I actually discussed Bonnie and Clyde a little bit in my article last year about 1967 and how it was the year that Old Hollywood became New Hollywood (I actually discuss all five Best Picture nominees from that year, as well as In Cold Blood), so I was reluctant to revisit 1967 for awhile. But I wrote that article over a year ago now, so I guess it’s time to revisit 1967 after all. I remember when I first saw this film it completely blew me away and upon every revisit I remain in awe of what an utterly amazing feat of filmmaking prowess is on display here. I saw an interview with Arthur Penn, I believe, where he talked about how he decided he wanted to shoot the picture in color because he wanted it to feel modern. They weren’t making a documentary of Depression Era America. This film was going to feel as modern as it possibly could, without being avant-garde. I think Penn accomplished just that, and made it just modern enough to feel timeless, actually. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning two: Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography (won), Best Supporting Actor Gene Hackman, Best Supporting Actor Michael J. Pollard, Best Supporting Actress Estelle Parsons (won), Best Actor Warren Beatty, Best Actress Faye Dunaway, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and winner In The Heat of the Night.
Arthur Penn, director of the 1967 Bonnie & Clyde died today of congestive heart failure, a day after his 88th birthday. Penn was nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards three times in the sixties: The Miracle Worker (1962), Bonnie & Clyde (1967) and Alice’s Restaurant (1969).
Of those three films, I have only seen Bonnie & Clyde, but I will always consider that film a game changer. I wrote about how 1967 was the year cinema changed forever a few months ago and it was Penn’s film about Depression-era bankrobbers Bonnie and Clyde – played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. I saw an interview with Arthur Penn on TCM a few weeks ago where he discussed what he was trying to do with the film and why he chose to film it in color. He was an eloquent man and a director with a clear vision and point of view. He will be sadly missed.
I know there is at least one book on this subject and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but thanks to TCM showing several movies from that year, I have to agree completely. What I mean by Cinema, is Hollywood and American Cinema, because a lot of how it changed was based on things French New Wave directors had already been doing for almost ten years.
One way to see this change is by looking at the five films that were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars that year. Four of the films are harbingers of the new Hollywood. One is old guard and because of that in addition I want to talk about another film that, although nominated for four Oscars, was not up for Best Picture.
The five films up for Best Picture were Bonnie & Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In The Heat of the Night. The film sixth film I’m going to discuss is In Cold Blood.