C.W. Moss Never Existed
In Arthur Penn’s film, Bonnie and Clyde are seen picking up a cute, slightly dopey teenager named C.W. Moss (played by Michael J. Pollard), that they find at a gas station.
In reality, C.W. Moss never existed; he was a combination of two of Bonnie and Clyde’s accomplices, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin. The first two-thirds of the character’s story arc is based on Jones. The story arc in the last act, when Moss’s father works out a deal with Hamer’s posse to turn in Bonnie and Clyde, is based on Henry Methvin.
Ordinarily, making composites of people for the sake of artistic license is fair game; the problem is that Penn’s movie also made a brand-new character out of this composite to misrepresent Bonnie and Clyde, as well as downplay their crimes.
For instance, C.W. is blamed for why Bonnie and Clyde kill an innocent man and are forced to finally go on the run as fugitives. He is also shown gunning down tons of police officers later on. Lastly, he is made out to be the gang’s mechanic, to lead the impression that he was the getaway driver.
In reality, the only person who was responsible for killing anyone and setting the Barrow Gang on its two-year crime and murder spree was Clyde Barrow. Although some of his accomplices killed people, Clyde was definitely responsible for many of the deaths, either killing victims himself or letting it be known to his accomplices that they were to shoot to kill any time the police ambushed or came close to arresting anyone.
Clyde was also the driver almost all of the time, as it was his knowledge of cars, roads, as well as his exceptional driving skills that enabled him to evade authorities for two years. As W.D. Jones explained in a 1968 Playboy interview, Clyde didn’t dare trust anyone to drive and the most he ever did was help change a tire or be the driver when Clyde was too tired. So, the C.W. Moss character was more than artistic license; it was a cynical attempt to make Bonnie and Clyde look more innocent than they truly were.
C.W. Moss was also created to make them look cooler, hipper and more attractive by completely downplaying how attractive and stylish W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin were in real life. If you have any doubt as to this, all you have to do is look at the photos below:
As you can see, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin couldn’t have been less like Moss in real life. They dressed in sharp clothing, were clean cut and looked even more stylish and cosmopolitan than the real-life Bonnie and Clyde. In fact, both had the “movie star looks” that the Arthur Penn film tried so desperately to give the lead characters.
Looking at how Jones and Methvin appeared in real life, you can see why a movie wanting to sex up and glamorize Bonnie and Clyde couldn’t have a composite that reflected how they looked and dressed, so Moss was crafted to look as unhip, slovenly and country bumpkin-ish as possible.