Saturday, May 23, 2009

Outlaws in Love

Finally tracked down and killed themselves on May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde remained all but forgotten, relegated to pulp magazines and a B movie or two, for 30 years. The infamy they enjoy today can be traced almost exclusively to the wonderfully filmed, if thematically wrongheaded, 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” a paean to hippie-era themes of anti-­authoritarianism and youth rebellion. Before the movie, there had been precisely one substantial biography. In the last nine years alone, by my count, there have been 10.

And now, in time for the 75th anniversary of the pair’s deaths on a Louisiana road, come 11 and 12. The one to pick up is “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” by Jeff Guinn, which is easily readable and includes much of the last two decades’ new scholar­ship. The one to avoid is “Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend,” by Paul Schneider, a book whose idiosyncrasies include the author’s devotion to such italicized gun sounds as, on Page 8 alone, Pop! Pop! and Blam! and Rata rata rat.
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Our cultural love affair with 1930s era villians never ends.

12 comments:

  1. Good morning, Gintaras.

    Seems like times are ripe for another Bonnie and Clyde (or maybe a Robin Hood) in America.

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  2. By the way, what do you think your reviewer means by "thematically wrongheaded?"

    I am not one for violent or sensational movies, even when I was young, but on the year of the movie's release, I was stuck in Southern Minnesota in July when the temperature was 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity. My brother talked me into going to see the film to escape the heat. In the lobby of that small theatre was the car Bonnie and Clyde allegedly had been shot up in -- a strange experience to say the least.

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  3. I think it was personification of Bonnie and Clyde into the rebellious spirit of the 1960s, that the reviewer was complaining about. Arthur Penn certainly made B&C more glamorous than they were in real life by casting Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the roles, but as a movie I thought B&C was great.

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  4. Thanks, Gintaras.

    I see what you're saying -- although that was the period of making lots of movies with anti-heroes as I recall. That's how I sort of remember them -- glamorized in their anti-establishment qualities.

    I'll have to look and see if Gunfighter Nation addresses this movie alongside some of the other anti-establishment westerns of that period.

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  5. Just checked, and Slotkin puts the movie in the context of the rise of graphic violence in movies of that period, suggesting that the success of movies like Bonnie and Clyde helped initiate more realistic and even random violent scenes.

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  6. Gintaras, now you've got me blogging. I kind of like it and invite one and all to visit my fledgling blog: http://rick-wordswordswords.blogspot.com/

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  7. Very cool. Just don't forget to stop by here once in awhile.

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  8. I haven't abandoned American Historical Perspectives. Just thought I'd give this a try, and it is cool.

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  9. Linking your blog, Rick, I was reminded of this blog that I came across awhile back. For those of us interested in the Civil War:

    http://obab.blogspot.com/

    I think the author was or is involved with the library at Stanford. I found it because he was interested in Andrew Garcia, author of Tough Trip through Paradise -- one of my eccentric interests as well.

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  10. Cool blog. I'm still trying to figure out how to do things. Who knows, the experience may come in handy at some point.

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  11. It is a great way to connect, and I think an excellent teaching tool, as you can post lectures and other information quickly and easily on these blogs and allow others to access it. The interns in our office have been using the blogs to set up their personal architectural pages. I'm just amazes Google has space for all this. Imagine the size of their storage files!

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