February 21, 2017

Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway

Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway

(The filmmakers also ordered special effects to ensure that a chunk of Clyde’s scalp would visibly blow off during that sequence. Why? To reference the Kennedy assassination. Wow, deep, man”€”except…what does that even mean? That their slain liberal president hero was really an impotent, two-bit bank robber? Has anyone else even asked them that during the past fifty years?)

I”€™m far from the first to note that the leading man and lady are exquisitely turned out for a pair of Great Depression hicks. However, Dunaway revealed in her autobiography that even the “€œcheap cotton dress”€ Bonnie wears at the start of the film was “€œwas cut on a bias”€”€”a couturier’s trick that forces fabric to flow over the female form in the most flattering way.

When Beatty was confronted with the unshakable fact that the real Bonnie and Clyde looked nothing like Dunaway and him, he”€™d reply, “€œBut they thought they did.”€ Which I thought was an ingenious insight for years, until I learned that Beatty & Co.’s central thesis”€”that these two 1930s crooks were early adopters of Warhol’s “€œfifteen minutes of fame”€ business model”€”was utterly false.

In the film, the couple photograph themselves smirking and heavily armed, then send those pictures, along with Bonnie’s “€œprint the legend”€ doggerel, to the press. In reality, those photos were accidentally recovered from their hastily abandoned Brownie, and that “€œpoem”€ was printed posthumously.

Equally false and more toxic was the idea, mouthed by Clyde in the movie, that ordinary people, beat down by the Dust Bowl and The Man, adopted outlaws like themselves as folk heroes. Steve Sailer helpfully demolishes this particular slice of nonsense here.

But so what? On Sunday night, Bonnie and Clyde will be celebrated again, even though it possesses only two eternally redeeming qualities:

Gene Wilder, who was almost always the best thing in every film he appeared in.

And this exchange, which accidentally encapsulates the history of the Western world for the past fifty years, a world created in part by the movie itself:

BUCK: Boy, are we gonna have us a good time!

CLYDE (matching his merriment): We surely are!

BUCK: Yessir! (a pause, then:) What are we gonna do?


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