Today, I’m happy to participate to the 4th annual Dueling Divas Blogathon hosted by Lara Gabrielle Fowler from Backlots. As a topic, I chose Bonnie & Clyde directed by Arthur Penn in 1967. This is simply one of my very favourite movies or, more precisely, my favourite movie of the 60’s.
We all know the story of Bonnie & Clyde, those two American outlaws who were robbing banks during the Great Depression (1932-1934 more precisely). Their activities took place in the South-West of the States. These gangsters were well-known for their ways to escape the police. Having rob many banks and killed some people (mainly policemen), they were the most wanted American outlaws of the time. But on May 23rd, 1934, they died in an ambush strained by the police in Louisiana. We have to know that, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not alone. They were actually part of The Barrow Gang including themselves, Buck Barrow (Clyde’s brother), Blanche Barrow (Buck’s wife) and also some friends: W.D Jones, Henry Methuen (whose father helped the texas lawmen Frank Hamer to plan Bonnie and Clyde’s death), Raymond Hamilton, Joe Palmer, Ralph Fults and Margie “Maggie” Hamilton. In the movie, the members of the Barrow gang are a bit different: Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), Clyde (Warren Beatty), Buck (Gene Hackman) and Blanche Barrow (Estelle Parsons) but also a certain C.W Moss (Michael J. Pollard), a fictional character who is actually a combination of both W.D Jones and Henry Methvin (it’s his father, in the film, who helps Frank Hamer to plan Bonnie and Clyde’s death. At this point of the film, Buck Barrow is already dead and Blanche is in the prison’s hospital because she became blind).
Well, that was just an introduction to understand better the story of Bonnie & Clyde. But let’s focus on our Dueling Divas Blogathon. As I mentioned, in the movie, two women are part of the Barrow Gang: Bonnie Parker (played perfectly by Faye Dunaway) and Blanche Barrow (played very well too by Estelle Parson who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar Actress). But there is a big rivalry between those two girls! Of course, the details in real life and the details in the film probably change, but we’ll focus on the film as this is a blogathon about cinema. We’ll try to understand this rivalry and see why they can’t stand each other.
First, we have to know that Bonnie and Blanche get involved in the robberies and are members of the Barrow gang for different reasons. Bonnie is a waitress who hates her job and, when she meets Clyde, it’s the occasion for her start a more “interesting” life. So, she decides to go with him and they start to rob banks. All that matter for Bonnie is to stay with Clyde because she loves him, and for that, she is ready to commit crimes. We also remember that it’s Bonnie who pushes Clyde to do the first hold-up and it’s her own decision to stay with Clyde. After he kills a man, Clyde wants to send Bonnie home so she won’t be in danger, but she refuses. Blanche Barrow is the daughter of a pastor who married another outlaw, Buck Barrow. She becomes a member of the Barrow gang because it seems that she can’t leave her husband, but she really doesn’t like to be part of it and, from the minute she appears on screen, we see she is really not comfortable with all this business. When they first meet, we immediately notice that the two girls won’t stand each other. They are, first, polite, but we can see Blanche doesn’t like Bonnie’s personality and Bonnie doesn’t like Blanche’s princess’s manners and behaviour. This one is always complaining. When Clyde wants to take a picture of her with Buck, she blubbers because she doesn’t want to. Bonnie looks at her in a very serious way and seems to think “Oh my, she’s going to spoil everything.” On the other hand, at this point of the film, it’s still hard to say what the relation between Bonnie and Blanche will become. Will they get along with each other? Will they politely dislike each other like they do in this scene? Or will they furiously express out loud their feeling of hate?
Not a long time after they meet, Bonnie, Blanche, Clyde, Buck, and C.W are moving to Missouri in two separate cars. At first, we see Buck and Clyde in one car. They are having fun and Buck tells a joke to Clyde. Then, we see Bonnie and Blanche in the other car. They are quiet, not speaking to each other. Bonnie drives with an unhappy expression on her face and Blanche is looking at the window, turning her back to Bonnie. Blanche makes a forced smile and it seems that she tries to say something, but she doesn’t. The chemistry between the two girls is not very good. Then, when they arrived at their new home, Blanche visits it. She is very enthusiast and keeps saying with her annoying voice “Oh, this is beautiful!” and other things like that. Bonnie can’t stand the noise she and her other fellows make, so she goes back to her room. She is soon joined by Clyde and she makes a not very flattering imitation of Blanche. Clyde stops her because he doesn’t want Blanche to hear her. Then, we understand one first reason why Bonnie doesn’t like Blanche or, may I say, Blanche presence. She wishes to be alone with Clyde and the coming of the others, especially the noisy Blanche, disturbs their peace.
