Monday, December 9, 2013

Yet Another Bonnie & Clyde Movie-- But How Historically Accurate, & Does It Matter??

I've been asked what I think of the new Bonnie & Clyde TV movie. To my educated Bonnie & Clyde mind-- a real mishmosh of fantasy, 1/2 truth, some truth, mixing of truths and wishful thinking. "However"-- as so little is known of the famous duo's personal interaction behind known Bonnie & Clyde historical events, it seems the screenwriters here have taken full advantage of those unknowns. As such, Bonnie is portrayed as the young mastermind of her own star-filled dreams-- as transferred to seeking fame within a crime duo instead of as a rejected Hollywood wannabe and dancer. BTW-- in real life, according to her sister Billie-- Bonnie aspired to being a singer on Broadway.

Now was the real Bonnie Parker as conniving and aggressive as her TV counterpart?? Despite some wanting to believe she was the ultimate sweetheart-- eyewitness accounts had her cursing like a sailor, being threatening, drinking to excess, resorting to powerful pain-killing drugs (after being seriously injured at Wellington), and without much doubt-- having fired weapons at the law on a number of occasions. That said-- perhaps her portrayal here isn't that far from the truth. Now whether the real Bonnie ever had an inkling to settle for fame as a criminal within a gang responsible for at least 12 killings, rather than as a performer-- I don't believe can be discerned based on what is known of the real lady.

Certainly, Bonnie (who was known to be quite intelligent)-- knew that once she and the boys were sought for murder-- most any aspirations she had of a legitimate career in show business were through. So this movie hits on an aspect of Bonnie rarely considered. Bonnie "was" though-- surely stubborn, and loyal to her man to the end. And in this version sexually promiscuous, just as rumored after her death. However, in having dealt with Bonnie & Clyde sexual rumors for years now-- my feeling is, when someone shows me concrete evidence to back claims which eclipse the dealings of a normal sexually active young couple-- I'll consider it. Until then-- objectively, claims of nymphomania in Bonnie and homosexuality in Clyde seem unfounded. However years later, Dr. James Wade revealed that when killed-- both Bonnie & Clyde had had gonorrhea.  So "go figure" the possibilities.

Some may be surprised to hear me say, that despite my being a Bonnie & Clyde purist-- and despite my choosing not to even
attempt a count of historical inaccuracies this new Bonnie & Clyde film presents-- I must admit to liking this fantasized version to a certain degree, for the "entertainment" it is.  I must say a truly different twist on Bonnie & Clyde-- much fun but historically inept.  The casting for the most part is strong.  Both the Clyde and Bonnie actors (as they "were" mostly known at the time)-- are terrific. And I especially like the Emma Parker, Cumie Barrow and Henry Barrow portrayals. I will say though, in knowing L. J. "Boots" Hinton as I do-- I wouldn't want to be in the room, when someone tells him his father Ted is seen coming on to Bonnie in asking for a kiss. But in all fairness, there are rumors concerning Ted's attraction to Bonnie-- some of which Ted caused himself. But that too you see-- is one of this history's many unknowns.

The conspicuous absence of W. D. Jones, materially changed a number of B&C occurrences.
The mixed up way events were combined and placed out of order, is surely perplexing to those of us who know the correct order of things.  For example, I didn't know Frank Hamer was hot on their trail at Dexter, Iowa and made the fatal shot which felled Buck months before the Eastham breakout.  Now "that's" some creative combining of characters and events!!   Nothing like pressing so much wrong into so little space.  I do give the writers credit for knowing of Bonnie's use of Amytal. If they had only added Morphine to the mix, they would've had a much different Bonnie prior to Eastham.  BTW-- Clyde was thought to have an effective "6th sense" which kept them out of trouble. It was Bonnie who had premonitions, as she did concerning the deaths of Billie's children.   

And no matter the B&C version-- it must be really hard to find an actress who looks roughly like Bonnie and is the same size. The Clyde Barrow portrayal here seems right, as Clyde was 5' 6". Bonnie on the other hand, was a diminutive woman-- just under 5 feet tall, and weighing in at 100 lbs or less. The Blanche Barrow character seems about right here-- as the real Blanche was 5' 1" and about 90 lbs when captured. She and Bonnie were known to be able wear each others clothes.

Now does it matter, to have an historically accurate Bonnie & Clyde movie at some point??  "Of course" it does.  To quote James Taylor, but expanded to include truth in Bonnie & Clyde History-- "That's why I'm here".  However-- can movie makers overcome the pressures of $$, with all it's greed-driven baggage and perceived need for sensationalism to produce a greater return on investment-- and instead, satisfy those of us who care about history??  Apparently not.  But "Hey movie makers!!!-- you know what"??  The real story of Bonnie & Clyde, is far more interesting than the fictionalized versions you wheel out there for a quick buck.  Concerning an ultimate Bonnie & Clyde film, I was routing for Tonya Holly's effort-- which I hope somehow will be revived.  But it seems when funding is involved (and it always is)--  creative license is retained by those expecting large returns on their investment.  An unfortunate "truth"-- for those seeking and respecting the word.

