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The Real Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow fell in love and into a life of crime. From 1932-34, in the dark days of the Great Depression, the outlaw lovers shot their way across the country — robbing banks, stealing cars, and doing a whole lot of killing.

On the lam, Bonnie wrote poetry and missed her mother. Clyde played the sax and vowed never to be taken alive.

Now, 75 years after they were gunned down by a posse on a Louisiana back road, their flesh-and-blood story is retold in a riveting new biography.

This hour, On Point: Finding the real Bonnie and Clyde.

You can join the conversation. What is it about the story of Bonnie and Clyde that we find so seductive — so gruesomely appealing? What does their story tell us about America in the Great Depression? About our fascination now?


Joining us from Tampla, Florida, is Paul Schneider, author of “Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend.”

You can read the first chapter here. And here’s a site that has posted the poems of Bonnie Parker.

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  • Frederic C

    I hope to hear about the much welcomed de-mythologizing of America’s past.

    I also hope to hear about Bonnie and Clyde in terms of abnormal psychology, and cultural anthropology.

  • jeffe

    The real Bonnie and Clyde were murderer’s, period.
    How romantic, they lived in ditches.

    Clyde sounds like a sociopath.

  • Mark

    It’s highly likely that Clyde Barrow was repeatedly raped in prison, given his size and demeanor.

    It would explain the deathwish and his war (and it was a war) against Authority. This whole thing was about revenge. They became a symbol of America’s anger at the Authorities which had failed.

    Too bad they killed so many folks.

  • kevin

    Haarah’s casino is where the car is.

  • Frederic C

    On Point is always good.

    To me this show was an example of On Point really delivering, because it was really chock full of information and a relative economy of (excess) talk.

  • Steven

    It will be interesting to see how deeply the book explores the psychological aspects of these two people, as noted in a previous post. In light of the newer studies out now on psychopathy it stands to reason that Clyde was a psychopath, considering the killing and risk taking.

    I suggest to anyone who reads this book to then read “Without Conscience” by Dr. Robert Hare.

  • Reno Dakota

    The the Barrows would also cut climb poles and cut phone lines, hampering police communication.

    Marie Barrow told me her brother would generally rob chain service stations at lunch time so that less people would be at risk.

    Clyde was actually afraid of bank robbing, according to Floyd Hamilton.

  • Reno Dakota

    Deputy Prentis Oakley later killed himself after letting the ambush eat at his conscience for a number of years.

  • Rick Evans

    I guess every NPR talk show must have a nadir and this one had to be one of the lowest of the low. Why all the fawning and fascination by a couple of violent felons? Okay Bonnie wrote poetry and was a good student in high school. Saddam Hussein also wrote poetry, but we don’t fawn over him.

    Okay she was ‘madly’ in love with a lowlife. What if he was a rapist who left his victims alive instead of an inept bank robber who shot his victims because they tried to stop this sociopathic pair?

    The worst part of the show was that their victims were treated as little more than no dimensional back drops to the couples ‘humanization’.

    The one woman who called in and spoke of leaving the movie feeling disgusted was the one sensible voice in the show that got it right.

  • Kurt Hemmer, PhD, Harper College

    Shouldn’t we try to keep in mind that we are discussing two separate pairs of people? Bonnie & Clyde are folk heroes. Clyde & Bonnie are “disturbed kids”– unsuccessful outlaws fascinated with their own burgeoning legend. Mr. Schneider’s book is trying to focus on the later pair. Based on the evidence, I do not feel that Clyde was a “psychopath,” and Bonnie never killed anyone. So they are not “psychopathic murderers.” There are only a handful of murders which can actually be attributed to Clyde, and all of them can be seen as self defense. John Gilmore’s forthcoming book, _Road without End: On the Run with Bonnie & Clyde_, will attempt to give readers the sense of what it might have been like to travel beside them. I believe that Bonnie & Clyde will be significant icons as long as young lovers romanticize themselves as fighting alone against a hypocritical and cruel world.

  • Frederic C.

    There is no, ‘self defense,’ during armed robbery

  • jeffe

    Kurt Hemmer, PhD. Quite amazing rally, a man with so many years of education and still the has the mind of an adolescent boy looking for the romantic anti-hero.

    Clyde Barrow was a killer and a thief, period. He killed people while committing crimes, how is that self defense?

    Bonnie Parker it seems never shot anyone, however she was an accessory after the fact in the eyes of the law.

    The Barrow gang were two bit robbers who mostly robbed gas stations and ma and pop grocery stores, how heroic.

    Clyde’s apparent goal in life was not to gain fame and fortune from robbing banks, but to seek revenge against the Texas prison system for the abuses he suffered while serving time.

  • jeffe

    Sorry typo, rally should be really..

    It would seem to me that if one was to seek revenge on a prison system that committing crimes was not the wisest of choices. Becoming straight, getting a real job and working for a living and being a decent human being despite the harsh treatment of prison would have been the best revenge.

    Clyde’s weapon of choice, the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle which used .30-06 bullets. That’s a very large caliber weapon and was designed for one thing, killing people.

