On this day, eighty years ago (1934) a certain Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker finally ran out of steam and were shot to pieces by the local police force. Through their numerous bank robberies they caught the attention of the public, and became famous and mythical as a result. Public cheerleading proved short lived though, as innocent people were killed along the way. The police ambushed the couple and ploughed 130 rounds into their car.
Following their deaths, Barrow and Parker lived on in legend only, and probably all but forgotten until 1967 when a new feature film was released by Warner Brothers. It was to be a catalyst for the new golden age of Hollywood. Film’s made by the baby boomers and free spirits who grew up post war. Bonnie and Clyde was inspired by the French New Wave films that had been greeted with great critical acclaim at the start of the Sixties, such as Breathless and The 400 Blows. It definitely has ‘cool’ written all over it. From the time setting and fashions to the, for the times, graphic violence. It is easy to see why the film has been so influential, be it Coppola or Tarantino.
Here are some other cool facts about Bonnie and Clyde:
- Both Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut were asked to direct, but declined.
- Both Jane Fonda and Cher auditioned for the role of Bonnie Parker,
- It features Gene Wilder in his film debut, as a hostage.
- Gene Hackman was nominated for an Oscar in what was his first feature film.
- Warren Beatty’s star had been on the wane so he decided to produce and star in Bonnie and Clyde, thus shooting him up to the league of major players.
The use of sex and violence in Bonnie and Clyde really changed the rules as to what film makers could do. From then on it’s influence was seen every where, from Easy Rider’s counter culture heroes to the slo-mo violence of the Wild Bunch. The story of two outlaws against the world was used in films ranging from Badlands and Thelma and Louise to Natural Born Killers.
If you watch Bonnie and Clyde today, it’s certainly ‘of it’s time’ with the ‘swinging sixties’ style font, and the sex and violence, despite being unspeakably graphic back in the day, seeming pretty tame now. But it’s still a classic film that holds up really well, with a great cast and direction from Arthur Penn, and it’s easy to see why it was such a game changer. Despite there being numerous gangster films before it, this was something different. Something very new and un-Hollywood. The careers of Penn, Beatty, Dunaway and Hackman went from strength to strength following Bonnie and Clyde’s success, and cinema was changed forever.
What are your thoughts on this seminal piece of film making? Was it a game changer or massively over rated? And do you think it would benefit from a remake, especially now we have similar period pieces like Boardwalk Empire proving so popular?
Leave your comments below!