Unfortunately, the Barrow gang doesn’t stay very long in this house because they have to escape from a police raid. When Clyde says to the others that there are policemen outside, Blanche starts to panic and stars to scream and the gunshots start. Many policemen are killed by the Barrow gang who manages to escape. In the car, Blanche is not there. She is running on the grass and screams. They approach with the car so she can come in. Inside the car, everybody panics and then, Bonnie, unable to contain her rage, explodes and say to Blanche: ” You almost get us killed!” and then, Blanche answers: “What did I do wrong?! I thought you’d be happy I get killed?” The argument continues between the two ladies when Bonnie answers: “Yes, it would have saved us a lot of troubles!” Blanche asks for Buck to take her defense and wants to stop all this, but he explains to her that she can’t because they are all involved in those crimes. Bonnie wants her to “shut up” and Clyde gets mad at her. Anyway, this is quite a moment of panic for all the members of the Barrow gang. In a way, this is an understandable situation because they almost get killed. And Bonnie probably didn’t really mean what she said to Blanche. We also notice that Blanche never really says things directly against Bonnie. She annoys her, but kind of unintentionally and then, Bonnie reacts. Then, Bonnie and Clyde get out of the car. They have an argument about Blanche, but Bonnie calms down and explains she was just frightened by the gunshots. So, this confirms the fact that she didn’t really mean what she said to Blanche. After that, everything is more peaceful in the car. Blanche and Bonnie don’t talk to each other, but at least they aren’t fighting.
After she robs a bank, the Barrow gang stops in an area to split the money. Blanche is jealous of Bonnie because this one gets her share of money and she doesn’t. So she asks Buck to say to Clyde that she wants her share of money too. Bonnie doesn’t understand the purpose, but she doesn’t say more. This time, it’s Blanche who says what she thinks of Bonnie. She accuses her of always being sarcastic. Bonnie doesn’t reply to that. Does it mean she agrees with Blanche? Maybe she has some regrets. She simply explains to Clyde that she could have given this money to her poor mother, but the discussion stops here and it doesn’t turn into a big fight like in the previous scene.
When they catch this couple from whom they steal the car, it’s the first time Blanche seems to have fun with the gang. They are making jokes and she laughs. She seems, for once, to forget Bonnie’s arrogance and seems to accept being part of the gang. In the next scene, Bonnie escapes because she wants to go back to go see her mother. So, the Barrow Gang looks for her and Blanche also helps them to find Bonnie. Thus, we understand that she must care for her a little, otherwise, she wouldn’t be screaming all around “Bonnie! Bonnie!” to find her. Bonnie and Blanche will still have some little arguments in the rest of the film, but never big ones. They just annoy each other without really meaning what they are saying, just like two sisters.
Later in the movie, the Barrow Gang still has to escape from a police raid, but during the night. This time, things don’t end well: Buck gets shot in the head and Blanche’s eyes are hurt. She prays the Lord to save them from this situation and asks Bonnie to call a doctor. Bonnie stays calm and explains to Blanche that they can’t move Buck. Instead of being mad at her, she comforts her. This is really one of the saddest scenes of the film. At this point, Bonnie understands that Blanche is part of her gang and she has to take care of her instead of hating her, especially because she is just about to lose her husband.
The next morning, the police surprise them again. Buck dies and Blanche is arrested. The Barrow gang is now in a really bad shape and decides to stay at C.W Moss’s father’s place. Frank Hammer visits Blanche to the prison hospital because he wants to know the name of this unknown member of the gang (C.W Moss). She reveals his name and then, Frank meets C.W’s father and, together, they plan Bonnie and Clyde’s death. But can we say that Blanche has betrayed the gang? I don’t think so. First, she is blind and didn’t notice a policeman was talking to her and then, she seems to be very desperate and doesn’t know what to do. In my opinion, the real betrayer here is C.W’s Moss father.
Not a long time before they get killed by the police, Bonnie and Clyde are having a discussion together. Bonnie says to Clyde she wishes they can stop all this and start a new life, clean, and not pursued by the police anymore. Unfortunately, Clyde doesn’t understand Bonnie’s message. Here, Bonnie thinks the same way as Blanche. She understands that this is not a good way of life. However, Blanche has understood that at the beginning and Bonnie understands it at the end, when it’s too late. Bonnie doesn’t make allusion to Blanche in this scene, but she probably thought about her before she explained that to Clyde. They are killed not a long time after.
So, this rivalry between Blanche Barrow and Bonnie Parker is kind of ambiguous. In my opinion, they don’t really hate each other, they just have some difficulties to get along. As I said previously, they are like two sisters. They pretend not to like each other, but they are part of the same group and can accept to be patient with each other. In hard times, they are here to support each other. Of course, it never is the big love between the two women, but maybe if they would have met in different circumstance, more normal circumstance, they would have got along better. One thing is sure, they are very different, and each one has their flaws and qualities. In a way, they kind of complete each other…
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