Film / Bonnie and Clyde

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

A 1967 biopic about the famous 1930s bank-robbing duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

Bonnie is a bored waitress who goes off with small-time crook Clyde on a lark. Bonnie and Clyde graduate to bank-robbing and murder after being joined by Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck's wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and gas-station attendant C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The Barrow Gang becomes infamous. They capture, humiliate, and release a Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle), who swears vengeance.

Bonnie and Clyde was a smash hit that made huge stars out of Beatty and Dunaway. It was nominated for ten Oscars and won two, for Best Supporting Actress (Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). It is regarded as part of the first wave of the New Hollywood movement that helped to break down the studio system and usher in a creative rebirth for Hollywood, with its increased sex and violence, glorification of anti heroes, and skepticism of authority.


Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Bonnie.
  • Affably Evil: The two are about the nicest bank robbers you'd ever meet.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: After the first time he holds up a store with her, Bonnie immediately tries to jump Clyde's bones.
  • Animated Adaptation: In the waning days of Looney Tunes, Robert McKimson directed two cartoons featuring Bunny and Claude, Bonnie and Clyde reimagined as rabbits who steal carrots, with a strong resemblance to Beatty and Dunaway. Since the film had been a big hit for Warner Bros., the whole thing was something of a Self-Parody for the studio.
  • Anti-Hero: Clyde is a thief and murderer, but is given a sympathetic treatment by the film.
  • Asshole Victim: They rob banks, which after seeing what the banks have done to the poor folks of the country by foreclosing on their property, makes them look not as bad after all. However, this better describes John Dillinger than it would the real Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Bang Bang BANG: Deliberately done, as Warren Beatty wanted the gunshots to overpower the soundtrack. This lead to at least one case of a projectionist turning down the sound during gunfights, blaming the loud gunshots on bad sound mixing, much to Beatty's annoyance.
  • Bank Robbery: The gang's main source of money and infamy. In reality, the gang didn't do this very often and preferred to rob convenience stores and gas stations instead.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Both Bonnie and Clyde get riddled with bullets in the closing scene, but strangely enough, neither of them get hit in the head, and they end up bloodstained but otherwise remarkably decorous.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the Outlaw Couple leaders of a gang of bank robbers.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: C.W.'s dad, who seems like a hospitable guy at first but is an absolute Jerkass to his son and proves to be the undoing of Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Bounty Hunter: The gang believe Frank Hamer to be one. In real-life, he was hired by the Texas prison system administrator, Lee Simmons, to hunt Bonnie and Clyde, but not as a bounty hunter.
  • Breather Episode: The sequence with Eugene and Velma is meant to be a comedic interlude to balance things when the story starts getting darker.
  • Composite Character: C.W. Moss is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin. The real W.D. Jones was not amused by this, and attempted to sue Warner Bros. for defamation. There is no known record his case was ever heard.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The laxer standards in censorship when this was made allowed far more of this attitude than most earlier films got away with.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: With the bonus of the title characters being lovers on the run.
  • Downer Ending: A Foregone Conclusion.
  • Eye Scream: Blanche gets shot in the eye and later ends up blind in a hospital. In real-life, she actually got it from shards of flying glass due to a shootout in Platte City in July 1933.
  • Gorn: Although not impressive by modern standards, for its time (right after the removal of The Hays Code), this was a very violent movie and among the first to show actual blood splatter on screen.
  • The Great Depression: The backdrop for the film, and, as Clyde believes, the main reason for the gang's vocation.
  • Hidden Depths: Bonnie writes poetry about their misdeeds, which was Truth in Television.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Bonnie takes an active role in the gang's robberies in the film. In real-life, there is no evidence she participated in any of the gang's robberies. While there is multiple eyewitness accounts of her participating in several of the gang's gunfights against the police, there is no known evidence anyone was hit or killed by her gunfire.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • Plain-faced, 90-pound Bonnie Parker and shrimpy, 5'6 little Clyde Barrow, played by foxy Faye Dunaway and tall, handsome Warren Beatty.
