The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie and Clyde (1967) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

"Bonnie & Clyde" was Warner's biggest hit since "My Fair Lady," and Hollywood was never the same after it came out.

By the time the 1960s were closer to the ‘70s than the receding ‘50s, the culture was shifting seismically under the noses of studios whose taste still ran to Lerner and Lowe as the rest of the world tuned in to Lennon and McCartney. Producer Warren Beatty was canny enough to try and recruit Bob Dylan as Depression-era Texas bank robber Clyde Barrow opposite either Tuesday Weld (with whom Beatty worked on the TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) or Natalie Wood (with whom Beatty worked in first feature Splendor in the Grass) as Barrow’s lover and partner-in-crime Bonnie Parker. Spared by fate from the truly terrible idea of Jean Luc-Godard directing, Beatty aspired to his own version of the French New Wave and instead launched an American movie revolution. He attached director Arthur Penn, not really the American Godard but a renegade nonetheless, whose first feature a decade earlier had been The Left Handed Gun, a subversive interpretation of Billy the Kid as reconsidered by Gore Vidal; so Penn knew from misunderstood outlaws. A spoof of Warner Brothers gangster flicks morphed into a fraught collision of tones and rhythms—slapstick peaking just before a bank teller’s face explodes in blood—with a self-awareness that preceded anyone knowing what “postmodern” meant.

The irony of an impotent Barrow personifying a highly sexualized decade was compounded when the already legendary horn-dog Beatty took the role (in a previous script Clyde was gay, more ironic still). Cast as Bonnie was the little known Faye Dunaway, who beat out the eternally regretful Jane Fonda and became the actress of the moment. Mogul Jack Warner despised the picture and for some reason wasn’t mollified by the star-producer’s insistence that in fact the “WB” of the studio’s logo stood for Warren Beatty. Before the movie was championed by fledgling critic Pauline Kael, one disapproving reviewer for a national newsweekly panned it until a second screening revealed, as the smoke cleared, the train leaving the station; at that point he hastily boarded, when his second assessment in a week loved everything he had hated. Six months after being dumped in drive-ins to what appeared inevitable ignominy, Bonnie and Clyde was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and became Warner’s biggest hit in four years since My Fair Lady (by Lerner and Lowe). Hollywood was never the same again—or not for the next eight years or so, anyway.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her

The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L'Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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