Terrorizing the whole of America during the Great Depression, Bonnie and Clyde have been the most infamous of couples. Known for their bank robberies and gruesome murders, their exploits captured the attention of the American press and its readership during what is occasionally referred to as the “public enemy era” between 1931 and 1934. They also gained a reputation in the cinematic world.
In 1967, a timeless classic named after them, “Bonnie and Clyde” was made, directed by Arthur Penn. The American biographical crime film starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the title characters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The movie is considered to be one of the first films of the New Hollywood era and a landmark film as it broke many cinematic taboos and for some members of the counterculture. The film’s ending became iconic as “one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history.”
Nathan Blake, a film historian at Northeastern University said that the bloody biopic, “established a new threshold for on-screen violence” and “ushered in a new wave” of auteurs including Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and Francis Ford Coppola.
Understanding the massive effect media, especially TV and movies, have on the audience, Blake stated that the violence these movies portrayed was a monstrosity—a sign of cultural decay—because of the way it turned these killers into martyrs of the hippie generation. This fact was best explained by Harold Lasswell in his ‘Magic Bullet Theory’ which addressed the real-life consequences of the violence that the media injects straight into the passive audience.
Alfred Hitchcock, too, faced similar criticism after the release of his very famous movie ‘Psycho’. Many directors had to remove the extremely violent scenes from their movies after they got released which marked the beginning of the early censorship. Bonnie and Clyde however, remained very popular among thriller enthusiasts which is why it still continues to be enjoyed over different platforms.
Even after their death, Bonnie and Clyde remain an unimaginably famous couple. Yet, they have become an archetype in movies and scripts. Their murderous adventures have been etched on reel with extreme emphasis and glorification. Hence, it is no mystery as to why the movie along with the actual history created during the Great Depression still lives on to be a timeless tale.