Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film in cinema history: it broke many taboos and was popular with the younger generation as was The Graduate released in the same year.
The line “We rob banks” ranks at #41 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes.
Some critics cite Joseph H. Lewis’s Gun Crazy, a film noir about a bank-robbing couple, as a major influence. Forty years after its premiere, Bonnie and Clyde has been cited as a major influence in such disparate films as The Wild Bunch, The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs and The Departed
The film’s final scene, edited in slow motion, is obviously influenced by the European new wave films,[Originally, the film was intended to be directed by Jean-Luc Godard or Francois Truffaut, who opted out and made Fahrenheit 451 (1966) instead.] but that doesn’t detract from the position of the film as a turning point of the New Hollywood era.
This film is set during the Great Depression when great many lined before soup kitchens a few took to robbing banks. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were robbers and they made quite a stir doing just that. The film was directed by Arthur Penn, and starred Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker. It was produced by Warner Bros. – the studio responsible for the gangster films of the 1930s, and it seems appropriate that the same studio should consider the crime/gangster genre in a new light: the film is violent, innovative and gives a four-ulcer job of robbing banks loads of glamour.
The film opens with a golden, old-style Warner Bros shield, grainy, unglamorous, blurry, sepia-toned snapshots of the Barrow and Parker families (at the time of Bonnie and Clyde’s childhood) play on a black background accompanied by the loud clicking sound of a camera shutter. The credit titles are interspersed with flashes of more semi-documentary, brownish-tinged pictures. The text of the major credits fade from white to blood red on the dark background. 30’s hand-cranked phonographic music (Rudy Vallee’s popular love song of the period Deep Night) is faintly heard – a haunting omen from another era. The films doesn’t let you forget the period while the petty hoodlum and his drab and unglamorous gun moll become larger than life before our eyes. Look at the way they cavort in cartoon-style slapstick comedy [a tribute to Mack Sennett's silent films).
When they first met in Texas in the early 1930s the real Bonnie (19 years old) and Clyde (21 years old), weren't glamorous characters: she was already the wife of an imprisoned murderer, and he was a petty thief and vagrant with numerous misdemeanors. They were 'white trash' couple and described "the Southwest's most notorious bandit and his gun moll" in the local newspaper. Their brief, bloody crime spree (involving kidnapping and murders) ended on May 23, 1934 alongside state Highway 154 near Arcadia, Louisiana (the town nearest to the ambush site in north-central Louisiana), when the desperados were ambushed and killed by four Texas lawmen (led by Texas Ranger Frank Hamer), accompanied by Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan and his deputy Prentiss Oakley. Their bullet-ridden vehicle was hit with 187 shots. In actuality, the 25 year-old Barrow and 23-year old Parker were armed and ready for the ambush when they were killed. Currently, Louisiana's largest outdoor flea market (held one weekend a month) originated in 1990 in Arcadia as Bonnie and Clyde Trade Days.
‘The film considerably simplifies the real facts about Bonnie and Clyde, which included other gang members, repeated jailings, and other murders and assorted crimes. One of the film's major characters, "C.W. Moss", is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang: William Daniel "W.D." Jones and Henry Methvin. In 1968, Jones outlined his period with the Barrows in a Playboy magazine article "Riding with Bonnie and Clyde."
The screenplay was written by David Newman and Robert Benton. (Robert Towne and Beatty have been listed as providing uncredited contributions to the script.)
Its producer, 28 year-old Warren Beatty, was also its title-role star Clyde Barrow, and his co-star Bonnie Parker, newcomer Faye Dunaway, became a major screen actress as a result of her breakthrough in this influential film. Likewise, unknown Gene Hackman was recognized as a solid actor and went on to star in many substantial roles (his next major role was in The French Connection (1971))-tim dirks.
Warner Bros-Seven Arts had so little faith in the film that, in a then-unprecedented move, they offered its first-time producer Warren Beatty 40% of the gross instead of a minimal fee. The movie then went on to gross over $70 million world-wide by 1973.
The instrumental banjo piece "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by Flatt and Scruggs was made famous to a worldwide audience as a result of its frequent use in the movie. Its use is entirely anachronistic, however; the bluegrass-style of music from which the piece stems dates from the mid-1940s’(wikipedia).
The film was given Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Cinematography.
Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Warren Beatty
Written by David Newman
& Robert Benton
Starring Warren Beatty
Michael J. Pollard
Music by Charles Strouse
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Editing by Dede Allen
Distributed by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Running time 111 min.
Budget $2,500,000 (estimated)
In a historical perspective
Earlier films that recounted similar adventures of infamous, doomed lovers-on-the-run who are free and accountable to no one include Fritz Lang's You Only Live Once (1937) with Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney, Joseph H. Lewis' cult classic Gun Crazy (1949) with John Dall and Peggy Cummins, Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night (1949) (remade by Robert Altman with its original title Thieves Like Us (1974) from Edward Anderson's source novel and starring Shelley Duvall and Keith Carradine), and The Bonnie Parker Story (1958) with Dorothy Provine and Jack Hogan. Later outlaw-couple films include B-movie Killers Three (1968) with Diane Varsi and Robert Walker, Jr., Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973), Ridley Scott's Thelma and Louise (1991), Kalifornia (1993), and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994).]
Penn’s masterpiece won two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons in an over-the-top performance) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey) for its great evocation of period detail, with eight other nods for Best Picture and Best Actor (producer/actor Warren Beatty), Best Actress (Faye Dunaway), Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Supporting Actor (Michael J. Pollard), Best Director (Arthur Penn), Best Story and Screenplay (Newman and Benton), and Best Costume Design (Theadora Van Runkle, who later worked on The Godfather, Part II (1974)). (Although Robert Towne, who later wrote Chinatown (1974), worked on the final form of the screenplay and served as a special consultant.)
In the late 1960s, the film’s sympathetic, revolutionary characters and its social criticism appealed to anti-authority American youth who were part of the counter-cultural movement protesting the Vietnam War, the corrupt social order, and the U.S. government’s role.