Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Tagline: The strangest damned gang you ever heard of. They're young. They're in love. They rob banks.

That about says it all. I remember seeing this movie on TV about ten years after it was made, which would have put me at about four years old. Revisiting it this way, I realize why I was as obsessed as a four year old can get with a movie. Then again, I was a strange kid. No Muppets or Sesame Street for me. I was a Butch and Sundance and Bonnie and Clyde girl all the way. My mother tells a story of me making her be Clyde so I could be Bonnie and we'd sit in the living room behind the recliner and shoot at the cops, reenacting the scene where Buck Barrow dies in the clearing. Of course there was good reason when you watch the Warren Beatty movie.

"They did right by me. I'm gonna bring me a mess o' flowers to their funeral."

Directed by Arthur Penn who directed the Ann Bancroft Helen Keller story The Miracle Worker,
Bonnie and Clyde tells the story of young bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The movie full of familiar faces. Gene Wilder plays a bit part as a man whose car is stolen by the Barrow Gang. Estelle Parsons, who is probably best known for playing Roseanne's mother on the TV show, plays Clyde's sister-in-law, Blanche, to an annoying degree. Odd mixture of other players, too, including Denver Pyle who played Briscoe Darling on Andy Griffith Show and Uncle Jesse on Duke's of Hazzard is the cop who brings the gang down. Dub Taylor of nearly any gunfighter and outlaw movie you can name from the 1940s on up plays C.W. Moss' father. And of course Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

Like most of the bank robber era of movies, this one takes you inside the private lives of the bad guys and when you're done, you forget about the lives they put in danger and the money they stole in a time when there were banks closing every day and many families homeless. Accredited at the time with a lot more jobs than they actually pulled, Bonnie and Clyde drew a following because they were young and good looking and loved to take pictures of themselves. The movie recreates a lot of the pictures of Bonnie and Clyde, almost using the real photographs in order to tell its story. The cars are really the best thing about the film. They are just beautiful. It's almost painful to watch them get shot up and crashed.

It's a very dated movie, taking the Barrow Gang and making them look and seem 1960s, rather than set in their own time, or even timeless. That's my biggest beef with the movie. One thing in its credit, the movie uses a lot of "locals" as extras and it gives it a very odd, unique feel. The woman who played Bonnie's mother is creepily Deliverance-like. It's really those extras that give the movie the right feel and take it out of the 60s and back into the 20s. Especially the creepy man who goes over to the car to touch Clyde's hand when C.W. stops at a camp of homeless people to get water.

This is not great cinema but very fun. Warren Beatty, whom I normally don't care for, was very good in this role. He seems just like what you'd think Clyde was like if you ever read much about them: a little boy playing cops and robbers all dressed up in a grown-up's suit. Faye Dunaway was pretty, but didn't really fit as Bonnie. She was too old for one thing. But she did a passable job. It's not a movie you should watch expecting anything more than a shoot 'em up with really cool cars and, sadly, not enough use of Thompsons.


  1. What are you talking about Faye being too old? She was 4 years younger than Beatty!

  2. Only that she was nearly 10 years older than Bonnie was. Part of Bonnie's appeal to people of the time was that she was young and female. Young enough that people saw her as no danger at all. A fatal assumption for many people.