[In southern drawl] “You’ve heard the story of Jesse James…Of how he lived & died…Well yer lie-brare-ee…Has a D-VD…Of the story of Bonnie & Clyde”…sort of. You see, Arthur Penn’s controversial biopic of the legendary bank robbing, murderous couple is both dramatized & romanticized. Oscar Winners Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway play Clyde Barrow & Bonnie Parker, and the film follows their lives together from their first meeting in 1930 in West Dallas until they were ambushed by Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle) & his posse in 1934. The 4+ years are collapsed so neatly into 112 minutes by Penn that their crime spree appears to take place over a much shorter period of time. The rest of Penn’s Barrow Gang consists of C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) and Clyde’s brother Buck & his wife Blanche (Gene Hackman & Estelle Parsons). Penn and Original Screenplay Writers David Newman & Robert Benton take particular poetic license here. The real Parker Gang was larger & C.W. is a composite of several Gang members.
When Penn & Producer Beatty screened it for Warner Brothers Pictures co-founder, Jack L. Warner, he hated it. So as you watch this 46-year-old double Oscar winner, keep in mind that it was originally a second-run/drive-in release. He was so convinced of its failure that he offered Beatty 40% of its gross instead of a fee, which quickly made the actor a multimillionaire.
There are several other excellent performances in the film including: Dub Taylor as C.W.’s father Ivan; and Gene Wilder in his first big screen role as the comic relief character, Eugene Grizzard. The film is comical in many places & that added to its main controversy: The glorification of violent criminals. Though Bonnie and Clyde was initially in the running for Best Picture in 1968 at the 40th Academy Awards, any hopes of taking that most prestigious of Oscars was dashed with New York Times columnist’s Bosley Crowther’s vehement campaign against it, calling it “a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick”. Um,…,Oscar himself is also bald-faced. Bonnie and Clyde received 10 nominations including all 7 major categories for which it was eligible. And it won the Awards for Supporting Actress (Parsons) and Cinematography (Burnett Guffey).
The word cinematography comes from 2 Greek words meaning to record movement. The Cinematographer or Director of Photography is charged with committing the essence of the ideas & moods storyboarded by the Director & Production Designer to film or some digital medium. This includes the integration of visual effects & advanced lighting techniques. (S)he is in charge of the Camera & Lighting Departments, and his/her direct reports run those departments: The Key Grip & Gaffer respectively. They’re assisted by the Best Boy/Girl and Best Boy/Girl Gaffer. Another critical role in the Camera Department is the Dolly Grip, responsible for running a camera mounted to a large, mobile-armed dolly for smoothly shooting movement on the set. Though the Director of Photography gets the Oscar, the entire Camera & Lighting crew plays a part. So do watch the trailer embedded below, then get down to your local library & borrow Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, a pioneering film in cinematography, .