Synopsis: In 1934, Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal, just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde’s criminal past, his bravado in talking about it, and the power of his gun. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone who wanted more out of life- like himself. They decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime (mainly robbing banks) to make fast money and have fun. Their small gang of willing accomplices includes C.W. Moss (a mechanic) and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde’s older brothers. Buck’s wife, a former preacher’s daughter, reluctantly joins in, but then becomes hysterical when faced w/ danger.
If all you want’s a stud service, you get on back to West Dallas and you stay there the rest of your life. You’re worth more than that. A lot more than that. You know it and that’s why you come along with me. -Clyde says to Bonnie
To modern eyes, this movie is rather tame, BUT in it’s day, it caused quite a stir! In a TV interview, director Arthur Penn pointed out that this film shows for the first time the firing of a gun and the consequences in ONE single frame. Before that, you’d see a gun being fired, then cut, and the next scene would show the bleeding body. This was the first film to use squibs (which were embedded in costumes and wired to a central control that made them explode in sequence to create the illusion of being shot).
Leading man Warren Beatty (who was at the top of his profession then) wanted his then-girlfriend, Natalie Wood, for the role of Bonnie. However, SHE refused in order to be able to meet daily w/ her therapist. Producers auditioned a LOT of young actresses (incl. Jane Fonda) for the role of Bonnie; at first, they thought Faye Dunaway was not “hot.” But then Beatty screen-tested w/ her and was convinced that she was the BEST one for the role.
Warner Bros. thought it would be a flop, BUT it was a hit! Roger Ebert had ONLY been a film critic for 6 mos. when he saw this film and hailed it as the first masterpiece he had seen on the job. ONE of the reasons why the film was so successful was because of its anti-establishment stance; people were becoming disillusioned with America’s involvement in Vietnam at this time.
There is SOME humor in this film, too, thanks in part to Gene Wilder (in his debut)! He plays Eugene, a wealthy Romeo who is robbed of his shiny new car while making out w/ his girlfriend, Velma, on the porch. Eventually, the couple end up in Eugene’s car WITH the robbers! When Bonnie asks Velma how old she is, she quickly responds with “33.” Eugene is silent and looks shocked (so she MUST have lied about it before)- LOL!
Here is a list of Hollywood conventions that were broken in this film (from a commentator on IMDB):
- The mix of comic scenes with scenes of violence, intense drama and that weird, beautiful family reunion scene.
- The realistic (for the time) portrayal of violence, with blood and moans and pain.
- The frank sensuality (for its time).
- The likeability (some would say glorification) of criminals (we are sad when they die).
- The unlikeability of the sheriff (who, in prior years, would have been the hero).
- The portrayal of an unconventional “family” who live together and mostly love each other, reflecting the ’60s hippie ethos.
- The use of period music (the bluegrass) rather than all orchestral scoring.
- The pointed social commentary (the Depression-era dispossessed, the poor farmer shooting at the bank sign and his foreclosed home, portrayal of the Establishment as villains).
- The depiction of “style” (the clothes, the brash attitudes, the coolness) and how its used to establish the triumph outsiders over law-abiding “squares.”