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Published:December 12th, 2013 08:36 EST
The BBC Documentary 'The Real Bonnie & Clyde' Brings Me Much Closer To Home!

The BBC Documentary 'The Real Bonnie & Clyde' Brings Me Much Closer To Home!

By John G. Kays

I`ve spent just about my entire life searching for the truth about Bonnie & Clyde; reliable information has been rather scarce, yet recently, in 2009, some documents have emerged (a book and a BBC documentary), which are getting closer to  `The Real Bonnie and Clyde.` Okay, so I`ll have to forget about the A & E/History Channel miniseries once and for all; I don`t need to fail the B & C pop quiz anymore, I`ve already been doing that my entire life! This morning, I discovered a BBC documentary on YouTube, first broadcast on March 7, 2009, `The True Bonnie and Clyde.`

Eureka! I finally can view a reliable record telling me, in some instances, new information on the outlaw couple, who in the wake of their dramatic, violent demise, have managed to linger continually in the blurry mists of myth and legend. Why is this so? I`ve been asking myself this same hard question since 1967, when I went downtown in Dallas (where I lived), to the Majestic Theater, and a 13-year-old was shocked out of my britches by the Arthur Penn movie! So, why, heretofore, has the story eluded the grasp of history?  

The best theory I can come up with, is that people were right in the midst of the Depression, were very poor, and were in bad need of entertainment. The local newspapers were experiencing the exact same phenomenon, and clearly needed to sell more newspapers. Bonnie & Clyde gave them this opportunity and the newspapers sold like hotcakes. Also, people were in bad need of heroes; that is, someone who was experiencing the exact same plight of poverty, no job, foreclosure, and no sympathy from the greedy banks. In short, no hope in life! Reading about the daring bravado of B & C, robbing banks and always getting away scott free, in Clyde`s weapon of choice, a powerful V-8 Ford, was ecstasy for the Depraved!

Another factor in not ever getting the real story, is the unreliability of facts reported in the news. Well, in the case of the killing of two highway patrolmen (H. D. Murphy and Edward Bryant Wheeler) in Grapevine, Texas on Easter Sunday (April 1, 1934), it`s not really the fault of the reporters, when an eyewitness farmer had lied, saying that Bonnie had administered a coup de grace, shooting an already wounded patrolman Edward Bryant Wheeler at point blank range. This had the side effect of imposing a very bad image on Bonnie, that of a ruthless, Killer Moll! This ends up being the image we are left with; it never leaves, even though we know it`s incorrect. This is what we prefer to believe, not the historical truth.

Once again, I`m most happy to own a copy of Go Down Together by Jeff Guinn. And it was quite a surprise to see Jeff in the BBC documentary clarifying many important points about the misunderstood bandit twosome. Two points he made stand out to me just now; one, is the social context of Bonnie and Clyde, coming from the poverty stricken district of West Dallas, where any hope of social mobility was next to nil. Thus, their becoming outlaws on the lam is almost an inevitability, and especially once Clyde was wanted for the murder of a law officer; the electric chair in Huntsville was the only thing poor Barrow had to look forward to.

Another important item (two) we need to remember, mentioned by Jeff Guinn, is that law enforcement was local, poor themselves, and primitive in their techniques of investigation. B & C`s flagrant crime spree put a fire under law enforcement to get their act together. We ought to credit former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer some for this, who trailed the desperadoes relentlessly, and used many methods tracking them, that smack of modernity, such as noticing a pattern to how the Barrow Gang moved from state to state. Okay, even J.Edgar Hoover got in the act, personally interviewing Blanche Barrow, who was captured at the Dexfield Park shootout (see famous photo), where Buck got it but good.