Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Bonnie and Clyde (1967) >>

Print Resources

Algren, Nelson. "The Pursuit of the Pixie-Eared Elephant. The True Story of Bonnie & Clyde: As Told by Bonnie's Mother and Clyde's Sister. [Former title Fugitives] Ed. Jan I. Fortune. New York: Signet New American Library, 1968.
Well known writer Algren's distinctive take on our duo: "Who were Bonnie and Clyde? They were outcasts of the cotton frontier. They were children of the wilderness whose wilderness had been razed; who came to maturity in the hardest of times. Clyde might have survived to a sad old age by chopping cotton. Bonnie might have knocked about as a sharecropper's wife or a prostitute until worn out by hard use. The two chose, instead, to give everyone a run for their lives. And, having once committed themselves, made a run which verged on the uncanny."
Bernstein, Matthew. "Perfecting the New Gangster: Writing Bonnie and Clyde." Film Quarterly 53.4 (2000): 16-31.
Bernstein discusses the influence of the French New Wave Cinema on traditional Hollywood filmmaking, as he traces the work of "neophyte screenwriters" David Newman and Robert Benton from their original treatment (in the early 1960's) to the final product (produced in 1967). By alluding to the reputable French director François Truffaut's influence on the original script, Bernstein demonstrates "how an innovative film whose original concept, storyline, narrative structure, and characters' psychology were all inspired by the French New Wave, ultimately became a New Hollywood film, and how the sensibility and aesthetics of the two were so closely intertwined." In doing so, we learn how script revisions, encouraged by Truffaut, affected the range of narration, the narrative structure, the movement of action, and its the spontaneity and momentum, changing the original treatment drastically to what we know today as the 1967 classic.
Cardullo, Bert. "Look Back in Bemusement: The New American Cinema, 1965-1970." Cambridge Quarterly 37.4 (2008): 375-86.
"This essay is a revisionist consideration of the New American Cinema from 1965 to 1970, during which time sociopolitical, economic, and cultural changes in the United States had inevitably changed the tone of its film industry–at least among a college-bred generation of directors. Instead of making the sheer entertainments of the palmy Hollywood days, these auteurs made, not serious artworks of idiosyncratic imagination and aesthetic daring like their counterparts in France, but superficially realistic if technologically accomplished movies on which 'meaning' was either grossly imparted or clung to only as long as convenient. 'Bonnie and Clyde', 'Easy Rider',' and 'The Graduate' may serve as salient examples of this trend."
Cawelti, John G. "The Artistic Power of Bonnie and Clyde." Focus on Bonnie and Clyde. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973.
Detailed analysis of the entire film: "The extraordinary power of Bonnie and Clyde has three main sources: first, the compelling drama of its story; second, the highly effective cinematography; and, finally, the relation of a traditional American fantasy of violence and outlawry to the ambiguities and conflicts of feeling stemming from a central problem of American values -- the clash between the belief in social order and the ideal of the totally liberated individual."
Cook, Pam. "Another Story: Myth and History in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)." Film Moments: Criticism, History, Theory. Ed. Tom Brown and James Walters. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Cook concludes that since Bonnie and Clyde is really a historical film written well after the actual historical event that it is just as much a "about the public and private contexts in which it is produced as about the past with which it engages." Cook makes a distinction, yet a temporal connection, between the real Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker and the fictional "myth" of Bonnie and Clyde, likening the spirit and impetus of the "depression era gangsters" to the similar youth of the 1960s, who were also born into a transition period in our history when "the 1950s consensus cracked under pressure from protest and Civil Rights and a youth-oriented cultural revolution" occurred, "in which many dissenting voices clamored to be heard." Cook then jumps subject matters completely, as she discusses the origins of the film's creation, the difficulties and intricacies of its production, and, finally, her opinions and critical opinions on the final scene of the film (Bonnie and Clyde's death) as inappropriately placed and anticlimactic. Cook concludes that the film is a cultural phenomenon based on the fact that, despite Warner Brothers' skepticism, the young film-goers responded with an incredible "gusto," attributing this response to "its edgy visceral style, allusive texture, intellectual leanings and bravura approach to sexuality and violence."
Cott, Nancy. "Bonnie and Clyde." Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. Ed. Mark C. Carnes. New York: Holt, 1995. 220-23.
"The film takes great artistic liberties with the history of Bonnie and Clyde while imprinting it with 1960s themes of youth revolt and women's liberation. . . . Bonnie and Clyde's defiance, insouciance, and feeling for the oppressed captured the contemporary sensibility of revolt -- and, not least, the revolt of women."
Dickstein, Morris. Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.
Abstract: "shows how our worst economic crisis, as it eroded American individualism and punctured the American dream, produced in the 1930s some of the greatest writing, photography, and mass entertainment ever seen in this country."
Friedman, Lester D. ed. Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.
A compilation of essays on the film. Friedman's goal is to discuss the relevance the movie to the cultural and political climate of the late 1960's. Contains essays written by Penn himself as well as the screenplay writer David Newman. Other essays discuss the real history of the couple, and one of the more interesting essays discusses the hidden homosexual tensions of the movie.
