Hollywood: The Shock of Freedom in Films

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Dramatic Irony
In portraying the archcriminal as the boy next door, Bonnie and Clyde displays a dramatic irony that gives the picture much of its vitality and stature. It is the irony that weds laughter and horror, belly laughs and bullets in the face, life and death. Clyde holds up a bank — which has failed three weeks previously. C.W. Moss's father belts him across the mouth, not for consorting with murderers but because he has got himself tattooed. Bonnie ex presses her wish to settle down near her mother. "You try to live three miles from me," says the mother mordantly, "and you won't live long, honey."

There are maudlin flaws in the film, however, and the gore sometimes flows in almost absurd, Grand Guignol quantities. Buck's death goes on and on, long after the audience is fully aware of his agonies. One scene of an Okie auto camp, where the dispossessed farmers huddle together in the humiliating dawn, is posed with a self-consciousness that elicits admiration for the masterly photography but no emotion for the wretchedness of the humans within the picture frame. Yet many other passages could hardly have been bettered: the vaporous, honey-colored scene in which the movie enters Bonnie's simple, sentimental mind as she visits her mother for the last time; the low comedy of the first successful heist; the slow dance on the killing ground that ends the film.

Like, Wow
It is little wonder that the picture has shaken up not only audiences but Hollywood as well, and elevated its principals to genuine star stature. Warren Beatty, a boyish 30, used to be known mostly as Shirley MacLaine's brother, an off-again-on-again actor who moonlighted as global escort of Natalie Wood, Leslie Caron, Julie Christie and Barbara Harris. A Mondo movie all by himself, he was like, wow, to the starlets but something else to the studios, which doubted his ability to produce the film. The studios now concede that as a producer Beatty was like, wow. He brought in the film on time and at its modest budget ($2,500,000). As for his acting future, he can pretty much name his own price and project.

Faye Dunaway, 26, the Florida-born daughter of a U.S. Army master sergeant, was an original member of Elia Kazan's Lincoln Center Repertory Company, and brought her special brand of sparkle to the off-Broadway hit Hogan's Goat. But in Hollywood Faye was indistinguishable from the rest of the bleachers in the crowd. One of 100 girls considered for Bonnie, she got the part a few days before shooting began.

Today she is a suddenly recognizable presence as she strides through the fashion pages in the suddenly popular '30s-style dresses and suits like the ones she wore in the film. The supporting players were even more obscure than the stars. Michael J. Pollard, 28, had a few minor parts to his credit before Bonnie and Clyde, usually playing an ungainly amalgam of chagrin and Silly Putty; he is almost certain to get an Oscar nomination for his slobbery, hound-dog portrayal of C.W. Moss.

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