They’re young, they’re in love, and they kill people: A look back at how Bonnie and Clyde revolutionized Hollywood on its 50th anniversary

Acknowledging that the movie divides audiences, she wrote that Bonnie and Clyde was “the most excitingly American movie since The Manchurian Candidate. It felt like a first date where one party wants to take it slow and the other wants to sprint right to the altar. Penn and Mr. A sly smile spread across his face. Miraculously, Truffaut was intrigued enough to meet with the writers in New York. But during the meal, Truffaut told Beatty that he should get his hands on a wonderful script by a pair of American writers. “Time magazine just panned the hell out of Bonnie and Clyde,” Beatty told EW. “Well, that’s an exaggeration,” he said, while leaning back in a chair in his study. Benton and Newman didn’t have time to sulk. Producing such an uncompromising film would come with more than enough headaches as it was. The audience is alive to it.” It had officially become the movie that everyone had to see. As Mark Harris writes in his book Pictures at a Revolution, Morgenstern’s about-face was “infinitely more valuable to Bonnie and Clyde than a mere rave would have been: Suddenly, the studio had a controversy it could exploit.”
The tide on Bonnie and Clyde began to turn. Again, pretty radical stuff in 1967. It is also pitilessly cruel, filled with sympathy, nauseating, funny, heartbreaking, and astonishingly beautiful.” He closes his review in equally grandiose terms: “This is pretty clearly the best American film of the year. It was literally overkill. Beatty pleaded with Warner to make Bonnie and Clyde for cheap. Plus, he had another star in mind for the role. Watching imports like Breathless, La Dolce Vita, and Jules and Jim was like looking into a telescope and discovering an unknown galaxy. Perhaps more taboo than any of that, however, was the film’s ballet-of-death climax. But it’s totally wrong either. Benton and Newman began working on a screenplay treatment with the pie-in-the-sky hopes that they might entice French New Wave maestro, Francois Truffaut to direct it (by then, Truffaut had already made The 400 Blows and Shoot the Piano Player). The actor had just been through an unpleasant experience during the long pre-production of what would become 1965’s silly farce, What’s New Pussycat   — a film that he had helped get off the ground, but wound up feeling sidelined on and squeezed out of. It’s a revolution that almost never happened. Beatty went to Warner Bros. “This happens to me a lot.”
As for finding a director, Beatty says that he went to 11 directors for Bonnie and Clyde and was turned down 11 times. Plus, one brilliant, red-hot French director was as good as the next, they figured. In the Sept. So much so in fact, that he would take the film (and its admirers) to task on three separate occasions in the paper of record. The first thing Beatty did was to help rejigger the film’s ad campaign, which now included the brilliantly exploitative tagline: “They’re young…They’re in love…and they kill people”. Very complimentary things.”
The banner headline of Time’s Dec. But on the film’s golden anniversary it’s worth taking a glance in the rearview window and examining not only how this sea change came to be, but also how divided the critical consensus on the film was at the time. It was called Bonnie and Clyde. He was outraged by what he saw. And it leaves an astonished critic wondering just what purpose Mr. And he also, initially at least, didn’t think that he should play Clyde Barrow. 13, 1967, to be exact, Warner Bros. After stumbling out o the gate, Bonnie and Clyde would go on to pull in more than $22 million at the box office on a budget of $2.5 million. Despite that fact (or perhaps because of it), he also found it hard to resist Beatty’s legendary charm. Benton and Newman wanted to explore that galaxy. And after a beat or two, he leaned forward again, almost conspiratorially, and added, “but I like to hear it said.”