Gutfeld, Arnon. "Nostalgia, Protest and Tradition in the 1960s: History as Reflected by Bonnie and Clyde." JASAT (Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas) 40 (2009): 5-34.
Gutfeld opens with a brief synopsis of the events that shaped the culture of the 1960s to introduce his argument that "the 1930's can be seen as the era that shaped the ethos of the 1960s . . . . There was a great similarity between the upheavals American society experienced during the 1930s and the 1960s." He argues that "Audiences identify with the outlaw and often wish they could use his methods," which is the reason why this genre of films was so successful in the 1960s. The film idolizes youth and exposes "a sensitive nerve in America's collective memory: the Great Depression and the New Deal." Despite the fact Bonnie and Clyde fits the outlaw genre, it "actually focused on contemporary issues."
Harris, Mark. "Bonnie and Clyde." Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.
A look at the five nominees for Best Picture for the 1967 Academy Awards, tracking each from pre- to post-production, to the box office and critical reception, and then to the showdown at the Academy Awards. Benton and Newman based their the film on French New Wave cinema, receiving a strong response from critics. Each film shaped the future of cinema, with Penn's film opening it to graphic violence and the use of antiheroes as protagonists.
Newman, David, and Robert Benton. "Lightning in a Bottle." The Bonnie and Clyde Book. Ed. Sandra Wake and Nicola Hayden. London: Lorimer, 1972. 13-30.
The writers discuss in detail losing their "cinematic virginity" in the making of this film, for instance, the involvement of Truffaut, of Beatty, of Penn, of handling Clyde's sexuality. Perhaps most importantly, they talk about what to them the film is about: for instance, "This is a movie about criminals only incidentally. Crime in the 30s was the strange, the exotic, the different. This is a movie about two people, lovers, movers and operators. They were 'hung up,' like many people are today. They moved in odd, unpredictable ways which can be viewed, with an existential eye, as classic. Their relationship, in fact, is an existential one. Their crimes were against man, and their best moments came because of their commitment to their own humanity. They are not Crooks. They are people, and this film is, in many ways, about what's going on now."
Newman, David. "What's It Really All About? Pictures at an Exhibition." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 32-69.
Newman discusses what he and Benton meant by writing the screenplay, and the many things that people read into the movie that was not intentional. He discusses his great feelings on the movie as he rewatched it multiple times in celebration of its 30-year anniversary and how the movie was about style and people who have style. It is a film that is easy for many different people to take from it many different themes, and that is ok with Newman and Penn.
O'Connor, John E., and Martin A. Jackson. "Bonnie and Clyde: Hollywood, Nihilism, and the Youth Culture of the Sixties." American History/American Film: Interpreting the Hollywood Image. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. New York. 1979. 237-56.
Discusses the reception of the movie and the effects it had on culture, such as bringing a fashion craze to the world as well as bringing real violence and a new way of showing it to American cinema.
Penn, Arthur. "Making Waves: The Directing of Bonnie and Clyde." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 11-31.
Director Penn writes about his experiences with the film from its first pitch to him by Newman and Benton to its completion. He originally turned down the film since he was burnt out from Hollywood but agreed because Beatty was very persuasive. He discusses rewriting the screenplay to fit his direction and theme, as well as the filming and production process.
Sterritt, David. "Bonnie and Clyde." Cineaste 33.4 (Fall 2008): 63-64.
Sterritt first summarizes the process of the film'sreception from the first negative criticism by the famous Bosley Crowther (of the New York Times), which greatly hindered the film's maturation, to the "whopping 9,000 word" positive critique of Pauline Kael, which played a large role in putting the production back on track. Following this, Sterritt lists the myths surrounding the film: it's a "mutiny against ‘the man' in the sixties era itself," the "level of violence . . . is another area infiltrated by dubious lore," and, finally, the inaccuracies of "the queer sexuality that ran through the screenplay before Penn and Beatty got hold of it."
Time Magazine Staff. "Hollywood: The Shock of Freedom in Film." Time 8 December 1967.
The article references Bonnie and Clyde as it discusses films that were influencing a new freedom in cinema, a freedom from formula, convention, and censorship. It discusses the history of the film and the process that happened from screenplay, to searching for a director and studio, to the film's debut. A very interesting piece from 1967, when the film was in theaters, that recognizes many things that would come true in the near future.
Toplin, Robert Brent. "Bonnie and Clyde: Violence of a Most Grisly Sort." History by Hollywood: The Use and Abuse of the American Past. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1996. 127-54.
Toplin discusses the period of the 1960's and how Penn's film appeared at a time that was wrought with violence and fear in America and how the public received the film. Discusses the dramatic increase of violent crime in the 1960's, Malcolm X, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and how these events related to the violence in Penn's film.
Wake, Sandra, and Nicola Hayden, eds. The Bonnie and Clyde Book. London: Lorimer, 1972.
Case study anthology: contains the screenplay; articles by the director and writers; interviews with Penn and Beatty; a major article by Pauline Kael; and a handful of reviews.

