Bonnie and Clyde were Neither Lusty Sexpot and Hot Stud Muffin or 1960s Fashion Plates–Just Baby-Faced Pipsqueaks with Guns
One of the reasons why I consider Arthur Penn’s movie so despicable is that it exploited several human weaknesses to turn two sociopaths into a pair of extremely likable, cool role models. For instance, Bonnie Parker was transformed into a lusty ice blonde sexpot with raging hormones on the prowl getting turned on by Clyde Barrow, a stud just oozing with testosterone.
Not only were Bonnie and Clyde given raw sex appeal, they were turned into the ultimate fashion plates, looking stylish in the sharpest clothes and with the best hair and makeup. Dunaway and Beatty cut such a stylish figure that the movie actually inspired “Gangster Chic” in the fashion world as soon as it came out, one that had1960s bohemians trading their love beads and bellbottoms for the “Bonnie and Clyde” look.
So, what were the real gangster couple like–really? In real life, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow couldn’t have been further removed from their onscreen counterparts. Not only were the pair just out of their teens physically or mentally, they looked like it, too. Bonnie Parker, while cute by 1930s standards, was nevertheless a kewpie doll of a woman who looked less 1967 Playmate of the year than Clara Bow. Her hair wasn’t “Swedish blonde”, either–more strawberry blonde (blonde with red highlights). It’s neither here nor there, because Bonnie would dye her hair different shades throughout the duration of her and Clyde’s crime spree.
Clyde Barrow, in real life, was also not a hunk, but a baby-faced punk with dimples and jug ears. Again, like Bonnie, he might’ve been somewhat cute by the standards of the time, but hardly a fully mature gigolo or ladies’ man just oozing pheromones out of every pore.
As for their physique, both were small–particularly Bonnie, who was a doll-like figure under 5 feet and weighing less than 100 pounds. Clyde Barrow wasn’t exactly tiny, but just slightly below the average for males, which was 5’7′. So, he and Bonnie were hardly the statuesque figures depicted by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.
Nor were they the chic and cool runway models as depicted in the Arthur Penn film. Bonnie was more or less dressed like all women did at the time, in the outfits and hairstyle of a frumpy, conservative middle-aged dowager, covered from head to toe with hemlines down to her ankles.
Clyde wore stylish suits, yes, but looked more like a grown-up Alfalfa from Our Gang cosplaying as John Dillinger or some other popular gangster at the time. You can see how impish he looked standing next to two of his buddies, Henry Methvin and Raymond Hamilton.
How disappointing, huh? The real-life Bonnie and Clyde were not gorgeous runway models in super chic outfits, and certainly not sexpots oozing with sex appeal and looking like they came out of a Playboy centerfold or a stag film. They were baby-faced pipsqueaks with guns who dressed and groomed in the stuffy conservative style of their parents and grandparents. Of course, to sell this couple as cool and badass, the Arthur Penn movie had to reinvent a pair of runts in a way to appeal to shallow 1960s hipsters, so that’s what it did.