The real Bonnie and Clyde.
In 1967, a film was made called Bonnie and Clyde. Although it’s based somewhat on fact, it has coloured a generation’s views about this outlaw couple. Gorgeous Faye Dunaway and handsome Warren Beatty inaccurately portrayed the couple.
They were not the cunning and intelligent criminals they appeared to be. They were also youngsters. When they were ambushed and killed, Clyde was only twenty five and Bonnie a mere twenty three.
Both were small in stature. Bonnie was only five feet tall and weighed about ninety pounds. Clyde was short and pretty scrawny too. When they were ambushed and killed, the public were surprised to see that these ‘villains’ were so young and tiny.
Bonnie Parker was a romantic, family-loving girl. She married at the age of sixteen. It didn’t last. He was soon in jail for robbery and Bonnie, with a fine feeling of delicacy, thought it wouldn’t be ‘fair’ to divorce him under those circumstances. So she worked in a boring job as a waitress.
She met the rather weedy Clyde at the home of a neighbour. The law was already closing in on him because he was already a petty criminal and he was arrested in Bonnie’s mother’s living room. Romantically, she said she would stick by him- she was sure he’d been framed. When he was transferred to a prison in Waco she followed him, pretending to be his wife so that she could visit him.
The first crime she committed was smuggling a gun into the prison which allowed Clyde to escape.
He was soon caught. Bonnie remained at home – still faithful – and wrote to her twenty one year old beau every day. But soon,she started seeing another man and the letters stopped. On the prison farm where he worked, Clyde persuaded a friend to injure him (by cutting off a couple of toes) so that he could be transferred to the prison hospital. Meanwhile his mother was lobbying for his release.
He was paroled and went straight to Bonnie. She told her mother that she had found an out-of-town job and joined Clyde and the other couple of men in his hapless ‘gang’. Things soon went wrong and when cornered by the police one of the gang, and Bonnie, were arrested. Her case was dismissed and she returned to her mother.Clyde was still on the run.
But the life she would lead in her hometown didn’t appeal to her at all. Within a week she rejoined Clyde. Both of them were very much family people and would return during holidays and celebration days to see their families (which eventually became part of their downfall). It was at Christmas when they were with their families that they recruited the sixteen year old WD Jones to join them. Soon,they were also joined by Clyde’s brother Buck, newly released from prison,and his wife Blanche.
They were still no smarter. They were hiding out in Joplin when they were found by the police. They got away but left photographs and other papers to confirm their identities. Largely because of the rather trigger happy and rather dumb WD Jones, and the Joplin shoot-out, they were wanted for murder. This captured the public imagination and before long, just about every unsolved robbery and murder in the country were attributed to ‘the Barrow Gang’.
But in fact, they weren’t actually awfully good at their chosen trade. This was during the Great Depression and even banks produced poor results. Often, the haul would be bags of nickels and dimes.
Clyde was a fast driver and the inevitable accident happened. Bonnie was badly burnt. Without proper medical care, it’s astonishing that she survived but she was in pain and almost crippled for the rest of her days. Still on the run, they holed up on a motel but they were discovered and the result was another shoot out in which Buck was badly shot. They escaped but after they had hidden out in the woods the law was alerted when Bonnie’s stained bandages were found. In the ensuing melee, Buck and Blanche were arrested. Buck was soon to die from his gunshot wounds. Both Clyde and Bonnie received gunshot wound but remained free. WD Jones was arrested shortly afterwards.
They then travelled to a Texas prison where they broke a former gang member, Raymond Hamilton, from jail. He brought along several fellow-prisoners one of which was Henry Methvin – who was to be their downfall. Bonnie and Clyde soon ridded themselves of their passengers but the law were now closing in. WD Jones, now in jail, gladly gave the law the schedule they followed, the regular hideouts and their holiday stopovers.
Henry Methvin too had a grudge. He had arranged to meet Clyde and told the police about the rendezvous. With the police Henry arranged that his father should park his truck in a place where Bonnie and Clyde would pass, forcing their car to slow down. Methvin Senior duly parked his truck, jacked it up, placed a spare wheel beside it and fled to hide.
When Bonnie and Clyde’s car appeared. the car slowed as planned. At this point, the hidden lawmen opened fire, riddling the car, and the outlaw couple, with bullets. Locals swarmed to the site eager to see the bodies of the pair who had been in the headlines so often. It’s quite possible that they felt rather abashed when they saw how young and how small the outlaws were.
Clyde was twenty five, Bonnie twenty three.