Berstein, Matthew. "Perfecting the New Gangster: Writing "Bonnie and Clyde"." Film Quarterly 53(2000): 16-31
Mathew Bernstein’s article in a 2000 publication of Film Quarterly entitled The New Gangster revolves around the writing and meaning of Bonnie and Clyde. The article covers the famed screenwriters, Robert Benton and David Newman and their obsession with French New Wave cinema and how it influenced the writers’ treatment and final draft of Bonnie and Clyde.
The article cites the two Esquire writers essay, The New Sentimentality, as their inspiration and foundation for their Bonnie and Clyde project. Bonnie and Clyde represented everything their essay stood for, “Bonnie and Clyde is about style and people who have style. It is about people whose style set them apart from their time and place so that they seemed odd and aberrant to the general run of society” (19).
The article then covers the gradual progression of the script from being a purely New Wave, irregular narrative, to a more classical, Hollywood narrative and back again. Oddly enough Bernstein claims that Francois Truffaut, while he was involved with the project, did more to Americanize the script than anything else. It was Arthur Penn that finally realized the film’s potential to break down barriers between American films and European art cinema.
The most interesting part of the progression of the film’s script comes from the racy sexuality that was originally part of the film. The first treatment of the script contained an active and well functioning sex life for the two protagonists, which of course was later switched to Clyde’s asexuality. The original script even contained strong hints of a threesome between Bonnie, Clyde and their partner C.W. Moss. However W.D. Jones, the actor originally cast for the role of Moss, was an entirely different actor, “he was an air-head, blond stud” (20). The final script shows a scene where Bonnie shrugs when Clyde turns her down, clearly sexually frustrated, but, “by contrast, in the first script draft, Bonnie casually walks to the door of the room and yells for Jones to come in to help them get going, as if she was calling him in for dinner” (21).
The clear toning down of the sexuality in Bonnie and Clyde can be seen as a compromise to allow the excessive violence to exist untouched. The many re-workings of the script saw a dramatic change from Benton and Newman’s original vision, but Penn and Beatty were able find the happy medium between overly New Wave and overly Hollywood.