The Shooting of “Bonnie & Clyde” — 1966

by Paula Bosse

bonnie-clyde_unt_113066On location: Greenville Avenue (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the 80th anniversary of the ambush and killing of Bonnie and Clyde. Since I’ve written about Ted Hinton (one of the ambushers and erstwhile motor lodge operator) and Clyde Barrow (as a not-yet-completely-delinquent 17-year old) (and dressed up in a sailor suit), why not a brief look at the movie?

I was hoping to find a bunch of local as-it-was-happening anecdotes in the newspaper archives, but I found very little. (Hey, Dallas — you had a major motion picture with Hollywood celebrites in it — couldn’t you have devoted a little more ink to it?)

The photo at the top is the only one I could find that showed shooting (…as it were) at a Dallas location. The above was shot at the Vickery Courts motor lodge at 6949 Greenville Avenue (just north of Park Lane, across Greenville and up a bit from where the old Vickery Feed Store was).

So photos were practically non-existent, but I did learn that the interiors were shot at a large soundstage on Dyer, just off Greenville, called Stage 2, owned by Bill Stokes of Bill Stokes & Associates (where I spent a blink-of-an-eye interning back in high school).

Below are two photos of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway between shots in Lavon, Texas, just outside Wylie — talking with one of the extras, Billy Joe Rogers, a saddlemaker from Wylie.

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The reactions to the finished movie from the local critics was interesting. The reviewer for The Dallas Morning News hated it. Hated it.

Bonnie and Clyde were a couple of rat punks who created terror in a vast area simply because they had no hesitation in gunning down those who stood in their way. […] They became for a brief span the nation’s most hunted outlaws and finally were shot down […] like the mad dogs they were. […] In a word: There is nothing entertaining about mad dogs; they should be killed — and quickly.

I don’t know anything about the reviewer, William A. Payne, but my guess is that he vividly remembered the real-life Bonnie and Clyde and, like many other reviewers of the time, deplored the perceived glamorization of violence. (As an aside, I wondered why I wasn’t finding listings for “Bonnie and Clyde” in the early ’30s when I searched through the Dallas Morning News archives. As I learned from Mr. Payne, the two were commonly known as “Clyde and Bonnie” back then. So there you go!)

The review from Elston Brooks of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, on the other hand, was ecstatic.

“Bonnie and Clyde,” which had every right to be a B-grade gangster shootout in double-breasted suits, is instead a shattering emotional experience, a fascinating film and  — oddly enough — an important motion picture.

My guess is that Brooks was about 30 years younger than Payne and had little, if any, personal connection to the real-life outlaws who killed real people.

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The film ran up against a lot of studio problems. Warner Bros. head Jack Warner called it “the longest two hours and ten minutes I ever spent,” and the plan was to dump the movie in drive-ins and second-string-movie houses and be done with it. But producer-star Beatty was persistent and got it into the Montreal Film Festival where the positive reviews as well as the 9,000-word rave from Pauline Kael in The New Yorker assured it got the attention it merited. And it did. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and is considered a classic move of the 1960s.

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The movie had its Southwestern premiere at the Campus Theater in Denton in September, 1967. Watch (silent) news footage of the premiere from WBAP-TV (Ch. 5) at the Portal to Texas History, here (it begins about the 4:41 mark). Here’s a screen capture of Warren Beatty that day — also appearing were Michael J. Pollard and Estelle Parsons.

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One last little interesting tidbit was what happened after the movie wrapped production in Dallas. Warren Beatty donated the so-called “death car” to a local wax museum. Unfortunately for the wax museum, the car’s bullet holes had been filled in to shoot another scene, so the museum had to search for someone to professionally and authentically re-riddle the car with bullet holes.

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It’s always something.

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Top dark and grainy photo of location shooting at Vickery Courts from The Campus Chat (newspaper of North Texas State University, Denton), Nov. 30, 1966. (Click for larger image.)

Photos of Beatty and Dunaway in Lavon, Texas from The Wylie News, Oct. 20, 1966. An article and more photos from the set (local extras, etc.) can be found here and here.

Article about the wax museum and the “death car” from The Dallas Morning News, Oct. 3, 1967.

The full movie reviews from The Dallas Morning News (thumbs way down!) and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (thumbs way up!) as well as an article on the fun and unusual bus trip that Beatty and other stars of the film took to some of the small towns they’d filmed in when they were back in the area for the local premiere in Denton, can be found in a PDF here.

And a good overview of the making of the film can be found at TCM’s website here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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