Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

A Memorable Scene From…Bonnie and Clyde, 1967

Posted by Max Lalanne on May 19, 2012

A Memorable Scene From…. is a series of articles I’ll attempt to do every two days or so about classic, must-see films that I have just experienced for the first time or that I’m rewatching. I’ll pick one memorable, somewhat important scene and write about it in detail, exploring whatever the scene has to offer. Today, it’s alll about Bonnie and Clyde!

Somewhere in the middle of Bonnie and Clyde, following a successful bank robbery or something – what, I don’t remember clearly – Clyde (Warren Beatty), Bonnie (Faye Dunaway), and the rest of the Barrow Gang pull off a country road next to a river to take a rest. While Clyde goes off to relieve himself, the others joke around in the car, completely unaware that a car has stopped nearby and Texas Ranger, Cpt. Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle) is stealthily if foolishly approaching alone, gun in hand from the back. Before he gets too close though – “Hey, Sheriff!” – Clyde fires a warning shot, quickly disarming the Texas Ranger and alerting the others.

After trying Frank up with his own handcuffs, the gang step back and ponder what to do with him. The enthusiastic C.W Moss (Michael J. Pollard) suggests shooting the guy, which is so quickly shot down by Blanche (Estelle Parsons) with a loud protesting “No!!!” that makes the ever-watchful Frank take a second, and more thoughtful look at her. That outburst serves the Texas Ranger well, for later on in Bonnie and Clyde when he’s out of this predicament and hunting them down, he knows that Blanche is the weak link in this gang. Very smart and somewhat foreboding moment to add in the screenplay.

But back to the scene. The ever-wicked Bonnie comes up with a oh-so-brilliant suggestion, a typically Barrow Gang moment, a classic Bonnie and Clyde moment that really shows these wild characters the best – they’re going to take a friendly picture posing with the handcuffed Texas Ranger, as if they were old friends, and then send the incriminating photo to all the newspapers further humiliating the lawman and whatnot. So Bonnie and Clyde go and sit and pose and joke around on the car with the admirably steady and silent Frank, while Buck (Gene Hackman) snaps the shot. But after Bonnie kisses Frank on the mouth (!), the guy snaps and, infuriated, spits right on her face.

Immediately the air turns sour. Clyde also snaps, with his amicable attitude gone up in wisps as his violent tendencies come into frame – one of the only moments where we do see them – and Buck tries to restrain his angry bro from beating Frank up. They furiously manhandle the still-handcuffed Frank onto a random canoe – why was a canoe there, by the way? – and send him floating out in the lake, yelling taunts while still feeling, I wager, cheated and embarassed. The last moment of the scene is a far shot of the canoe with Frank inside helplessly, looking around. And the last moment of Bonnie and Clyde is a medium shot of a satisfied, if pensive, Frank and his deputies holding smoking sub-machine guns, looking down at the bloody bullet-riddled bodies of, you guessed it, Bonnie and Clyde.

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