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Final Gravity

'Bonnie & Clyde: 'Til Death Do Us Part'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were the most famous criminal couple in US history. In reality, as this film reveals, Bonnie and Clyde grew up in the slums of West Dallas and had little in common with their glamorous media images.

DVD Verdict: Bonnie & Clyde's exploits captured the attention of the American public during the "Public Enemy Era", between 1931 and 1935. Though known today for his dozen-or-so bank robberies, Barrow preferred to rob small stores or rural gas stations. The gang is believed to have killed at least nine police officers and several civilians. The couple were eventually ambushed and killed by law officers near the town of Sailes, in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Their reputation was revived and cemented in American pop folklore by Arthur Penn's 1967 film 'Bonnie and Clyde', in which they were played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

As I'm sure you are all well aware by now, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were the most famous criminal couple in US history. Newsreels in movie theaters across the country flashed images of a pixyish Bonnie and handsome Clyde, turning them into the underworld's dark prince and princess of crime. However, in reality, as this new documentary 'Bonnie & Clyde: 'Til Death Do Us Part' reveals, Bonnie and Clyde grew up in the slums of West Dallas and had little in common with their glamorous media images.

I mean, even during their lifetimes, their depiction in the press was at considerable odds with the hardscrabble reality of their life on the road, especially for Bonnie Parker. She was present at a hundred or more felonies during the two years she was Barrow's companion, but she was not a machine gun-wielding killer as depicted in the newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of that time.

Indeed, gang member W. D. Jones later testified he could not recall ever having seen her shoot at a law officer. Bonnie's reputation as a cigar-smoking gun moll grew out of a playful snapshot police found at an abandoned hideout. It was released to the press and published nationwide. Parker did chain smoke Camel cigarettes, but she never smoked cigars!

It was a time of massive social upset, and people struggling. One result was the rise of crime, and Bonnie and Clyde were two, but coming from very ordinary circumstances. 'Bonnie & Clyde: 'Til Death Do Us Part' showcases all that and more and even, for my money, sets a few wrongs to right. On May 23rd, 1934, the notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police while driving a stolen car near Sailes, Louisiana. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

www.PBS.org





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