warner Bros.' top executives and a disastrousinitial release, Bonnie and Clyde became one of the top-grossing filmsof its year. With $23 million in rentals, it became the studio's secondhighest-grossing film to that time, right behind My FairLady (1964).

"...a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick that treats the hideousdepredations of that sleazy moronic pair as though they were as full offun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie [1967]."- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times"...a squalid shoot-'em-up for the moron trade." - Joe Morgenstern's firstreview in Newsweek."I am sorry to say I consider that review grossly unfair and regrettablyinaccurate. I am sorrier to say I wrote it." - Morgenstern's retraction, aweek later, also in Newsweek."How do you make a good movie in this country and not get jumped on?Bonnie and Clyde is the most exciting American movie since TheManchurian Candidate [1962]. The audience is alive to it." - Pauline Kael,The New Yorker.

"A film from which we shall date reputations and innovations in theAmerican cinema." - Alexander Walker, Evening Standard.

"It works as comedy, as tragedy, as entertainment, as a meditation on theplace of guns and violence in American society" - Roger Ebert, The GreatMovies.

by Frank Miller

back to top