Show Full Article At the end of the movie when Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down by the law in a hail of bullets, nothing is left to the imagination. Problem was, Jack Warner just wanted to be done with it. It was all moving so quickly that Benton and Newman were taken aback. When EW interviewed Beatty earlier this year, he said of Pussycat, “When it was over, I thought, ‘Okay, I’m not going to go through that again.’ I wanted to be in control. It had given birth to filmmaking renaissance and a decade of some of the most indelible and uncompromising pictures to ever come out of the studio system. Too late to pull his hatchet work, he wrote a second review – a mea culpa of sorts. When Beatty arrived at Benton’s New York apartment, he stayed there and read the script until he reached its bloody, bullet-riddled finale. His answer was predictably Sphynx-like. Beatty offered the writing team $75,000 for the rights to make Bonnie and Clyde. They were criminals, sure. Bonnie and Clyde was a sensation that was not about to go away. Unbeknownst to both Benton and Newman, Warren Beatty, then an impossibly handsome movie star on the come-up and approaching his thirtieth birthday, was in Paris with his actress girlfriend, Leslie Caron, to have dinner with Truffaut. In his official review of the movie, Crowther wrote that Bonnie and Clyde was “a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie.” As for the film’s infamous finale, he wrote: “This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth. The old-school boss blew hot and cold on the young star. Fifty years after the fact, EW asked Beatty if he bought into that bit of mythmaking about his film — whether Bonnie and Clyde, in fact, was responsible for the New Hollywood. Penn, a veteran theater director, wound up filling the cast with talented-but-little-known stage actors such as Estelle Parsons, Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder, and Michael J. In the audience at that first screening was Bosley Crowther, the august New York Times film critic. Powerful with a firearm, but impotent in the sack. Still, the experience had been frustrating enough that he vowed that things would be different on his next picture. And while it only wind up winning two statuettes (for Best Supporting Actress Estelle Parsons and Best Cinematography for Burnett Guffey), the movie had won a bigger war. Morgenstern went back to see the film a second time and realized that he had been wrong. It certainly isn’t sex – the script subtly (and sometimes not too subtly) paints him as a stick-up man who can’t get it up. It was a story set in the ‘30s, but it couldn’t have been more timely. After all, the film was unapologetically violent, unvarnished in its depiction of sexuality, and borderline nihilistic. They expected nothing yet hoped for everything. But he did pass it along to his fellow New Wave comrade, Jean-Luc Godard. Time magazine panned it. Now he just had to find a director and some stars. But then something very interesting happened. In the early ‘60s, Robert Benton and David Newman were two young staffers at Esquire. They felt urgent, of the moment, raw. Regardless of whether you buy into the facts or the legend, Beatty got his green light. He always does. Not to mention that the man who had bankrolled it, Jack Warner, hated the picture. When they felt confident enough in the 75-page treatment they had, they used a connection to get their draft to into Truffaut’s hands in Paris. Bonnie and Clyde were outsiders, outcasts, outlaws who fought the man — even though, in the end, the man won. She seems to get off on the promise of danger. He and Beatty settled on a gorgeous, strong-willed unknown as the Bonnie to Beatty’s Clyde: Faye Dunaway. “It was an unusual movie,” Beatty says. Beatty got none of the credit for its success – nor did he particularly think he deserved it. 8. In the back of his mind, he thought this could be the project that would turn him from on-screen heartthrob to off-screen powerbroker. Benton, who had grown up in Texas, was already familiar with the Lone Star state folk heroes Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker — a pair of Depression-era bank robbers, who with their gang, became early incarnations of a modern kind of media celebrity. Some accounts (which Beatty now laughs off) have him getting on his knees and literally begging Warner. 1967, issue, over a photo of Beatty and Dunaway behind the wheel of a getaway car, read: “The New Cinema: Violence…Sex…Art”. Ostensibly the meeting was to discuss a picture about the French singer Edith Piaf that Beatty wanted Caron to star in. I was turned down by George Stevens (Giant), I was turned down by Freddie Zinnemann (High Noon), Arthur Penn (The Miracle Worker), John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), Karel Reisz (Night Must Fall), Sydney Pollack (This Property is Condemned), and Brian Hutton (Wild Seed).” Eventually Beatty went back to Penn, a real actor’s director with whom he had worked on the jazzy, New Wave-influenced 1965 black-and-white film, Mickey One. Godard, who by that time had directed Breathless and Vivre Sa Vie, was also interested enough to also meet with the Esquire duo. Then, in early December, another one of the film’s detractors did a very public about-face. In the end, it may be reductive to point to one single film and credit it for giving birth to an entire movement. Benton and Newman, who’d been spurned twice and weren’t exactly being bowled over with other offers, quickly agreed. The conservative, old-guard studio more or less did this against its will. And that’s what led me to produce Bonnie and Clyde.”
