Landmark gangster film that made a huge commercial and cultural splash. The seminal script by David Newman and Robert Benton struck a nerve with the 1967 youth culture as it reimagined the two rural Depression-era outlaws as largely sympathetic nonconformists. The film set new standards
for screen violence but it alternated its scenes of mayhem with lyrical interludes and jaunty slapstick sequences accompanied by spirited banjo music. While unusual for a Hollywood feature, such jarring shifts in tone were typical of the genre-bending works of French New Wave directors Francois
Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, both of whom were slated to direct the feature at various points in its genesis.
Producer/star Beatty cajoled Warner Brothers into financing the production and selected Arthur Penn to direct. Penn initially aimed at realism, constructing scenes based on Walker Evans photographs and NRA posters, but a competing nostalgic impulse won out. The Oscar-winning cinematography of
Burnett Guffey served up the Dust Bowl on a sumptuous Technicolor platter, and historical accuracy was jettisoned in favor of glossy romanticization. In the process, the story took on the quality of a folk ballad.
As portrayed by Beatty and Dunaway, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were just plain folks who liked to pose for photographs and rob banks. As one ad campaign proclaimed, "They are young, they are in love, they kill people." The rest of the Barrow gang is portrayed by a powerhouse group of
supporting players: Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), and Michael J. Pollard. Gene Wilder also makes his screen debut as a nervous mortician.
BONNIE AND CLYDE grossed $23 million and became Warner's second best box-office attraction up to that time, after MY FAIR LADY. Despite its controversial nature, the film was nominated for nine Oscars (it only won two).
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