Their names are synonymous with love and rebellion; the two outlaws who wreaked a trail of havoc across the United States and went out in a blaze of glory. But what is the real story of Bonnie and Clyde?
Clyde Barrow was born in Telico, Texas, in 1909, where he grew up in a poor family of seven children. Clyde and his older brother Buck turned to crime in their teens, and Clyde was already in trouble with the police at 16 years of age.
Meanwhile, in west Texas young Bonnie Parker was being raised by her mother Emma. While still yet to reach 16, she dropped out of school to marry Roy Thornton, her high-school boyfriend. Her mother, though, disapproved of the match.
By the time the infamous pair met in January 1930, then, Clyde had already just narrowly escaped being sent to prison – though his brother Buck and an accomplice had not been so lucky. Bonnie, on the other hand, was unemployed and living with a friend in west Dallas.
Yet on that fateful day when the two crossed paths, Clyde stopped over by the house in which Bonnie was living. What’s more, apparently it was love at first sight between the pair.
Two months later, however, the law caught up with Clyde. He was sent to McLennan County Jail in Waco, Texas, on charges of car theft and burglary. Yet while he was there, Bonnie sneaked a gun into the jail.
Just eight days after his sentence started, then, Clyde used the gun to break out of prison. However, his bid for freedom lasted just one week before he was caught and sentenced to 14 years in the famously harsh Eastham Prison in Houston County, Texas.
Clyde’s mother petitioned for an early parole – a successful endeavor, in fact, as in February 1932 he was duly released. Still, the stint in jail had done little to reform him. In fact, together with longtime friend Raymond Hamilton and fellow ex-Eastham inmate Ralph Fults, he set up the Barrow Gang.
The group set their sights on a bid to break prisoners out of Eastham Prison and so began stealing from hardware stores and gas stations in order to acquire the cash and weapons they would need. And by April 1932 they had robbed their first bank.
At first, it was just Clyde who joined in with the gang’s criminal activities. But when Bonnie managed to give a message to three inmates at Eastham informing them of the plan, she became a member of the group in her own right.
Soon after, Bonnie was arrested when an attempted hardware store burglary went wrong. She spent two months in jail, where she kept herself occupied by writing poetry. And when she rejoined with Clyde upon her release, his criminal reputation had gone up a notch.
While Bonnie was in jail, in fact, Clyde had been implicated in the fatal shooting of a store clerk during a failed robbery – even though he hadn’t been the one to pull the trigger. Then, a few months later, a deputy was killed during an altercation with the Barrow gang. This time, though, Clyde was responsible.
Joining forces with the 16-year-old W.D. Jones, Bonnie and Clyde fled Dallas to a hideout in Joplin, Missouri. With them not content to lay low, however, their loud and rambunctious lifestyles soon attracted some unwelcome attention.
Consequently, on April 13, 1933 local lawmen descended on the apartment. In the ensuing chaos, two policemen were killed and a stash of personal items was left behind. Among the effects were one of Bonnie’s poems and photographs of the young criminals posing with weapons – finds that would spark the media’s love affair with the glamorous Bonnie and Clyde.
Now living as outlaws, the gang renewed their crime spree. They continued to make headlines with their kidnappings and robberies – but also through the people they shot and killed. And, although initially captivated by the fugitives’ exploits, the public began to turn against them and their murderous, seemingly bloodthirsty natures.
However, when new gang member Henry Methvin gunned down two highway patrolmen in Grapevine, Texas, it was Bonnie and Clyde who got the blame. Indeed, the press ran an eyewitness account – later brought into disrepute – that accused Bonnie of laughing as she shot one of the men. And the public were out for blood.
Spurred on by the outcry, the law finally – and fatally – caught up with Bonnie and Clyde on May 23, 1934. Six police officers ambushed the couple on a road in rural Louisiana, killing them in a hail of bullets. By then, the Barrow Gang had been responsible for the deaths of at least nine lawmen and several other people.
