“They’re young … they’re in love … and they kill people.” So proclaimed the tag line for the brilliant, bloody, groundbreaking crime drama Bonnie and Clyde, a taboo-shattering hit that divided critics, thrilled audiences and forever changed the way Hollywood made movies.
“A milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty rocketed to stardom as infamous Depression-era bank robbers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, in Arthur Penn’s revisionist gangster film that brought the arthouse sensibilities of the French New Wave to mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, helping to launch the “New Hollywood” movement of the 1970s. When producer/star Beatty presented his tale of the real-life 1930s bank robbers to Warner Bros., the studio consigned it to drive-ins and second-run theatres. It took praise from a new generation of critics and the enthusiasm of young audiences to convince the studio to reopen the film in first-run theatres, where it became a huge hit. Released during the tumultuous Summer of Love of 1967, Bonnie and Clyde, with its edgy story of two young lovers who capture the imagination of the nation as they tear up the country on a bullet-strewn crime spree, ushered in a new era of filmmaking with anti-establishment themes aimed at younger audiences, and gave a new focus for visionary directors like Arthur Penn and stars like Beatty creating their own projects. The film made newcomer Dunaway a star, but though she and Beatty were both highly glamorous (much more so than their real-life counterparts), the supporting cast — headed by Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Hackman in his breakout role — suggested a move toward casting actors with more unconventional features. Garnering 10 Oscar nominations (five of them for acting), and winning two (Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actress for Estelle Parsons) the film’s surprisingly shocking violence also signaled the beginning of a tougher, grittier Hollywood style, as well as the creation of the MPAA ratings system in 1968. (Dir. by Arthur Penn, 1967, USA, 111 mins., Rated R)