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Published:December 10th, 2013 08:32 EST
Could Miniseries 'Bonnie & Clyde' Been Historically Accurate and Still Get High Ratings?

Could Miniseries 'Bonnie & Clyde' Been Historically Accurate and Still Get High Ratings?

By John G. Kays

I`m thankful for The History Channel (Lifetime and A & E) miniseries, Bonnie & Clyde, since it prods me to take a closer look at their real chronicle (if that`s even possible), which has some sharp contrasts with the entertaining miniseries, textured (as it is) by a clever blend of fact and fiction, and probably motivated by a grab for ratings, with the blockbuster the Hatfields & McCoys as its model. This version of Bonnie & Clyde was directed by Bruce Beresford and the script was produced by John Rice and Joe Batteer; I`m okay with what they wrote and filmed, since I have a copy of Go Down Together by Jeff Guinn by my side.

I`ve spent years trying to find the best (most accurate) history of the Depression-Era bandits, since so much of what you hear is not really what happened; this myth-making occurred in real time, with journalists making many errors. I`m not privy to a detailed breakdown of the methods of research employed by Jeff Guinn, but I do know he used every primary resource available to him. Jeff had a lot of untangling to do, especially after the inaccuracies detected in Arthur Penn`s 1967 classic, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (such as, Frank Hamer never met the star-crossed bandits in the flesh until May 23rd, 1934).

I`m clueless why they didn`t want to make the story as historically accurate as possible, since it was made for The History Channel! Well, I`ll not digress on how The History Channel has deteriorated or compromised its integrity since its initial launch iback n the late 1990s, but I will mention that the motive would have to be survival, and that`s based on receiving high ratings. Yet, I believe, had the storyboard been more documentary-like, the ratings would be just as high, if not higher. You don`t have to water down or tweak the real Bonnie & Clyde saga, it`s already intrinsically more interesting than anything conjured from a writer`s imagination.

One example of an inaccuracy in the miniseries, which gave me problems, was the infamous Platte City, Missouri shootout (July 20th,1933), which went down at the Red Crown Tavern and its adjoining two-cabin motor court, where the Barrow Gang felt safe in hiding out. Well, the A & E scene takes place in Florida, of all place; B & C never set foot in Florida, as far as I know (I`ll fact check from Go Down Together), and Frank Hamer (played by William Hurt) didn`t have anything to do with Platte City. What an insult to Missouri! Platte City is a famous part of their history; I know, `cuz my cousin Jeff, who lives in Columbia, Mo., has talked to those folks down there. It`s practically a historical museum now!

I loved Emile Hirsch`s portrayal of Bonnie Parker, don`t get me wrong, but I doubt she much resembled the real Bonnie, who might be better termed an elegant Southern Belle, ala West Dallas White Trash, trying to break out of the restrictions of poverty and a socially marginal class system imposed on her. The miniseries Bonnie is more wooden, ambitious, and ruthless than I prefer to think the historical Bonnie was. I tend to think her ambitiousness and longing for fame came after the fact; that is, once she and Clyde were on the lam in earnest, no turning back possible, her (inspirational) literary juices and perceptions of immortality took hold; just a theory, naturally.