In death, though, sympathy for Bonnie and Clyde began to re-emerge. More than 20,000 people showed up for Bonnie’s funeral in Dallas, while questions were raised over the legitimacy of the violent tactics used by the police officers responsible for the couple’s deaths.
Today, then, many cast doubt on the image of the ruthless, gun-toting gangsters so readily peddled by the media of the day. Indeed, in reality the pair maintained close relationships with their family members, tried to shy away from bloodshed and enjoyed music and the arts. But, as is the case with so many myths, the fantasy makes for a far better story.
Ultimately, Bonnie and Clyde were to go down in history as two of the most famous criminals of the so-called “Public Enemy Era” in the 1930s. They would figure in countless songs and TV shows over the years. And they even inspired a Bonnie and Clyde Festival, held every year near the location of the fatal ambush. Plus who could forget the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde – featuring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the titular roles – that would cement the criminal duo’s place in the public consciousness?
You had to be a pretty special couple for your story to be immortalized on film during the so-called “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Especially when you’re reminded of the plethora of high-profile romances throughout the era. In fact, unlike Bonnie and Clyde, some of those world-famous icons even ended up tying the knot. Although, that didn’t always end well…
20. Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan
Rita Hayworth tied the knot on no less than five occasions, and hubby number three was Prince Aly Khan. Hayworth’s Prince Charming was the son of a Sultan, and she was a movie star, so it’s not surprising that their wedding in 1949 was pretty spectacular. The menu featured champagne and caviar, and the pool at the reception was even fragranced by a fortune’s worth of eau de Cologne.
19. Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu
Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu held their Las Vegas nuptials on May 1, 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel. And this rock’n’roll couple went all out: the cake cost a whopping $3,200 (the equivalent of $22,000 these days), while guests at breakfast were treated to over $10,000 worth of gourmet delights. Unfortunately, Presley and Beaulieu didn’t quite get their money’s worth: they divorced in 1973.
18. Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland
Bond girl Britt Ekland had known Peter Sellers for just a little over a week before she walked down the aisle with him in 1964. And, unfortunately, while the wedding was lovely, it seemed the relationship was not. In a 2013 interview with The Telegraph, the ’70s sex symbol compared her four-year marriage to the comic to an abduction.
17. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
Actor Paul Newman was first introduced to fellow star of the stage Joanne Woodward on Broadway in the ’50s, and the pair had a beautiful wedding ceremony in Las Vegas in 1958. The groom delivered a romantic reading of the love poem “The Art of Marriage,” and the couple must have listened to every word, because they were still together when Newman passed away half a century later.
16. Charlie Chaplin and Oona O’Neill
Charlie Chaplin’s 1943 union to his young bride Oona O’Neill was controversial, not least because 18-year-old O’Neill was 36 years his junior. But the couple proved the cynics wrong with a marriage that lasted over three decades and produced eight children and 17 grandkids. (You might recognize Game of Thrones actress Oona Chaplin as one of them.)
15. John Wayne and Josephine Saenz
Despite being a self-confessed white supremacist, John Wayne wed Hispanic socialite Josephine Saenz in 1933. The unlikely couple said their “I Dos” in the surrounds of a beautiful garden at the house of actress Loretta Young, who also acted as maid of honor. Yet in spite of the couple’s star-studded wedding, their marriage collapsed a decade later.
14. “Fatty” Arbuckle and Doris Deane
Silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle found himself ostracized from Hollywood and divorced by his wife after he was charged with the 1921 rape and manslaughter of a young actress – and despite him being acquitted of both crimes. Yet just four years later Arbuckle was walking up the aisle again, this time with actress Doris Deane. The spring wedding took place in California, although in 1929 Arbuckle was once again faced with divorce.
13. Jane Fonda and Roger Vardim
Hollywood’s Golden Age may have come to an end by 1965, but there was still plenty of glitz and glamor to be found when Jane Fonda wed Brigitte Bardot’s ex husband, Roger Vardim. It was a very fashionable affair, with the ceremony held in Vegas and Fonda dressed to the nines in a Ted Lapidus gown. Unfortunately, however, the marriage itself was all over by 1973.
12. Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller
Pin-up sensation Marilyn Monroe and writer Arthur Miller were considered a bit of an odd match when they got hitched in 1956. In fact, Variety even published a report on the wedding under the headline, “Egghead Weds Hourglass.” And, ultimately, the naysayers were right: the two were divorced less than five years later.
11. Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow
It seems the writing was always on the wall for Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow when they wed in 1966. To begin with, one of the witnesses to the ceremony was Red Skeleton – a man who, Sinatra told Farrow, had just shot his own wife the night before. As for Farrow herself, she had hacked off her long locks as revenge against her husband-to-be for an earlier slight. Unsurprisingly, by 1968 the tumultuous couple had parted ways.
10. Angela Lansbury and Peter Shaw
Angela Lansbury married for the second time in 1949, choosing producer and film star Peter Shaw as husband number two. But there was some controversy at the time over the prospect of a religious ceremony, with one vicar declining to oversee the proceedings because Lansbury was a divorcee. The wedding went ahead, however, and the relationship itself proved to be an enduring one that lasted until Shaw’s death 54 years later.
9. Audrey Hepburn and Andrea Dotti
When Audrey Hepburn walked down the aisle a second time, she wore a pretty pink Hubert de Givenchy gown and wed Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti. What’s more, Hepburn’s stunning wedding dress has become something of an icon in the fashion world today; indeed, it may even be remembered more than her actual marriage – which was all over by 1982.
8. Elizabeth Taylor and Conrad Hilton
Elizabeth Taylor was a serial bride who said “I Do” no fewer than eight times. The young starlet was just 18 when she married her first husband in May 1950. Conrad “Nicky” Hilton was the famous hotelier of the Hilton brand, and he would become the great-uncle of Paris Hilton. But while Hilton was just the first of many husbands for Taylor, the satin gown she wore for the occasion proved to have a more enduring appeal and is still widely admired today.
7. Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli
Judy Garland married Vincente Minnelli in June 1945 at her mom’s Beverley Hills mansion. And while there were some famous faces among the guests – including Louis B. Mayer, who actually walked the bride down the aisle – all in all it was a fairly small gathering. Despite the sweet ceremony, however, the marriage didn’t last, and the couple split in 1951.
6. Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles
Two of the biggest names in Hollywood got hitched in September 1943, and with no modern paparazzi to hound them, they managed to keep their plans a complete secret until the day before. Rita Hayworth wed Orson Welles while wearing a simple white blouse underneath an elegant beige jacket. But while privacy may not have been a problem, the marriage still wasn’t a success, and the couple divorced after just four years as husband and wife.
5. Deborah Kerr and Peter Viertel
Six-time Oscar nominee Deborah Kerr wed writer Peter Viertel in Switzerland in July 1960, in a ceremony attended by her The King and I co-star Yul Brynner. It was Kerr’s second marriage, and it did indeed prove second time lucky for the actress, who remained happily wed until her death in 2007.
4. Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville
Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville tied the knot in 1926 at London’s Brompton Oratory. And just like Hitchcock’s films, the marriage stood the test of time: the couple were married until Hitchcock’s death in 1980. The union proved a successful creative partnership, too, with Reville having a big hand in some of the director’s most famous films.
3. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are still one of the most famous celebrity couples of all time. Incredibly, the couple walked up the aisle twice, and they divorced twice, too. Their first wedding took place in March 1964 in Canada, with the bride wearing a pretty yellow gown and an elaborate head piece.
2. Betty Grable and Harry James
When prolific film star Betty Grable wed famous musician Harry James in 1943, they became the power couple of 1940s America. Behind closed doors, however, their relationship was plagued by addiction and infidelity, and it ended in divorce in 1965.
1. Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco
Grace Kelly’s wedding with Prince Rainier of Monaco was declared “the wedding of the century” in 1956. Around 30 million people tuned in to witness the ceremony on TV, and Kelly’s intricately designed gown – donated by MGM Studios – became an overnight sensation. Tragically, however, the union ended with Kelly’s premature death at the age of 52.