Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow) were American criminals who traveled the southwestern United States during the Great Depression, robbing banks and generally causing chaos with their cohorts. It is estimated that they were responsible for as many as thirteen murders, about a dozen small bank robberies and holdups of stores and gas stations too numerous to count.
Their exploits, along with those of other criminals such as John Dillinger and Ma Barker dominated the attentions of the American press and its readership during what is sometimes referred to as the public enemy era between 1931 and 1935, a period which led to the formation of the modern FBI.
Bonnie Parker was born on October 1, 1910 in Rowena, Texas. She was fond of creative writing and the arts, and her poem The Story of Bonnie and Clyde is a remarkably personalized account of her escapades. Bonnie was married at sixteen to Ray Thornton, who was in prison on a fifty-five year sentence by their first wedding anniversary. Out of monetary necessity, the young bride took up a waitressing job.
Clyde Barrow was born on March 24, 1909, in Telico, Texas (near Dallas) as one of many children in a poor farming family. His life of crime began when he was arrested in 1926 for auto theft. Undeterred, he continued a series of oft-successful Dallas-area robberies over the next four years. After meeting Bonnie in 1930 in the Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, he was arrested and taken to prison. His subsequent escape attempt was only partially successful--he was free for a week before being caught in Ohio--and so Clyde remained incarcerated until 1932.
After his release, he and Bonnie stole a car in Texas. There ensued a police chase, after which Clyde escaped and Bonnie went to prison for a few months. She was released in June of 1932.
The duo became the leaders of a small group of like-minded criminals later known as the Barrow Gang. Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche are two of its more infamous members. During a police raid near Platte City, Missouri, in 1933, Buck was mortally wounded and his wife captured.
Bonnie and Clyde then killed two young highway patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas on April 1, 1934 and another policeman five days later near Commerce, Oklahoma and were in-turn ambushed and gunned down on May 23 later that year near their hide-out in Black Lake, Louisiana by Texas and Louisiana peace officers.
Clyde Barrow is buried in the Western Heights Cemetery and Bonnie Parker in the Crown Hill Memorial Park, both in Dallas, Texas.
They were among the first celebrity criminals of the modern era. Barrow is alleged to have written a letter to the Ford Motor Company praising their "dandy car", signing it "Clyde Champion Barrow", though the handwriting has never been authenticated. (Ford received a similar letter around the same time from someone claiming to be John Dillinger and used both for car advertisements.) Bonnie's aforementioned poem, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, was published in several newspapers.
In 1967, Arthur Penn directed a rather romanticized film version of the tale. Bonnie and Clyde, which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, was critically acclaimed and contributed significantly to the glamorous image of the criminal pair. Dorothy Provine also starred in the 1958 movie The Bonnie Parker Story. The first film based on Bonnie and Clyde was made only three years after their deaths and titled You Only Live Once, starring Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sydney.