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What the "Bonnie and Clyde" movie got wrong

5 Facts About the Infamous Crime Duo Bonnie and Clyde

In January 1930, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker met at a friend’s house in Dallas, Texas, and, as the legend goes, it was love at first sight. Their budding courtship was disrupted when Clyde was jailed a month later in Waco, but at Clyde’s request, Bonnie smuggled a gun into the jail, allowing Clyde and two other convicts to escape. It was a temporary freedom, however, as Clyde was soon captured in Ohio and extradited to Texas, serving almost two years in prison before being paroled in February 1932. Bonnie and Clyde were reunited soon after, and Bonnie became part of the Barrow Gang, which included several of Clyde’s friends, his brother Buck, and Buck’s wife, Blanche.

The news stories of Bonnie and Clyde’s criminal adventures captivated a downtrodden nation at the height of the Great Depression. Their outlaw antics and unlikely love story helped turn the gangster and his moll into folk heroes akin to Robin Hood and Maid Marian or Romeo and Juliet. But it wasn’t meant to last. After an increasingly violent crime spree that stretched almost two years, the pair was ambushed and killed by law enforcement in Louisiana in 1934. Their deaths made headlines across the nation, and thousands of people attended their funerals. Over the years, the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde became synonymous with a kind of romantic lawlessness usually reserved for tales of the Wild West. Here are five surprising facts about one of the most infamous crime duos in American history.

They were never married

Bonnie and Clyde were partners in crime who became immortalized in myth and legend — but they were never married, because Bonnie already had a husband. In 1926, just a few days before she turned 16, Bonnie Parker marriedher high school sweetheart, Roy Thornton. Their marriage was tumultuous and Thornton was often absent or in trouble with the law. The couple separated numerous times, and Bonnie’s mother Emma recommended divorce, but Bonnie refused. Though she was identified as “Mrs. Roy Thornton” in wanted posters and was still wearing her wedding ring when she was killed, Bonnie personally reverted to her maiden name, and her tombstone reads “Bonnie Parker.” Thornton, who was in prison for robbery when he learned of Bonnie’s death,said, “I’m glad they went out like they did. It’s much better than being caught.” Thornton was shot and killed three years later during an attempted prison break.

Their own photos contributed a their notoriety

When law enforcement raided a Barrow Ganghideout in Joplin, Missouri, officers recovered a camera and undeveloped film. The prints were developed and a few of the shots of Bonnie and Clyde ran in newspapers and tabloids. In one, Bonnie pointed a rifle at Clyde; in another, she had a cigar in her mouth and was holding a revolver. The images contributed to the couple’s notoriety, leading newspapers to describe Bonnie as a “cigar-smoking gun-moll.” But Bonnie’s cigar was just a prop borrowed from another member of the gang. “Tell them I don’t smoke cigars,” she later told a police officer they’d taken hostage and released, when he asked what she wanted the press to know. As for the guns she posed with, there’sno evidence that Bonnie ever killed, or even fired at, anyone. The FBI describes Bonnie’s criminal association with Clyde this way: “Though she probably never fired a shot, she was his willing accomplice.”  

They wrote poetry about their life of crime

When law enforcement raided a Barrow Ganghideout in Joplin, Missouri, officers recovered a camera and undeveloped film. The prints were developed and a few of the shots of Bonnie and Clyde ran in newspapers and tabloids. In one, Bonnie pointed a rifle at Clyde; in another, she had a cigar in her mouth and was holding a revolver. The images contributed to the couple’s notoriety, leading newspapers to describe Bonnie as a “cigar-smoking gun-moll.” But Bonnie’s cigar was just a prop borrowed from another member of the gang. “Tell them I don’t smoke cigars,” she later told a police officer they’d taken hostage and released, when he asked what she wanted the press to know. As for the guns she posed with, there’sno evidence that Bonnie ever killed, or even fired at, anyone. The FBI describes Bonnie’s criminal association with Clyde this way: “Though she probably never fired a shot, she was his willing accomplice.”  

Their “death car” is on display

One of the reasons Bonnie and Clyde were able to elude police for so long was that they were constantly on the run. With law enforcementpursuing them across the Midwest and Southwest — in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas — the couple resorted to setting up camp in rural areas and sleeping in cars they had stolen. Once there was enough evidence to pursue federal interstate auto theft charges, the FBI became involved in the chase, and it was only a matter of time before the infamous duo was caught. Today, the stolen car in which Bonnie and Clyde died is on display outside Las Vegas. Visitors to Primm Valley Casino Resortscan see the bullet-riddled 1934 V8 Ford sedan as well as the shirt Clyde was wearing when he was killed. The casino is believed to have paid$250,000 for the car in 1988.

The 1967 movie was more myth than fact

Following Bonnie and Clyde’s highly publicized deaths on May 23, 1934, their funerals were held on different days and they were buried indifferent cemeteries, despite Bonnie’s wishes. Their story was told, and retold, by family members and strangers, but for the most part it was just another tragic tale relegated to the annals of true crime history. The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, changed that forever, resurrecting Bonnie and Clyde’s legend for thecounterculture generation of the 1960s. The film portrayed the couple as glamorous, reckless gangsters who would rather die than surrender. However, Bonnie and Clyde biographer Jeff Guinn said the silver screen portrayal was “less than 5% historically accurate,” glossing over the grim reality of two young lovers from impoverished backgrounds who felt they had nothing left to lose. Despite the inaccuracies, Bonnie and Clyde became a seminal film of the New Hollywood era, hailed by film critic Roger Ebert as “a milestone in the history of American movies.”


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