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Arthur Penn’s 1967 blockbuster, Bonnie and Clyde, is a film about the murdering couple’s adventures through Depression-era Texas and Oklahoma. Many critics were appalled by the ghastly and unprecedented amounts of violence, yet the movie was seen as one which would most likely define the 1960s cinema. Numerous critics had the foresight to recognize that the violence in the film and the title characters, played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, would represent young Americans at a time of sexual and racial liberation and great violence with the Vietnam War. Even some reviewers who did not like the film were able to recognize its probable historical significance and the connections it made between young adults in the Depression and in the 1960s. Many critics had differing opinions of Bonnie and Clyde, but most had positive experiences with it. Many found the color cinematography and depictions of the impoverished rural South in the 1930s to be amazing. However, some critics disliked the way that Penn directed and adapted his movie from the screenplay that was written well by Newman and Benton. Overall, Bonnie and Clyde, was well received by both film critics and viewers as a symbol of young adults in the 1930s and 1960s, even despite being the first graphically violent film.

Alpert, Hollis. "Crime Wave." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. Saturday Review 5 August 1967.
This film represents the high point of the directorial work of Arthur Penn as it is well made and has a great performance by Beatty in the title role. However, Newman and Benton are indecisive in their depictions of the criminal duo. They mainly are unsure of the character of Barrow and can't decide if he is a psychopath or just impotent. They also misstep in their ambiguity over whether the characters are tragic figures or kids caught up in something that they can't control. The writers lean towards the tragic figure idea, while Penn and his poetic camera work lean the other direction. The lesson is that crime could be exciting for a while but literally ends in a dead end.
Berardinelli, James. "Review: Bonnie and Clyde." Reelviews Movie Reviews 2003.
The film lacks historical accuracy, and the violence that was once shocking in the 1960s is now very tame compared to movies from the 2000s. The film catapulted most of its actors into the spotlight with Beatty and Dunaway becoming lead players in Hollywood and Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder emerging into prominence. The movie seamlessly blends in humor, violence, and romance, making it a movie that has gotten better with age and that can be better appreciated now than in the 1960s.
Cook, Page. "Bonnie and Clyde." Films in Review 18.8 (1967): 504-5.
The film is so incompetently written, acted, produced, and directed that it's just worthless. Beatty tries exploring many opposing themes such as how dangerous the Barrow gang was, while also using slapstick to joke about their violence. Beatty and Penn are equally incompetent in their roles in the film, and Dunaway, unfortunately, is brought down by these inartistic men. The getaway music of country banjos also is off-track and makes the movie even more of a farce.
Crist, Judith. "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. Vogue September 1967.
Beatty and Penn establish themselves as one of the most exciting creative teams in American film making. Bonnie and Clyde is a product of the 1930's that also parallels to the 1960's and is more than just another gangster movie. Penn and Beatty give the viewer a pair of young people on the run who terrify because of their disassociation with humanity and only aspiration is just momentary satisfaction. The film makes its mark with naturalism and technical perfections as the viewer is saturated with views of the Great Depression that paradoxically compel the viewer to recognize the universality of the theme.
Crowther, Bosely. "Screen: Bonnie and Clyde Arrives." New York Times 14 August 1967.
Bonnie and Clyde is a classic Hollywood misrepresentation of lives of the notorious team of bank robbers and killers who roamed Texas and Oklahoma in the 1930's. It is a cheap piece of slapstick comedy as it represents the killer couple as though they were full of fun and frolic. Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Michael J. Pollard are nothing more than the Beverly Hillbillies -- clumsy, stupid, and poorly acted. Nothing more than a comedic commercial movie if not for the many extremely violent and bloody scenes.
Crowther, Bosley. "Run Bonnie and Clyde." New York Times 3 September 1967: 2.1.
One of the most puzzling things about this nonsensical movie is the passionate praise and admiration of the film. Apparently many contemporary critics feel that the movie is a statement of the 1960's even though they are killers who murder without remorse. These critics argue a just moral meaning from this film about youth not realizing the reality of violence until it is too late, yet this is not depicted in the film. The killers are made comical and romanticized, and they are falsely made to seem like Robin Hood-like characters, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. The script lacks much historical accuracy and makes an odd switch from comical to solemn after Buck Barrow is killed. Penn takes the murderous duo and turns society into the enemy, rather than the criminals, through undue sympathy. The film does not contribute to thinking of the 1960's, nor is it wholesome entertainment.
Ebert, Roger. "Bonnie and Clyde." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. Chicago Sun-Times 25 September 1967.