See Also

Baxter, John. The Gangster Film. New York, A. S. Barnes, 1970.

Bernstein, Matthew. "Model Criminals: Visual Style in Bonnie and Clyde." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 101-26.

Carr, Steven Alan. "From 'Fucking Cops'! to 'Fucking Media'! Bonnie and Clyde for a Sixties America." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 70-100.

Carson, Diane. "'It's Never the Way I Knew Them': Searching for Bonnie and Clyde." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 42-69.

Cawelti, John G. Focus on Bonnie and Clyde. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1973.

Free, William. "Aesthetic and Moral Value in Bonnie and Clyde." Quarterly Journal of Speech 54 (1968): 220-25.

Geduld, Carolyn. "Bonnie and Clyde: Society vs. the Clan." Renaissance of the Film. Ed. Julius Bellone. New York: Crowell, 1970.

Grieveson, Lee, Esther Sonnet, and Peter Stanfield, eds. Mob Culture: Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2005.

Hossent, Harry. Gangster Movies: Gangsters, Hoodlums and Tough Guys of the Screen. London: Octopus Books, 1974.

Hunter, Stephen. "Clyde and Bonnie Died for Nihilism." Commentary July/August 2009: 77-80.

Kael, Pauline. "Bonnie and Clyde." New Yorker 21 October 1967: 141-71.

Langman, Larry, and Daniel Finn. A Guide to American Crime Films of the Forties and Fifties. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Langman, Larry, and Daniel Finn. A Guide to American Crime Films of the Thirties. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Lawson, John H. "Our Film and Theirs: Grapes of Wrath and Bonnie and Clyde." American Dialog 5.2 (1968): 30-33.

Leitch, Thomas. Crime Films. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.

Man, Glenn. Radical Visions: American Film Renaissance, 1967-1976. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994. 7-31.

Mason, Fran. American Gangster Cinema: From Little Caesar to Pulp Fiction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Miller, Joyce. "From Bonnie and Clyde to Thelma and Louise: The Struggle for Justice in the Cinematic South." Studies in Popular Culture 19. 2 (1996): 277-86.

Moriel, Liora. "Erasure and Taboo: A Queer Reading of Bonnie and Clyde." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 148-76.

Munby, Jonathan. Public Enemies, Public Heroes: Screening the Gangster from Little Caesar to Touch of Evil. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.

