15 Incredible Facts About ‘Bonnie & Clyde,’ 50 Years Later

by Shanee Edwards
Aug 11, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. ET

The legend of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow has enthralled us for almost a century. A bad boy and a hopelessly romantic poet robbing banks and having adventures through America’s Southwest was perfect fodder for Hollywood. The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Winning two Academy Awards and nominated for eight more, the movie is a staple for cinephiles and film students around the world. Here are 15 surprising facts about the film.

1 /13: Beatty's star power

1/13 :Beatty's star power

Warren Beatty wanted to see his name alone above the title. Even as he shot the film, he resisted giving Faye Dunaway equal billing. After he saw the final version of the film, however, he realized the strength of Dunaway's performance and agreed to give her star billing. But it came at a price since Dunaway had to return $25,000 of her $60,000 salary.

2 /13: Man of muscle

2/13 :Man of muscle

In the film, Beatty plays Clyde as a fit man with no limp.  But in real life, Clyde wasn't quite so able-bodied. When he wanted to transfer out of the harsh Eastham Prison Farm where he was forced into backbreaking labor, he asked another inmate to cut off part of his foot with an axe. Clyde lost his big toe and part of the second toe, giving him a limp and forcing him to remove his shoe in order to drive. Ironically, he was released on parole six days after the injury. In movies, characters based on real people are often romanticized to make the viewing experience more exciting.

3 /13: Opposites attract

3/13 :Opposites attract

Some historians believe that the real Clyde was bisexual and that he and Bonnie had threesomes. However, others argue that Clyde was simply gay and that he and Bonnie didn't have sex at all. In the script, a scene where Clyde and C. W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) get romantic was cut out. The filmmakers decided to make Clyde impotent instead of gay or bisexual.

4 /13: Casting Faye Dunaway

4/13 :Casting Faye Dunaway

Many actors were considered for the role of Bonnie, including Cher, Shirley MacLaine (before her brother, Warren Beatty, decided to play Clyde in the film), Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret and Beatty's then-on-again, off-again girlfriend Natalie Wood, who attempted suicide when she found out she didn't get the role.

5 /13: 'A screaming horse's ass'

5/13 :'A screaming horse's ass'

Estelle Parsons played Clyde's sister-in-law, Blanche Barrow, in the film. The real Blanche Barrow sued Warner Bros. because she didn't like the way she was depicted in the film, telling author-historian John Neal Phillips, "That movie made me look like a screaming horse's ass!" Parsons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for that role.

6 /13: Fashion icon

6/13 :Fashion icon

Faye Dunaway hoped to wear trousers as Bonnie, making it easier to engage in gun fights and hop into getaway cars, but costume designer Theadora Van Runkle wanted a more glamorous look with a beret, straight skirts and a short jacket. Once the movie released, the "Bonnie look" became the go-to outfit for American women.

7 /13: Smoke 'em if ya got 'em

7/13 :Smoke 'em if ya got 'em

In real life, Bonnie was known to chain-smoke Camel cigarettes, but not cigars like in her photos. Because the photos were so iconic, the filmmakers also had Dunaway smoke cigars.

8 /13: The 'Zorro' move

8/13 :The 'Zorro' move

Buck Barrow (Gene Hackman) hops over the teller's cage in one of the bank robbery scenes. The move was inspired by real-life gangster John Dillinger, who claimed he learned the move from watching Zorro movies.

9 /13: Corpse dancing

9/13 :Corpse dancing

In the death scene, Bonnie and Clyde are showered with bullets. The scene goes back and forth between regular motion and slow motion, making the bodies appear to dance (a trick the editor learned from watching Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai). Also, the last shot is filmed from within the car, as if Bonnie is looking out the window. This ending changed the way Hollywood tackled violence in films, inspiring filmmakers to up the amount of blood, bullets and gore.

In real life, the coroner taking care of Bonnie and Clyde reported 17 bullet holes in Clyde's body and 26 in Bonnie's, making it difficult to embalm their bodies. The fluid would leak from the holes.

10 /13: No 'Baby Driver'

10/13 :No 'Baby Driver'

To shoot the death scene where Bonnie's torso flops out of the car door, her leg had to be tied to the gearshift, otherwise, she would have toppled completely out of the car.

The real car is currently on display in the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada.


11 /13: The 'La La Land' incident

11/13 :The 'La La Land' incident

To honor the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, the Academy invited Beatty and Dunaway to present the Oscar for Best Picture at the recent Academy Awards. They were handed the wrong envelope and Dunaway announced that La La Land had won when the real winner was Moonlight.

12 /13: Jack Warner hated the film

12/13 :Jack Warner hated the film

In the 1960s, filmmakers in Hollywood began taking inspiration from the French new-wave film style. As producer, Beatty wanted to use the style for this film, but studio exec Jack Warner told him that he would only finance the film if it were shot in the style of Warner Brother's '30s and '40s gangster movies. When Beatty resisted, Warner pointed to the giant water tower outside the window that read WB, saying it's his studio, not Beatty's. But Beatty told him, "Those are my initials."

Warner gave in. But during his first screening of the film, he got up three times to use the bathroom because he couldn't stand the movie. 

13 /13: So romantic

13/13 :So romantic

The poem Dunaway reads in the film called "The Story of Suicide Sal" was written by the real Bonnie Parker. Bonnie was said to be an excellent writer, and wrote a collection of 10 poems when she was sitting in prison after a failed robbery attempt. Two weeks before she died, Bonnie gave her mother a poem that predicted her own death. The last verse read:

Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side,
To a few it’ll be grief—
To the law a relief—
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.