Penn's film is one of the best American films of 1967. It's a movie that could have been set in any period of American history and especially poignant because it came out in the 1960's in which violence from the Vietnam War and across the nation was all over the media. It's fulfilling to finally see a movie in which people are realistically shot and killed as well as in which sexual tension is actually followed up on. Bonnie and Clyde will be the movie that defines the 1960's and will become even more relevant as time passes.
Gilman, Richard. "Gangsters on the Road to Nowhere." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. New Republic 4 November 1967.
Bonnie and Clyde is one of the best movies of its time, yet it barely misses self-destruction because of its historical inaccuracies.The first half hour of the movie is truly enjoyable because of its beautiful cinematography and wide-open scenes and shots of the countryside and small, dusty towns. The movie falters, however, when Barrow and Parker become violent, because it then shifts to a romantic myth and introduces the typical Robin Hood motif of gangster movies. The performances of Dunaway and Beatty are uneven throughout the movie; the best performances come from the lesser roles of Hackman, Parsons, and Gene Wilder (his first break in the movie industry). Overall, the movie is good, but it gets caught up in too many themes and tries to be too many things all at once.
Johnson, Albert. "Bonnie and Clyde." Film Quarterly 21.2 (1967-68): 45-48.
Much of the success of the movie is due to the writers, Newman and Benton, as they have brought international attention to the fact that the 1930's with its violence, aesthetic excesses, and false romantic optimism, is most identifiable with the 1960's. The facts are embellished, and grim violence of the crimes has a sardonic humor like Mark Twain. While many critics have disliked the movie because of the humor, it is this humor that makes this movie stand out from other gangster films and brings it into its own genre of pseudo-documentary. The movie takes liberty with Dunaway and Beatty not necessarily only portraying Bonnie and Clyde, but taking imaginative steps to incorporate the typical American sentiment in the Great Depression. Great attention to detail is placed within the sets, yet there are severe missteps with Dunaway wearing primarily 1960's garb to be fashionable, rather than historically accurate. Penn uses neo-realism to depict things of the 1930's like FDR posters, yet mixes it with historical anachronisms. This is an outstanding piece of cinema art recreating social history in terms of 1960's myths.
Kaufman, Dave. "Bonnie and Clyde." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. Variety 9 August 1967.
Bonnie and Clyde is a mediocre and inconsistent film. Faye Dunaway and Estelle Parsons play Bonnie and Blanche well, but the same can't be said for the way Beatty plays Clyde. Beatty and director Penn are inconsistent. The movie tries too hard to be comedic, and the Barrow gang members are too bumbling and idiotic to actually portray the stone-cold killers that the Barrow gang truly was.
Milne, Tom. "Bonnie and Clyde." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. Sight and Sound 36.4 (1967): 203-4.
Penn's direction is good. The film is a shift from the typical urban gangster film, and the rural and back country shots bring a feeling of comfort. Bonnie and Clyde are portrayed as simple humans who, early on in the movie, are reluctant to resort to violence and are bumbling thieves. Yet Penn really earns his pay because of the way he masterfully shifts the main characters into true criminals with less or little reluctance to kill those who will stand in their way.
Milne, Tom. "Brushing Up the Gangster Film." Rev. of Bonnie and Clyde, dir. Arthur Penn. The Observer 10 September 1967.
Arthur Penn is able to recapture the gangster genre from the French New Wave with this new film enshrinement of the criminal couple. The couple lives in a fantasy world of pictures, poems, and newspapers until they die. The movie is comedic until the self-intoxication of the characters brings them crashing to reality. It has racy rhythm and a yearning undertow of a blues. The praise for the movie should go to the cast, who acted amazingly well, as well as to the camera man, since the color camera work depicting the derelict South is stunning.
Schickel, Richard. "Flaws in a Savage Satire." Life 13 October 1967: 16.
A stylish but seriously flawed movie that splits viewers. It tries to transcend the stereotypical gangster genre, but despite its flaws, it is worth serious attention. It is neither great nor poor, and does not deserve the great praise or the horrible damning that other critics have done. Penn successfully depicts the destitution of the countryside as well as the inner emptiness of the gangsters. The weakness of the movie stems from the overly ornate costumes that dull the cutting edge on what may have been a great movie. Pollard, Hackman, and Parsons are all amazing in their supporting roles, but the main actors, Dunaway and Beatty, are weak in their roles because they seem too moronic and comical. The movie fails not because of the plot and intentions of the writers, but by the actors who tried to bring this story to life.

See Also

Armstrong, Marion. "Study in Infantilism." Christian Century 18 October 1967: 1326.

Canby, Vincent. "Arthur Penn: Does His Bonnie and Clyde Glorify Crime." New York Times 17 September 1967.

Collier, Peter. "The Barrow Gang: An Aftertaste." Ramparts May 1968: 16-22.

Conroy, Frank. "Violent Movies." New York Review of Books 11 July 1968: 28-29.

Farber, Stephen. "Bonnie and Clyde." Sight and Sound 37.4 (1968): 174-75.

Jacobs, Jay. "Bloody Murder." Reporter 5 October 1967: 46-47.

Kauffman, Stanley. "Bonnie and Clyde." New American Review 2 (January 1968). Repreinted in Kauffman's Figures of Light. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

"Low-down Hoedown." Time 8 December 1978: 66.

Quirk, John. "Violent Romanticism." Commonweal 10 November 1967: 170-71.

Towne, Robert. "A Trip with Bonnie and Clyde." Cinema 3.5 (1967): 4-7.

Walsh, Moira. "Bonnie and Clyde." America 2 September 1967: 227.