Beatty and Dunaway

When we started out, I thought we was really goin’ somewhere. This is it. We’re just goin’, huh?

The myth is always so much sexier than the truth.

The myth stokes the fires of desire, idolatry, jealousy, restlessness, inspiration, and want. The myth is what prompts us to believe in heroes – the truth is what allows us to lift the shade, and see our heroes for the fallible humans they really are.

When most people think of BONNIE AND CLYDE, they think about the sex and danger that comes with gun-toting, bank-robbing, pretty people. They think about the image of a couple deep in love, and (almost literally) thick as thieves. It’s a myth that was stoked in the depression era when criminals of their ilk became antiheroes to the American public. The myth really caught fire in the 60’s when Beatty and Dunaway made the characters sexy style icons.

For me though, the most fascinating part of the story has been the frustration surrounding Bonnie and Clyde’s sex life. Not long into the film, Bonnie comes to the realization that Clyde’s abilities as a lover man aren’t all they’re trumped-up to be. This was a deliberate (and daring) choice in the writing of the character. Early drafts of the script played around with Clyde being bisexual, before it finally settled on him being impotent. Not only does it run counter to the character’s stature, but it plays very much against the image of Warren Beatty at the time. But so it was; Clyde Barrow would get his rocks off robbing banks, if not in a bedroom.

That brings me to the image above – the one where Bonnie is confronted with who she has hitched her wagon to. There are few more palpable moments of sexual frustration than that image – one where a couple are on completely opposite ends of the bed. Neither one looks at the other. Clyde stares at the floor frustrated…Bonnie curls up with her head bowed, exasperated. They’re young, free, and dangerous, so one would expect – as Bonnie did when she ran away from her mama’s house with Clyde – that the sex would be hot and heavy. It’s not. It doesn’t work with the myth and the persona of the dangerous boy she met. As they flirted over bottles of Coke, Bonnie instinctively reached for Clyde’s gun. Bet she never thought it’d be loaded with blanks.

Jokes aside, there’s something else I love about this image besides the frustration it represents. It comes down to the question of “Now What?”. It’s a question that Bonnie is likely asking herself in this moment. The myth and the truth have shown how very different they are, and while she’s getting a thrill from being a criminal, she isn’t getting any thrills afterwards in the bedroom. In this moment, with this frame, there’s a moment of truth.

One can almost hear Bonnie asking herself if she was enticed by the myth, or enticed by the man. If it’s the former, she might as well get fixed up and leave. However, because she knows – and we see – that it’s the latter, this moment represents a recalibration. Their intense attraction – indeed, their love – will endure. It was sparked by a myth, but stoked by the truth. If they never realized it before, they certainly do in this instant.

 

Here’s three more from BONNIE AND CLYDE for the road…

 

Faye Dunaway

Bonnie and Clyde Meet

Bonnie and Clyde Finale

This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far