They Committed a Whole Bunch of Grand Theft Auto and Carjackings, Too
If someone made a movie making heroes out of characters from the Grand Theft Auto series, you’d either scowl with contempt or laugh at the absurdity of it all. Yet that is exactly what the 1967 Arthur Penn movie did with Bonnie, Clyde and the rest of the Barrow Gang.
How so? In reality, Clyde was not a slick bank robber but an inveterate car thief and joy rider going back to his days as a juvenile delinquent. Carjacking and grand theft auto were so in his blood that it was these skills that helped him survive on the run for so long. During his and Bonnie’s almost two-year crime spree, the Barrow Gang stole a ridiculous number of cars, sometimes as many as two a week when police were hot on their trail. The theft had nothing to do with wanting to own them; it was a tactic that Clyde and the others used to evade authorities.
Besides evading the police, Clyde also needed to find cars with high speeds and the type of handling that could allow him to turn on a dime if approached by anyone suspicious. So, when one stolen car proved inconvenient, he would try to steal a different one that better suited him. The best car for this was the Ford V8, which he stole regularly, and his love of them was enough to where either he–or someone on behalf of him as a joke–wrote a letter thanking Henry Ford for having produced such a great vehicle.
A cartoon published in a Dallas newspaper, The Dallas Journal, also found Clyde’s carjacking skills funny, as shown in this cartoon. It depicted a sheriff trying to catch the Barrow gang, but less in a game of cat and mouse than Whack-A-Mole.
As cute and as funny as this may have seemed to some people at the time, the car jackings and countless thefts were no laughing matter to the countless victims of the Barrow Gang. Many victims had their cars stolen at gunpoint, and others were carjacked (taken along for the ride before they were dumped off). Some victims, like Doyle Johnson, were gunned down in cold blood. Of course, you would never know this, going by the Arthur Penn movie. You’re left with the impression that grand theft auto were beneath Bonnie and Clyde, because as stylish bank robbers, they were far too classy and sophisticated to commit something as lowbrow as car theft.