By Nate Hendley
I was interviewed recently by TIME magazine’s online edition about the 50th anniversary of the release of Bonnie and Clyde, the classic 1967 film about the infamous Depression-era bandits.
I was asked how realistic the movie’s depiction of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow really was. The film showed the two as passionate lovers and bank robbers, striking a blow for the common people.
The reality, as I wrote in my book, Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography, was considerably different.
Here are some choice selections from the TIME article, which was posted August 11, 2017 under the title, “What to Know About the Real Crimes Behind Bonnie and Clyde”:
“Today, their names live on in headlines as nicknames for any male and female partners in crime — real or metaphorical. But, 50 years after Bonnie and Clyde stole American hearts in the movie starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, many myths about the criminal couple persist, thanks in large part to that film.”
“[Clyde] fancied himself something of a latterday Robin Hood, robbing only banks that were foreclosing on poor farmers and eventually turning into a kind of folk hero,” TIME’s original review of the film declared.
“However, the motives of the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were “much more nefarious and self-serving,” says Nate Hendley, author of Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography. “In reality, they never robbed banks,” he says. “They hit up low-hanging fruit. They robbed small-town grocery stores and gas stations, where working people or poor people would [shop].”
“But just how bad Bonnie was remains a matter for debate. She apparently didn’t mean for those photos to get out into the public, and Hendley says she would claim that the cigar was just a prop and that, while she was holding a gun in that photo, she didn’t actually shoot anyone. More likely, Hendley says, she was “an accomplice, reloading guns and generally helping.” Another matter up for debate is whether they were actually lovers: no one has confirmed whether the real Bonnie and Clyde “were dating or just traveling companions,” he says.
“Hendley also points out that the fact that the movie portrays them in a “heroic light” makes the movie a product of its time, in that it embodies “the spirit of rebellion” of the 1960s.”
“A more realistic depiction,” he says, “would have portrayed them as scumbags.”
For the complete article in TIME magazine, click here.
Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and publisher ABC-CLIO.
(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author. He has written several true-crime books. For more information about his books and background, visit his website at http://www.natehendley.com/).