When Beatty returned to America, he immediately got in touch with Benton and asked if he could read their script. But they underestimated Warren Beatty’s persistence. The studio had already moved on, pulling it from prime theaters to make room for its next volley of releases. The pitch ended up evaporating into the ether like so much Gauloises smoke. No one hems and haws as incessantly as Beatty does. It’s not a good movie, but it ended up becoming a hit nonetheless. “To make it good, it had to combine violence and comedy in a way that hadn’t been done. “Gradually, I thought maybe I wouldn’t be bad,” he said. It would go on to earn ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. These films grappled with new subjects and spoke in a new kind of movie grammar. 25, 1967, edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert opened his review with the following proclamation: “Bonnie and Clyde is a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance. released a new kind of American gangster movie called Bonnie and Clyde. “I was thinking of Bob Dylan for the part,” Beatty told EW. Benton was the magazine’s art director; Newman was a writer and editor. Godard seemed not only interested in making Bonnie and Clyde, but was itching to get started right away. Years from now it is quite possible that Bonnie and Clyde will be seen as the definitive film of the 1960s, showing with sadness, humor and unforgiving detail what one society has come to. Beatty filed the tip away. But Truffaut wasn’t particularly interested in Piaf. Beatty had aspired to more. Much has been written over the past half century about how Bonnie and Clyde revolutionized Hollywood (start with former EW editor Mark Harris’ 2008 book, Pictures at a Revolution): How it ushered in a revolutionary new sensibility when it came to subjects that were once considered taboo; how it spoke to a hipper, younger audience that had been largely ignored by the calcified, geriatric suits calling the shots up til then; how it was a game-changer that showed the way for an up-and-coming generation of New Hollywood directors more interested in antiheroes than traditional heroes at a time when the graphic existential horrors of Vietnam were playing out daily on the evening news. Although set in the ‘30s, Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker is a liberated woman – a steely, sultry seducer as cunning as any male on the wrong side of the law. Beatty’s Clyde Barrow, an ex-con who takes more joy in the notoriety of his crimes than the loot they bring, is the embodiment of what we now think of as modern media culture. 13, 1967, is widely acknowledged as the day that Bonnie and Clyde first hit theaters, the film’s real debut came a week earlier, when it was shown at the Montreal Film Festival on August 5. He thought Beatty could be presumptuous and cocky. He was in. It is also a landmark. Beatty and Penn knew that they were making a different kind of film – an American New Wave movie – and they didn’t shy away from the script’s edgier themes and subtexts, or its blood-red violence. And in its rival, Newsweek, Joe Morgenstern could barely disguise his bile, calling the film “a squalid shoot-em-up for the moron trade.” Ouch! Everett Collection
Beatty had become a movie star right out of the gate with his very first Hollywood film – 1961’s Splendor in the Grass. We see their bodies convulsing and covered in squibs of blood – a prolonged and excruciating Grand Guignol spasm of gore. Over time, Beatty would warm up to the idea of playing the film’s lead, he just had to get used to the idea – something that has happened time and again over the course of his career. But they inflamed the public’s imagination by sticking it to the banks at a time when banks were hardly friendly institutions to anyone trying to survive in the Dust Bowl. Like so many others in their generation, the two men had fallen in love with the influx of European art films that were beginning to play in the art houses of America’s big cities, specifically those of the French New Wave. It has to be set sometime. Penn relented. Fifty years ago, on Aug. The film was shot on location in Texas, often using some of the very sites that the real Bonnie and Clyde touched foot on during their crime spree. Beatty’s pal Robert Towne (who would later win a screenwriting Oscar for Chinatown) was brought on set to tweak Benton and Newman’s script while Penn brought out remarkable performances from his cast. Their exploits may have seemed like ancient history to Benton and Newman, but they also knew that you didn’t have to squint very hard to see the parallels between Bonnie and Clyde and the antsy youth of the ‘60s who were beginning to get swept up in what would soon become the counterculture. Beatty think they serve with this strangely antique, sentimental claptrap.”
Soon, others would follow. hat in hand to pay a visit to Jack Warner. From Bonnie and Clyde’s inception, Beatty knew that he didn’t want to direct the film himself. Everett Collection
Although Aug. But it was made now and it’s about us.”
Less than a month later, Pauline Kael took to the pages of the New Yorker with an impassioned plea for the film. But coming as it was, just four years after the assassination of JFK and at a time when the horrors of the war in Vietnam were playing out every evening on the news, it had an undeniable added resonance. “But four months later, they put it on the cover saying very elaborate things about it. He was ready to bet on himself. He was just a pretty face with a tabloid-friendly menagerie of famous off-screen lovers. Pollard. His drug is fame. But after months of stop-and-go flirting on both sides, Truffaut passed on the project. In the end, that marriage, too, would fall apart before it could be consummated. Since then, he’d starred in a number of movies (mostly forgettable), but he hadn’t yet been taken seriously as an artist. Two months after it had opened and been left for dead it had snowballed into the number three film in the country. The fact that the story is set 35 years ago doesn’t mean a thing.