  • Kurt Hemmer, PhD, Harper College

    Frederic C. makes a good point. There is no “self defense” in armed robbery. How many people did he kill during armed robbery, by the way? What I meant to emphasize is that there is little evidence that Clyde was a “blood-thirsty killer,” meaning that his goal was never to kill. It might be a minor point, but shouldn’t we try to put him in perspective rather than lumping him in with mass murderers? There is evidence that he preferred to shoot over heads, when he could have killed, and take hostages, whom he never killed. What I meant by “self defense” is that it was either “him or them” at the time. This does not excuse his murders. Clyde was a murderer. Do not get me wrong, Clyde was certainly vicious. Jeffe, why do you want to make things so black and white? Couldn’t we say that Clyde was the product of a penal system that creates monsters out of distressed boys? Clyde went into prison a petty car thief. He emerged a killer whose goal was arguably not money or killing innocent people but revenge, as you know. Shouldn’t we keep the story in perspective? My interest is in _why_ the legend maintains relevancy. I have the mind of an adolescent boy, but I enjoy exploring the complexities of the “truth.” Rather than making character attacks, Jeffe, why don’t you take my class?

  • Paul Carpenter

    OK, the story is about a murderer and his girlfriend but that is not the point.

    The point is that the story encapsulates important information about that time, and tells us important things about ourselves now. This is the reason it keeps getting told over and over again.

    A few bits of interesting information that were transmitted in this telling of the story:

    1.There was torture in the Texas prison system until quite recently.

    2. There was a time not so long ago that you could physically outrun the law.

    3. People had no love for banks at that time, and would have applauded Bonnie and Clyde if not for the murders.

    From my point of view, the more time separates us from the actual events of this story, the less difference it makes if it is real or not. The myth becomes more important. It tells our history.

  • jeffe

    Kurt you made a this absurd statement justifying his actions. “There are only a handful of murders which can actually be attributed to Clyde, and all of them can be seen as self defense.” You set Clyde up as victim.

    My grandfather was about the same age as Barrow and he was a poor adolescent kid in Brooklyn and he never robbed anyone nor stole cars. He could have, he came from a poor neighborhood that was rife with crime and gangs. However he made the choice not too, he went to work. When he was running a small laundry in the 30′s he had to pay protection to Bugsy Siegel’s gang.

    With Clyde it was pretty black and white as that’s how he saw things. I’m not out to paint the Texas penal system as blameless, it was horrific in the 20′s as it is now. Barrow made the choices he made. He could have gone straight, he did not. He knew what he was doing.

    He used a high caliber automatic weapon, hardly the weapon of choice if your idea was to scare people and not shoot to kill. He robbed small stores and gas stations. He was a small time punk who for some reason has been lionized. Now if you want to talk about reforming the prison system so marijuana users do not do serious jail time, that’s a discussion I can engage in.

    Take your class? no thanks. I have spent enough time in university and I am still paying the loan after 15 years.

  • millard-fillmore

    “Couldn’t we say that Clyde was the product of a penal system that creates monsters out of distressed boys?”

    Uh, free will, Kurt. Does everyone who comes out of a penal system take up monstrous acts? I find this defense of a killer despicable. I hope this is not what the liberals are all about – making heroes out of killers and romanticizing them to sell a book by using lots of intellectual masturbation. I agree with ‘jeffe’ here. If getting a PhD (and flaunting it) makes one romanticize killers, then I’m so glad I didn’t get one. Sheesh people, wake up.

  • jeffe

    millard-fillmore I’m a progressive and a liberal and I’m not one to romanticize or blame the system for a punk like Clyde Barrow or any other gangster.

  • Amelia

    Okay, first of all, after reading numerous post, a lot of you do make good points, and some just don’t. I don’t think Clyde is a “psychopath” but I do believe he was on a very bad path. Bonnie was his side kick, and in my mind I don’t believe she ever shot anyone. I agree with one of you when this person talked about their grandfather growing up poor in Brooklyn and he never turned to what Clyde did. But Clyde more than likely handled his “emotions”, I guess is the right word, in a different way than some of us. But I just wanted to ask, why do we always have to look at them so negatively? I mean, yeah, they did some pretty horrible things, but they were like us: humans. We are all humans. They just didn’t act like normal human beings. I just wish we could, all of us that is, could try to figure and point out some of the positive things during their short lifespan.


  • jeffe

    Amelia they were small time robbers. Crooks. Sure they were human, but that’s not the point. There is nothing positive about these two; the story is a tragedy.

    With all due respect I don’t think you read enough, Clyde was a killer and he was an uneducated boy who decided to get even with an entity he could not attack, the prison system, the state, the law. Instead he did what he could, rob the guy next store and have shoot outs with the “man”.

    I suppose the one thing he was good at was driving a car fast.

  • millard-fillmore


    I’ll expect you to comment here with the same view next time people criticize Bush-Cheney, neo-cons or the Republicans. ;)

    Also, the “negative” comments are more in response to the romanticizing of Clyde going on here and challenging that view.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.wiley.9887 Jim Wiley

    It is obvious that Bonnie Parker was bi-polar, manic-depressant, nymphomaniac–and Clyde Barrow was a sociopath with no conscience of murder.  As well, there are many witnesses that Bonnie pulled the trigger a number of times–

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