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Film: Bonnie and Clyde

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

Bonnie and Clyde is a 1967 biopic about the famous bank-robbing duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. Dunaway's 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 (Estelle Parsons as Blanche) and Best Cinematography. 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.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Plain-faced Bonnie Parker and shrimpy little Clyde Barrow, played by foxy Faye Dunaway and 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.
  • Affably Evil: Don't you like Bonnie and Clyde?
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: After the first time he holds up a store with her, Bonnie immediately tries to jump Clyde's bones.
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": An outlaw couple makes it to the end, in a car, then they get a rain of bullets for their troubles.
  • Anti-Hero: Clyde is a thief and murderer.
  • 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 description arguably better describes John Dillinger than it would the real Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Bang Bang BANG
  • Bank Robbery
  • Bounty Hunter: The gang believe Frank Hamer to be one. In truth, he was hired by the Texas prison system administrator, Lee Simmons, to hunt Bonnie and Clyde, but not as a bounty hunter.
  • Composite Character: C.W. Moss is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster
  • Downer Ending: A Foregone Conclusion.
  • Eye Scream: Blanche gets shot in the eye and later ends up blind in a hospital. She actually got it from shards of flying glass due to a shootout in Platte City in July 1933.
  • Follow the Leader: The film's success inspired a few exploitation films about other '30s gangsters, such as A Bullet For Pretty Boy (former teen idol Fabian Forte as Pretty Boy Floyd) and Bloody Mama (Shelley Winters as Ma Barker, directed by Roger Corman).
  • Gorn: For its time (right after the removal of The Hays Code), this was a very violent movie.
  • The Great Depression: The backdrop for the film, and, as Clyde believes, the main reason for the gang's vocation.
  • 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:
    • C.W. Moss is a composite of W.D. Jones and the man who betrayed Bonnie and Cylde, Henry Methvin, and other gang members are omitted. A nasty car accident on the night of June 11, 1933 that left Bonnie with a permanently lame leg is not in the film. Frank Hamer was not kidnapped and embarrassed by the Barrow Gang; rather, he was an ex-Texas Ranger hired out of retirement by prison system administrator Lee Simmons to hunt them down. Clyde died in the car with Bonnie, instead of getting out as we see in the film. Frequent visits to their families and the fact that Bonnie and Clyde were together for two years before starting their crime spree are also omitted.
    • The real-life Bonnie and Clyde were nowhere near as sympathetic as this movie portrays them. Bonnie and Clyde were active at the same time as John Dillinger, whom the public had more sympathy for. 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 machine guns. He lived for three days." In contrast, there were a large number of people who rooted for Dillinger. Then again, there's a reason the Dillinger Gang was known as the "Terror Gang" for their use of submachine weaponry. Additionally, Bonnie and Clyde rarely gained newspaper attention outside of the Dallas area, compared to Dillinger, who dominated newspaper headlines all across the United States.
    • Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger who led the effort to track down and kill Bonnie and Clyde, is portrayed as a bumbling idiot who allows himself to be made into a jackass by the movie's protagonists and their friends. In real life, although he knew who they were and masterminded the ambush, he never had personally interacted with them before the shootout May 23, 1934, near Gibsland, Louisiana. 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.
  • The Lancer: Buck.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: "I ain't much of a loverboy."
  • 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. Those two had killed at least nine police officers over the course of their career, so the cops weren't taking any chances, even though one of the posse members, Sheriff Henderson Jordan did debate whether or not to try attempting to take them alive.
  • Name and Name
  • New Hollywood: One of the first movies of this era.
  • Oh, Crap: Bonnie and Clyde, when they realize they are about to be ambushed.
  • Outlaw Couple: The Trope Codifier.
  • Phallic Weapon
  • 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 her real-life inspiration.
  • 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
  • What Could Have Been: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty's ex-girlfriend (one of many actually), was considered for the role of Bonnie - and incidentally was actually a lot closer to the real Bonnie's physicality (they were both short ladies).
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Clyde chopped off two of his toes to avoid this.

BlowupRoger Ebert Great Movies ListBreathless
Bloody Bloody Andrew JacksonThe MusicalThe Book of Mormon
Dr. StrangeloveAFI's 100 Years... 100 MoviesApocalypse Now
The BodyguardCreator/Warner Bros. The Brave One
King KongAFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies ( 10 th Anniversary Edition)Midnight Cowboy
Forrest GumpAFIS 100 Years 100 Movie QuotesThe Graduate
Ride The High CountryUsefulNotes/National Film RegistryNashville
BerserkFilms of the 1960sCatalina Caper
The Backwater GospelThe Great DepressionChangeling
King KongAFIS 100 Years 100 ThrillsRear Window
In the Heat of the NightAcademy AwardThe Graduate
MartyAFIS 100 Years 100 PassionsManhattan
RebeccaAFIS 100 Years 100 Heroes And VillainsDracula (1931)

alternative title(s): Bonnie And Clyde
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