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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.


Bonnie and Clyde

Plot Overview

Some B&W stills set the time of the early Depression, then as a song “Deep in the Arms of Love” fades in, a desperately dis­en­chanted blonde Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) catches ne'er-do-well Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) in an attempted robbery, and an unlikely alliance forms being her ticket out of hum­drum West Dallas, Texas. As the pair begins a multi-state crime spree, they pick up a mechanic–get­away-car–driver C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard), Clyde's older brother Buck (Gene Hack­man), and Buck's wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), becoming the renowned Barrow gang.

Bonnie has been freed from the confines of a small town, Clyde has been paroled from State Prison, C.W. had done his stint in reform school, Buck paid his debt to society in prison, and Blanche is a preacher's daughter its own form of a straight­jacket. They enjoy their liberty together, but due to lack of any real plan­ning, their bank jobs don't yield them much dough while the havoc they cause gets the law after them big time.

Although Bonnie and Clyde are an inseparable couple, there's some sexual dysfunction between them (“Your adver­tising's just dandy … folks would never guess you don't have a thing to sell.”) In a weird way, Clyde's lack of sexual per­for­mance is com­pen­sated for by some (sixth) “sense” that enables him to elude the law. When he even­tually gets the love department in order, he loses that uncanny knack, with disastrous results, but he dies happy.


The trick to understanding “Bonnie and Clyde” is to look at the movie within a movie when the daring duo decided to take in a Busby Berkeley musical (“We're in the Money”) directly after a suc­cess­ful stickup. In the whole universe of consumer flicks, the director gave us that one which included a snippet of dialogue: “C'mon, boys, right here.” It was men who were being addressed as boys, but with­out offense. Boy was used as Stuart Woods did in one of his novels: “Tucker did not blink at the ‘boy,’ knowing that white southerners used it liberally among themselves and that it wasn't necessarily a racial slur” (401). Since “B&C” does take place in the south, among southerners, let's see if the movie indeed contains boy used liberally and non-offensively.

The very first word Bonnie says (to Clyde), is, “Hey, boy! What are you doin' with my mama's car?” When Clyde sticks up a store, she says, “Boy, did you really do that?” Clyde will refer to him­self repeatedly as not being a “lover boy” but still a better option than the “stupid and dumb boys” she waitresses for. He qualifies his sexual inhibitions by saying, “I mean I don't like boys.”

When they recruit the gas station attendant, they ask him, “What's your name, boy,” and then, “Hey, boy, you think you got the guts for this kind of work?” C.W.'s dad will eventually tell him, “Oh, it's good to see you, boy,” and go on in that vein. And when the couple lose track of C.W. on an errand, they'll ask, “Hey, where is that boy?”

When Clyde reunites with his brother, in their exuberance, one says to the other, “We're gonna have our­selves, a time, boy!” Buck gets to telling them a joke, “Hey, you wanna hear a story 'bout this boy? He owned a dairy farm, see.—” And their grooming is a matter of, “You need a hair­cut. You look just like a hill­billy boy.”

There's more, but you get the idea. Boy, at least in the south, is an innocuous word informally applied to grown men. The year 1967 when the movie came out was a time of racial agitation. Civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) had complained of: “when your first name becomes ‘nigger’ and your middle name becomes ‘boy’ (how­ever old you are) and your last name becomes ‘John’, and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title ‘Mrs’.” The movie removes the sting from his “middle name” ‘boy’.

And not just that but his “last name” johnny is just a general anonymous reference to some bloke we don't know. But that was the position of C.W. the one member of the Barrow gang the papers (and the police) called the “unidenti­fied suspect” of whom the rest of the gang said it's best he remain that way. There's lots of times we want to be anonymous.

As for a married woman's title, that's subject to variation. Bonnie upon meeting Buck's wife, asks, “Mrs. Barrow, or may I call you Blanche?” But then in a Kodak moment, Buck requests, “Take one of me and my missus, Clyde.”

This movie makes short work of reducing MLK's name complaint to just the ’n‘ word, but since the preacher's daughter inter­jects her religious training (“I married the preacher's daughter, and she still thinks she's taking up the collection”), we might as well go ahead and quote the Bible, (Acts 13:1–3)

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where­unto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

“Simeon … was called Niger” meaning black, from which Latin word is derived our English word nigger. Further­more, he (and a couple others) were segregated from Saul (Paul) & Barnabas who were called to a special work. In the movie Clyde gives a dis­pos­sessed land­­owner a chance to target practice on the bank's repos­session sign, who in turn shares the pistol with his black share­cropper: “Me and him put in the years here. Hey, Davis, c'mon, over here.” They two (like the disciples in the Bible) are segregated in the wings while Bonnie and Clyde do the glamorous work of retribution on the evil bankers. (I covered an earlier biblical reference to segregation, from Genesis, in my review of “Noah.”)

From there it's a short step to interpret of C.W.'s adulterated (i.e. tattooed) skin (and of “the truck drivers … with big tattoos all over 'em”), and of adulter­ated gas (“Dirt in the fuel line”), and of adulter­ated milk (“put some brandy in it”) in the dairy story, as metaphors for an adulterated message of liberty and equality bandied about in 1967 when “B&C” came out. Especially in the dairy story's punch line about that long lasting cow, compared to the milage racial equality has gotten.

I was once looking for a job as a dishwasher. One place said they'd call if they needed me, but some­one on the inside told me they wanted some­one younger with quick hands. Another place said on the phone they wanted to meet me first. When they did, they said, Oh, good, some­one mature enough to have good work habits. I got hired. Anti-[age]-dis­crim­in­ation laws inter­fere with the free market, at least in my book.

Production Values

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) won two Oscars: for cinematography and Parsons for Best Sup­por­ting Actress. It was directed by Arthur Penn. Its screen­play was co-writ­ten by American screen­writers-directors David New­man and Robert Benton, with script touch-ups by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty. It stars: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons. There was great chemistry between the leads Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. It was Estelle Parson's film debut and also Gene Wilder's first time in a movie. An extra who looked the part played Bonnie's mother.

The musical score was from Charles Strouse, featuring bluegrass and “Foggie Moun­tain Break­down” performed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The cinema­tog­raphy captured a bleak Depression era with lots of nifty old cars running around. FDR posters added a time reference. The fusil­lade at the end took them four days to shoot, with four cameras turning at different speeds capturing wave after wave of rat-a-tat-tat.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

“Bonnie and Clyde” is not for the squeamish. There is a fair amount of violence in it, shocking in its time, and still strong even for today's jaded tastes. I liked the cool banjo music, the devil- may-care attitudes of the principals, and Estelle Parsons's portrayal of a loser of a wife. It helps if one is not too concerned with strict historical accuracy. It was a great action flick with a pre­de­ter­mined ending, the stuff legends are made of.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick.

Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age.

Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening.

Special effects: Well done special effects.

Suspense: Several suspenseful moments.

Overall product rating: Four stars out of Five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

King Jr., Martin Luther. Letter From Birmingham Jail. 1963. Print.

Woods, Stuart. Chiefs. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1981. Print.