Bonnie and Clyde, the Musical

Manolo says, two years ago, the Manolo did the little comparison of the real outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde, with the fake movie star outlaws, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, in which the Manolo came to the conclusion that the real Bonnie and Clyde were more stylish and elegant than the movie stars, using photos such as they for the examples….

Bonnie Parker and Faye Dunaway

Allow the Manolo to stipulate that you would have to be as tiny as Bonnie to pull off that fascinating blouse with the faux cropped-jacket detailing. It is far more original and impressive than anything cooked up by the talented Theadora Van Runkle, who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Costume Design for the movie.

These photos are also striking because the take us beyond the differences in clothing and physical beauty, (Faye Dunaway is indisputably beautiful, and dressed by the famous professional, and yet Bonnie outshines her) into the realm of attitude and posture and pose.

The pose is superficially the same, but while Bonnie is all sinuous s-curves (hips, bosom, arms, legs), Dunaway is angular and erect. Faye leans away from us, Bonnie leans in. Dunaway is imperious and haughty; Bonnie frank, direct, and exceedingly dangerous.

It is one of the most fascinating feminine comparisons the Manolo has ever seen.

And now, today, in the New York Times there is the not so favorable review of the new Broadway musical version of the Bonnie and Clyde, accompanied with these photos..

Bonnie and Clyde the Musical

Bonnie and Clyde, the Musical

That dress! The Manolo loves it all over again and gives special accolades to the costume designer, Tobin Ost, for including this striking example of the pre-war American design.

Unfortunately, as the NY Times reviewer notes, even with the right outfits, it is not the clothes that makes the scrappy, outlaw woman…

Ms. Osnes is a lovely young woman of fashion-model proportions and an instinctive, accessible elegance that reads Ingénue. (She was perfect as the romantic lead in the current revival of “Anything Goes.”)

I don’t think ingénue was what Bonnie Parker was about. Ms. Osnes brings to mind a Bennington girl slumming with rough trade on her semester off.

And this was also the biggest problem with Faye Dunaway, that she was essentially unconvincing as the Depression-Era, Texas outlaw. But, then again, this is the problem with most modern actors, that they lack the breadth of life experience to convincingly portray the historic figures. (For the example, generally likeable, pretty boy actors of moderate shallowness should not be allowed to play Achilles.)

Likewise, the Manolo has the difficult time even imagining the actress who could do credible justice to the Bonnie Parker. Perhaps the young Holly Hunter?

And now, as the special bonus, here is the Tobin Ost talking about some of the costumes for the Bonnie and Clyde musical…

5 Responses to “Bonnie and Clyde, the Musical”

  1. raincoaster December 3, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Emma Stone. She could do a great Bonnie. And this is going to sound demented, but never rule out Hilary Duff. She absolutely stole War Inc. out from under Cusack’s nose.

    • Mifty December 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      Emma Stone’s a bit too conventionally pretty, in my view, but she is the right age. Jessica Chastain has more the right look, but at 26 is a bit too old — and Faye Dunaway was far too old. Bonnie herself was dead and gone at 22.

  2. ChaChaHeels December 3, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Holly Hunter would make a good start, as she sort of nailed the aspect that the Bonnie character holds as her power really well in Raising Arizona. The reason actresses like Dunaway fail to capture that essence has more to do with not being familiar with (or allowed to depict) the social class of their characters, as well as the director’s insistence about the kind of female character portrayed. All those sinewy s curves, the poised-to-confront arms and legs and that squint–they’re impolite gestures of barely contained aggression in the real Bonnie, we all understand that. But in Dunaway’s pose you can tell you’re looking at a girl who’s had that coiled energy socialized out of her being. For someone who’s been taught that power comes from security, Dunaway’s haughty and erect pose–one that looks more defensive than offensive, as she does in that photo–would be more “natural”. I don’t think the real Bonnie ever got that kind of instruction.

    Don’t forget that there is a reason for this, and that has more to do with filmmaking’s “code” and formula for scripts about male and female relationships. We’re seeing these profound differences in the two photos not by accident, but by design. The photo of the real Bonnie is taken head on, like the photographer is facing her directly (as a good photographer would have, to capture her “essence”). In the photo of Faye, we’re removed and she’s not facing us at all, she’s turned away from us and her stance is far more vulnerable. Compare the angle of the gun in their hands: Bonnie looks like she’s pulling hers out of a holster to fire it at us, while Dunaway is holding the gun at her hip and pointing it forward, away from us and off to the side (and she’s not looking in that direction). The real Bonnie is not the Bonnie Faye Dunaway was hired to recreate: she’s too powerful and wild and self-determined, desperate from the constraints of the depression. The girl in the movie’s a pretty, bored and frustrated teenager who knows only that she wants to be notorious–and Bonnie and Clyde’s “love story” premise means that Bonnie will have to submit to her man’s right to be the “star” of the film. Hollywood’s not interested in telling the real story about Bonnie and Clyde. The film was meant to trample on some cinematic taboos and it did that (in terms of special effects and the depiction of on-screen violence and brutality), but where the formula dictates relationships between men and women, it stuck to the code very closely.

    It’s forty years later, and I think we’ve yet to see a character who is representative of a woman like the real Bonnie yet in Hollywood. Female characters like that don’t get much of an opportunity in the kind of story telling Hollywood does, they don’t exist in the kind of “reality” Hollywood likes to create. But they certainly do in the real world.

  3. Eowyn_2 December 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    I don’t know why, but I think Reba McEntire would make a good Bonnie.

  4. Charlotte Allen December 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Tobin Ost’s costumes look wonderful, although they reveal (if you look at the slide show that accompanies Ben Brantley’s review a shade more bare flesh than would have been bared during the 1930s (too many bare arms on Bonnie, and back then only hillbillies went bare-chested–Clyde might have been the son of a sharecropper, but he made himself into a dandy). Lauren Osnes is not only too beautiful to make a convincing Bonnie (a problem she shares with Faye Dunaway in the 1967 movie), but her gym-toned 2011 body is utterly unconvincing. As Manolo pointed out in his original photo comparison, rural Americans of the early 20th century tended to be scrappy and runty, and the beauties of that era were zaftig, even if slender.

    Osnes and Jeremy Jordan do make a marginally more convincing Bonnie and Clyde than Dunaway and Warren Beatty (the 1967 trailer is on the NYT website). The golden-skinned Dunaway looked as though she had just stepped off the Malibu beach, and Beatty–with absurdly long hair for the 1930s–was far too commandingly broad-shouldered and serpentinishly sexy to play a man who supposedly had potency problems. Beatty looked like Rick Perry playing Rhett Butler.

    The big problem with the new musical is that, like so many other stage productions nowadays, it’s got to convey a social message and then hit you over the head with it. Those blown-up Dorothea Lange photos of migrant peach-pickers, for example: It was the Depression, get it? Suffering poor people! Why not just tell the story of Bonnie and Clyde, surely a gripping enough story all by itself without a Big Message. But today’s filmmakers and stage directors can’t leave a story alone. Arthur Penn had to turn Bonnie and Clyde into a yarn of 1960s youth rebellion. And now Jeff Calhoun has to turn it into Occupy Wall Street. Another blown opportunity to bring a genuine American legend to life.