    • Inverted with Blanche and Buck Barrow. The actors in the film are considerably dumpier-looking than their real life counterparts. In 1933, Blanche was in her early 20s, pretty and petite (here played by a 40 year old) and Buck was a good-looking guy age around 30. The producers wanted ordinary looking people for the non-headline parts.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: A big offender. The film's Bonnie and Clyde has more in common with bank robbers John Dillinger and "Pretty Boy" Floyd, who were also active at the time and held considerably more public sympathy, whereas the public eventually grew tired of Bonnie and Clyde's constant violence and cop killings and called for their deaths.
    • The real Clyde was noted for having a Hair-Trigger Temper and bordered on Ax-Crazy at his worst. He often robbed and assaulted bystanders during bank robberies, killed both police and civilians at the slightest provocation, and left hostages tied to trees in the woods. This ruthlessness also extended to his own gang members. In a 1968 interview with Playboy, former Barrow Gang member W.D. Jones described an incident where Clyde had threatened to kill him over not changing a tire quickly enough, Bonnie had to pull a gun on Clyde to make him back off. One gang member not portrayed in the film, Raymond Hamilton, left the gang over feeling that Clyde was too violent to stay with, which earned him the hatred of Bonnie and Clyde that lasted until their deaths.
    • Buck also gets this treatment. He was described as the most hot-tempered of the Barrows, often advocating killing hostages and had once tied two police officers they had captured to a tree with barbed wire, something that even Clyde found distasteful. Buck often got into heated arguments with Clyde as well, as he was uncomfortable taking orders from his younger brother.
    • Even contemporary writers made note of how far the film goes in this regard; Newspaper columnist Mike Royko, shortly after the film came out, printed a number of angry letters from relatives of the gang's real-life victims offended by their romanticization. One said, "They got my father. They did him with shotguns. He lived for three days."
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Frank Hamer is portrayed in the film as a bumbling, spiteful idiot who allows himself to be made into a jackass by the protagonists and their friends. In real life, he was a Texas Ranger hired out of retirement by prison system administrator Lee Simmons to hunt them down after the gang led a prison break, and never personally interacted with them before the shootout in May 23, 1934 where Bonnie and Clyde were killed. The film shows Hamer and his men gunning down Clyde when he is unarmed and outside his car, while in real life both Bonnie and Clyde were inside their car when they were shot, and the vehicle was filled with weapons.note  Hamer's surviving family was so outraged at the negative, buffoonish portrayal they filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. for defamation; the movie studio settled out-of-court.
  • Hobos: The gang meets up with a camp of them after a shootout and ask for water; they get a lot of attention and are given soup as well as water.
  • Hollywood History/Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Lots.
    • For starters, C.W. Moss is a composite of W.D. Jones and the man who is believed to have betrayed Bonnie and Clyde, Henry Methvin. Other gang members are omitted.
    • Clyde's prison time is largely glossed over, and his motive for the crime spree is shown as anger towards the corruption of the banks. Historians now believe that his prison time had a massive effect on him due to the brutality he suffered while serving his sentence, and his crime spree was largely a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Texas prison system and perhaps society at large. Admittedly, the details behind Clyde's prison time only came out well after the film's release, and it is highly unlikely the filmmakers could have known about it at the time.
    • A nasty car accident on the night of June 11, 1933 that left Bonnie with a permanently lame leg is not in the film, despite being a pivotal event in the gang's history.
    • The gang's preferred weapons in reality were Browning Automatic Rifles stolen from military armories that left police outgunned in confrontations, whereas the film has them using Thompson sub-machine guns, likely to evoke the classic Hollywood "Gangster" image of the time.
    • Frequent visits to their families and the fact that Bonnie and Clyde were together for two years before starting their crime spree are omitted.
