We're looking for contributors

Arthur Penn Dies: BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE MIRACLE WORKER, THE CHASE, FOUR FRIENDS

Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde
Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde

Arthur Penn

Arthur Penn, who died of congestive heart failure at his New York City home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at age 88, is best known for the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde, whose explicit violence was supposed to reflect the then-raging Vietnam War (or so those involved in the film claim).

Now, despite its undeniable qualities — Dede Allen's editing, Burnett Guffey's Oscar-winning cinematography, Michael J. Pollard and a few of his fellow actors — Bonnie and Clyde isn't one of my favorite gangster/crime movies.

I much prefer, for instance, Raoul Walsh's White Heat (1949), in which James Cagney plays a psychopathic criminal with a mommy fixation. Next to the mommy in that film, Margaret Wycherly, Bonnie and Clyde's Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway come across as spoiled brats with toy guns.

Yet, Bonnie and Clyde — not White Heat — has become a milestone in American film history. The buckets of spilled blood in that movie eventually led to more buckets of spilled blood in myriad other Hollywood productions, from Taxi Driver to the Friday the 13th flicks.

As for the sexual insights and motivations found in Bonnie and Clyde, well, there was nothing really new or daring about them. Once again, check out White Heat. Or Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. Or Roy Del Ruth's The Maltese Falcon. Or Howard Hawks' Scarface.

And as for the portrayal of criminals Bonnie and Clyde as glamorized anti-Establishment rebels, well, there was nothing groundbreaking about that particular approach. After all, Edward G. Robinson was an anti-Establishment rebel/criminal back in 1930 in Little Caesar, and so were James Cagney in Public Enemy, and Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sidney in City Streets in 1931, and Paul Muni in Scarface in 1932.

I'm not a fan of Penn's other prestige picture, The Miracle Worker (1962), either. Starring Oscar winners Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, I found this melodrama about the triumph of the human spirit both artificial and theatrical — perhaps because Penn, Bancroft, and Duke had worked on the story and characters on Broadway a zillion times before transferring them to the screen.

(Had they gone on to show that Helen Keller grew up to become a communist, I wonder how many The Miracle Worker fans would have wished Keller had remained a blind and deaf wild animal-like individual.)

Now, in addition to the well-known Little Big Man (1970), a sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans, I do like two underappreciated and lesser-known Penn efforts: The Chase (1966) and Four Friends (1981).

The Chase, an expensive flop that might have ruined Penn's career if it weren't for Bonnie and Clyde's success the following year, is an over-the-top melo — written by Lillian Hellman from Horton Foote's play — starring Marlon Brando as a sheriff on the look-out for fugitive Robert Redford while fighting small-town America corruption, hypocrisy, and overall nastiness. The extensive cast also includes Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson, E. G. Marshall, Janice Rule, James Fox, Martha Hyer, and veteran Miriam Hopkins.

Written by Steve Tesich, Four Friends chronicles the ups and downs in the life of a working-class young man (Craig Wasson) and three of his friends who come of age in the 1960s. A box office flop at the time, Four Friends shows a disturbing picture of American society that apparently wasn't what US audiences wanted to see the year Ronald Reagan became president.

If you enjoyed reading Arthur Penn Dies: BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE MIRACLE WORKER, THE CHASE, FOUR FRIENDS and/or found it an informative post, please recommend it to your friends. See share buttons above or on the left.
Arthur Penn Dies: BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE MIRACLE WORKER, THE CHASE, FOUR FRIENDS last modified:

Continue Reading: Kristen Bell-Jamie Lee Curtis' YOU AGAIN Jumps 26%: Box Office

Previous Post: San Sebastian Film Festival 2010 Winners


"Arthur Penn Dies: BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE MIRACLE WORKER, THE CHASE, FOUR FRIENDS" © 2004-2014 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s). Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.


Feel free to leave your comment about the Alt Film Guide article "Arthur Penn Dies: BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE MIRACLE WORKER, THE CHASE, FOUR FRIENDS" in the space below. Note: Different views and opinions are perfectly fine, but courtesy and respect are imperative. Abusive, bigoted, trollish, baseless (spreading rumors or misinformation), and inflammatory comments and/or remarks will be deleted, and such commenters may be banned.

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>




Ivor Novello: Top British Movie Star
Janet Gaynor Centennial
Cinefest 2008
Van Johnson: The Gay Boy Next Door
Claire Bloom TCM Schedule
Warren Beatty, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg: Governors Awards 2009
Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr, France Nuyen, Rod Gilfry, Michael Ritchie Photo: SOUTH PACIFIC Screening
Hedy Lamarr on TCM: ECSTASY, ALGIERS, TORTILLA FLAT
THE LETTER (1929) Review: Jeanne Eagels Sole Extant Talking Performance
Martha Stewart Still Alive?