So what's the verdict??  To me, all in all-- an entertaining 4 hours of "non-history"-- which to do it right, would likely take another 4 hours within a TV format.  So e
njoy this B&C effort for what it is-- as it has no way of being anything else. 


kennydog1 said...

I'll hold out til tomorrow. I finished Mr. Guinn's book last week and the movie pretty much follows his book. I'm more interested in the Mangham,La incident since I live 2 miles from Mangham.

Status Quo Vadis said...

OMG ... I just looked up and discovered I've spent THREE HOURS perusing your blog!

I love stumbling around the net for historical sites -- Bronze Age or Bonnie & Clyde, it's all good -- and landing on a site of this quailty is SO cool.

THANK YOU for your integrity and dedication to FACTS, for providing so many fascinating images, for continuing to search for new information and details ... (the Nellie Stamp posts were AMAZING).

Thank you also for an apparently unwaveringly admirable level of civility when faced with pointless and unnecessary contentientious.

But most especially, thank you for the humility you bring to your subject. Unlike other bloggers whose posts are peppered with axes to grind or books to sell, every post I read here -- even those about your exquisite autographs -- were about the TOPIC, not about you.

And so, finally, thank you for creating such a rich historical archive which has provided me with a most fascinating and enlightening morning's read! (It beat the heck out of the morning news...)

A. Winston Woodward said...

I've now updated this post with comments concerning night 2 of the new Bonnie & Clyde movie.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Kennydog1. As many here know, I'm not a fan of Jeff Guinn's book. There are many better and more accurate. This TV movie is good for entertainment value alone-- and surely not for historical truth.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Status Quo Vadis. Aren't you kind. "Many thanks" for your comment.

sunset77 said...

Thanx for the blog.

I write for a blog about Charles Manson and his family. There is a great deal of misinformation surrounding that case as well.

I couldn't even watch more than about 10 minutes of the recent movie about B&C, it just looked to me to be so "fake" and commercialized.

My knowledge of B&C is very slim, however, I do have some knowledge of their cases. I found out recently that Billie Jean Parker was sent to prison in Alderson WV, Charles Manson's girl, Lynette Fromme was sent to the same prison years later for waving a pistol at President Ford.

Frances said...

It was an OK movie, but it was strange not to have W.D in the picture. Also, the script could have been closer to reality.

Laura Gale said...

Hi I'm in the UK and recently watched the above programme. It really sparked my interest in the subject and I've read non stop for the last two days. I stumbled across your site this morning and have been reading through. I've found references that Bonnie was pregnant at the time of the ambush? Can you point me to the blog that covers this? Also I'm really interested in eyewitness accounts of the ambush and any of the crimes committed. Just doing general reading it seems to me they weren't the blood thirsty killers I had always been led to believe, more a couple who had no other choice if they wanted to stay together. Although they did some awful things they never set out to hurt anyone all involved were just victims of circumstance. Following this TV show and what I've read I believe it was very inaccurate but then I don't know what I'm reading is true either! So many contradictions online! Your guidance would be appreciated so I can draw my own conclusions. Is it true Bonnie never even shot anyone? Thanks Lolly .

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Laura-- There have been rumors concerning a Bonnie pregnancy since before her death. I believe there is circumstantial evidence to support this assumption-- but so far, apparently not much more than that. And although there is research being conducted-- that's a very sharp point of Bonnie & Clyde contention, still up in the air.

As far as it seems-- the only witnesses to the ambush were the 6 officers present, as well as up to 3 men on the wood truck who happened upon the scene at the time of the carnage. Others have made claims as to more individuals having been there at ambush time. However-- no one it seems, has been able to prove these theories about additional people present. There were witnesses to a number of Barrow Gang killings. Read some of the better books-- especially John Neal Phillips', Jim Knight's and Winston Ramsey's books for good detail there.

The TV movie was more inaccurate than most-- although to my way of thinking, Bonnie's portrayal (although a bit over the top)-- may have been more accurate than others concerning her.

Thanks for your questions.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I haven't seen the TV movie yet - not a real TV-watcher - but if it's entertaining, I might try to catch it when it comes to Netflix. As long as I just watch it for fun, it won't bother me much if it's inaccurate!!! It does bother me when certain things that just aren't true come to take on a truth of their own after having been repeated over and over again, and that seems to be what's happened to Bonnie and Clyde over the years. Oh, well!

Haven't been around for awhile - been awfully busy! Good to get a chance to catch up on some reading!

Stew Magnuson said...

Movies are fiction. "Based on a True Story" is just marketing. The best you can hope for is an accurate documentary.