Guest Author - Amber Grey
During what was known as the “public enemy” era (1931-1934), America’s glorified celebrities went to the likes of Bonnie and Clyde. Thirty-three years after this bank robbing duo was brutally ambushed on a road outside of Bienville Parish, Louisiana, their story was told in cinematic splendor in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967). The film adaptation was directed by Arthur Penn and starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
One of the greater appeals about a film like “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) is that it was not made into a textbook visual representation and bombardment of facts and fiction. Although it is a highly romanticized version of the violent couple, the film simplified enough facts of the real story to allow more dramatic tension, which made it easier to watch and engage in. Not only did the film draw out the large and smaller points known about Bonnie and Clyde but also the general attitude of the 1930s bank robbers. As shown in the film, when Clyde sees the money laying out on the counter, he asks if it is the banks or the farmer’s. The farmer says it is his, Clyde tells him to take it, “We’re only after the bank’s money.” This was based on a similar occurrence when John Dillinger robbed a Chicago bank, and upon seeing the money told a patron the same thing. “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) also features a part where Bonnie (played by Faye Dunaway) jokes around with Clyde’s gun and Bud’s cigar as they take pictures of her sitting on the hood of the car. In a great subtle way, after Bonnie takes the picture, she goes inside to their room and spits out the cigar. In reality, Bonnie hated cigars and the pictures she took were later published in national newspapers. The film shows Gene Wilder makes his film debut as “Eugene Grizzard” who is kidnapped along with his girlfriend by the Barrow gang. This scene was based on an actual account of the Barrow gang kidnapping an undertaker. Bonnie lets them go when she finds out about his occupation.
The last surviving members of the actual Barrow Gang objected to the film and their portrayals. Blanche Barrow, Buck Barrow’s wife, was quoted as saying of Estelle Parson’s portrayal, “That film made me look like a screaming horse’s ass!” Coincidentally, the film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning two including for actress Estelle Parsons. The second gang member, William Daniel Jones, made an unsuccessful attempt at suing Warner Bros. over the film’s fictitious ending of him being the one to betray Bonnie and Clyde as well as the film’s attitude toward the entire gang.
With a large credit going to the Oscar-winning movie, the fascination for the notorious and wild Bonnie and Clyde is still strong in some areas of society today. For instance, in Gibsland, Louisiana, an annual Bonnie and Clyde Festival is held. The event always draws to close with a “bang” – an authentic re-enactment of the ambush on the same road Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down. The festival creators’ are careful to warn that they do not celebrate the lives, the crimes, or the deaths of Bonnie and Clyde.