There are many fallacies about Bonnie and Clyde mixed in with the truth about their lives as criminals. They were not, in real life, exactly like the Bonnie and Clyde as depicted in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde directed by Arthur Penn nor the two-part television miniseries which is airing Sunday and Monday, December 8-9. The real Bonnie and Clyde were the media sensations of their day, though if Clyde Chestnut Barrow hadn’t teamed up with Bonnie Elizabeth Parker, he might have only been looked at as a minor gun-toting punk from Texas, according to author-historian, Jeff Guinn.
Bonnie and Clyde met sometime in early 1930. They began their criminal careers as a team in 1932. That was when Clyde, with the aid of Bonnie, broke out of prison. Their career didn’t last long — they died in a hail of bullets on May 23, 1934.
The duo, along with other members of their gang, like Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche, took part in about 100 robberies. Some were better planned than others, and went off without a hitch, while others were botched.
Though the bigger robberies that Bonnie and Clyde and their gang committed are remembered the most, the majority of their robberies were of gas stations and small rural grocery stores. Often, these sorts of robberies were just barely enough to finance their lifestyles until their next robbery. They certainly didn’t get rich through their criminal activities, though their robberies of banks did enrich their coffers and add to their fame.
Fame is what they were looking for, and Bonnie and Clyde wanted to make a good impression by their appearance. Clyde took pains to have regular haircuts, and they both dressed in stylish clothes.
The illicit love that Bonnie and Clyde shared, along with the trail of dead bodies they left behind, of course, also added to their fascination in the public’s eye, as Americans read about their exploits in the newspapers of the day.
Bonnie and Clyde and their gang were responsible for the deaths of at least four civilians and nine police officers. Clyde Barrow wasn’t always the person who did the killings, but he was behind many of them. He was definitely not the romantic type that he’s sometimes been portrayed as being, though he did have a softer side to his character, and he probably genuinely loved Bonnie.
Reports that Bonnie was a cold-blooded killer like Clyde are just one of the fallacies about the lives and criminal careers of Bonnie and Clyde. Many of the details of their criminal lives have been lost to the sands of time, if they were ever recorded in the first place.
However, Bonnie’s role in the crimes has probably been exaggerated. Eyewitnesses of the time have stated that Bonnie didn’t fire a gun very often, and they are also in agreement that she likely never took part in shooting anyone.
In cartoons, pulp detective magazines, newsreels, and newspapers, Bonnie was often portrayed as being a machine gun toting killer. Yet, W.D. Jones, a member of their gang, couldn’t remember a time when she ever fired at any police officers.
There is a tale from Bonnie and Clyde’s heyday that Bonnie finished off a policeman with a bullet to his head, and that she made a joke about how the cop’s head bounced. That report has been discredited, though, and it is just one more of the fallacies that got to be a part of the lore about Bonnie and Clyde.
Another of the fallacies about Bonnie is that she smoked cigars. She actually chain-smoked Camels, though Bonnie might have posed with one for photos.
On June 10, 1933, CLyde Barrow totalled their car in a wreck. Bonnie’s leg was badly burned in the accident. She wasn’t able to get proper medical attention, and by the end of their criminal careers, she had problems even walking.
Bonnie was 23 when she died. Clyde was two months past 25. They both would probably have been surprised, but also honored, that their names and fame have survived for this long.
The made-for-television star-studded two-part miniseries, Bonnie & Clyde, is being televised Sunday, December 8, and Monday, December 9, on three different networks: History, A&E, and Lifetime. It stars Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) as Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The criminal exploits of Bonnie and Clyde have intrigued the American public for eight decades now, and their names and notoriety have made them legends.
The four-hour, two-night miniseries Bonnie & Clyde was directed by Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford and Executive Produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the duo who were also behind The Sound of Music Live! The all-star cast of Bonnie & Clyde includes Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Sarah Hyland, Elizabeth Reaser, Lane Garrison, Austin Hebert and Dale Dickey.
The real-life criminal exploits of Bonnie & Clyde made them famous, but they were many fallacies about their lives that have managed to be passed down over the decades since they lived. Their criminal careers were short-lived, but filled with lost of robberies and violence. That, and the perception of Bonnie & Clyde being tragic lovers who, unfortunately, turned to a life of crime, have assured that the names Bonnie & Clyde have become a permanent part of the American psyche.