    • Clyde's impotence as portrayed in the film has no known basis in reality, though it is likely the filmmakers based this on risque rumors of both Bonnie and Clyde having sexual relationships with other members of their gangnote . Such rumors were printed as fact by the 1963 book The Dillinger Days, and in fact may have been the source for the idea.
    • The events the film covers have a number of details changed to make the pair more sympathetic. For example, the butcher robbery in the film is based off a real incident where Clyde executed an unarmed shopkeeper during a robbery because the man had talked back to him. The sequence with Eugene and Velma is very loosely based on a real incident where a man and woman were kidnapped by Bonnie and Clyde for unintentionally foiling a bank robbery. They intended to take the two into the woods to kill them, but were talked out of murder by the hostages themselves.
    • The film also leaves out the Grapevine shootings, where Clyde (and possibly Henry Methvin) killed two passing police officers without provocation. This event was the point where the public lost all remaining sympathy for Bonnie and Clyde and was a deciding factor in their deaths by ambush, in part due to an eyewitness claiming that Bonnie had walked up and executed one of the officers For the Evulz (said eyewitness later admitted to making this little "fact" up).
    • The ambush that kills Bonnie and Clyde is portrayed considerably differently than reality. The film's ambush has Clyde outside the car and unarmed by the time the shooting starts, and the motivation for an ambush is primarily Hamer's revenge for his previous treatment as their hostage. The real ambush was conducted by a six-man posse including Hamer, each armed with an automatic rifle, shotgun, and pistol. As soon as their car was spotted and identified, the posse emptied all of their weapons into the car as it passed by. The reason why a shoot-to-kill ambush with such excessive firepower was deemed necessary was due to the sheer number of people they had killed; The gang had been credited with the deaths of nine police officers by this point, most of whom had been killed outside of robberies. As at least one previous ambush against them had failed, police weren't interested in taking any further chances.
  • The Lancer: Buck.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Clyde is portrayed by the film as impotent.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It rates a 7, which is pretty high for a 1967 movie, largely due to the blood splatter from Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) pistol-whipping the man in the grocery show in the head, the bank teller's bloody headshot through a car window, and, of course, the the deaths of the two main characters at the end, complete with a small chunk of Clyde's scalp flying off, if you look carefully enough.
  • Mood Whiplash: Used to give the graphic (for the time) violence more impact. For example; The bank robbery scene, where Moss parks the car, first plays out as comedy as the trio bumble around trying to escape, but turns deadly when the banker jumps onto the running board and Clyde graphically shoots him in the face.
  • Moral Myopia: The gang don't think they're doing anything particularly wrong, but those jerks who try to stop them from robbing banks, they were totally asking to be shot. (Of course, some of their enemies are jerks, but it isn't trying to stop murderous robbers that makes them so.)
  • More Dakka: How the title characters went down, in the movie and in reality.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: How Bonnie and Clyde get killed by the police. Truth in Television-the police went for There Is No Kill Like Overkill because they were that much of The Dreaded.
  • Name and Name
  • Oh, Crap!: Bonnie and Clyde, when they realize they are about to be ambushed.
  • Outlaw Couple: The Trope Codifier.
  • Phallic Weapon: The film is not at all subtle about this with Clyde.
  • Present Day Past: The writers and director deliberately downplayed period accuracy to make the film more of a commentary on the '60s. The world of the movie is partly inspired by the '30s and partly by the movies of the French New Wave.
  • Screaming Woman: Blanche, much to the chagrin of the rest of the gang (especially Bonnie), as well as to the real-life Blanche. The film deliberately played this up in order to make Bonnie seem "cooler".
  • Small Town Boredom: One of the reasons Bonnie joins Clyde in the first place, as he lampshades during a diner conversation.
  • Spiteful Spit: After Bonnie kisses Hamer for the posed photo, he spits in her face.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Wow. Truth in Television, too.
  • Villain Protagonist: The title characters are robbers and killers. even so, the film's portrayal of them is considerably softer than the real Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Clyde chopped off two of his toes to avoid this. Truth in Television, although most sources say that another inmate did it for him.

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