Murray, Lawrence. "Hollywood, Nihilism, and the Youth Culture of the Sixties: Bonnie and Clyde." American History/American Film: Interpreting the Hollywood Image. Ed. John E. O'Connor and Martin A. Jackson. New York: Ungar, 1979. 238-56.

Newman, David, and Robert Benton. "The New Sentimentality." Esquire July 1964: 31.

Orr, John. "Terrence Malick and Arthur Penn: The Western Re-Myth." The Cinema of Terrence Malick: Poetic Visions of America. London: Wallflower. 2003.

Penn, Arthur. "Bonnie and Clyde: Private Morality and Public Violence." Take One September 1967: 21-22.

Prince, Stephen. "The Hemorrhaging of American Cinema: Bonnie and Clyde's Legacy of Cinematic Violence." Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Ed. Lester D. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 127-47.

Quart, Leonard, and Al Auster. "American Cinema of the Sixties." Cineaste 13.2 (1984): 4-12.

Rafter, Nicole. Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.

Rich, Carroll Y. "The Autopsy of Bonnie and Clyde." Western Folklore 29.1 (1970): 27-33.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rubin, Martin, and Eric Sherman. The Director's Event. New York: Atheneum, 1970.

Ryan, Micahel, and Douglas Kellner. "From Counterculture to Counterrevolution, 1967-1971." Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988. 17-23.

Samuels, Charles. "The American Scene: Bonnie and Clyde. Hudson Review 21 (1968): 10-22.

Shadoian, Jack. Dreams & Dead Ends: The American Gangster Film. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. 295-307.

Warshow, Robert. The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre & Other Aspects of Popular Culture. Garden City: Doubleday, 1962.

Wood, Robin. Arthur Penn. New York: Praeger, 1970. 72-91.

Video/Audio Resources

Bonnie and Clyde Ending
Clip of the ending of the film.
Bonnie and Clyde Opening
Clip of the opening of the film.
Bonnie and Clyde: The Trailer
The original movie trailer.
Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow
Music video utilizing actual photos of the duo.
The Gangster Chronicles. Newark: Parade Video: 1989.
"Captures all the whacky and gruesome facts between the classic gangster myths from 1919-1935. Mixes original footage, sketches by Casey Jones, and classic movie, newsreel and archival films."
Here's looking at you, Warner Bros.: The History of the Warner Bros. Studio. Burbank: Warner Home Video, 2003.
"History of Warner Brothers from 1904 to 1993, including clips and commentary about modern and classic Warner Bros. films." Bonnie and Clyde in the company of classic films from the Adventures of Robin Hood to Woodstock.
Trace Adkins & Travis Tritt. New York: Distributed by KOCH Vision, 2004.
Music video album containing "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde."
The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde. Seattle: Something Weird Video, 2003.
"Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald: A glimpse into history in which each viewer becomes a member of the jury. The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde: Through dramatic re-enactments, an interview with a woman kidnapped."
"We rob banks!"
Clip of the scene in which Clyde lets the sharecroppers shot at the house.

Online Resources

"Arthur Penn." Film Reference.
Biography and list of works.
Bingham, Adam. "Arthur Penn." Senses of Cinema.
Overview essay and filmography.
Dirks, Tom. Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Overview and lush, detailed summary of the film with lots of quoting.
Lennon, Elaine. "Riding the New Wave: The Case of Bonnie and Clyde." Senses of Cinema: An Online Film Journal Devoted to the Serious and Eclectic Discussion of Cinema 38 (2006).
Focuses on contribution of writer Robert Towne: "The thirty-year anniversary of the release of Bonnie and Clyde occurred in 1997. To mark the occasion, a documentary, American Desperadoes: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde (Russell Leven 1999), was released. The original screenwriters, David Newman and Robert Benton, were extensively interviewed about the origins of the film and its progression to the screen. Also interviewed were director Arthur Penn and star-producer Warren Beatty. Nobody mentioned Robert Towne and yet it was he, not Benton or Newman (who were not allowed on the set of the film), who completely rewrote the screenplay at the behest of Beatty and Penn. It is Towne's work on this film that created his legendary role as Hollywood's leading script doctor."