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Bonnie and Clyde Director Arthur Penn Dies at 88

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 29, 2010 at 9:00AM

Theatre and film director Arthur Penn died in his Manhattan apartment Tuesday night of congestive heart failure, reports A.P. Penn died a year after his brother, photographer Irving Penn.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Theatre and film director Arthur Penn died in his Manhattan apartment Tuesday night of congestive heart failure, reports A.P. Penn died a year after his brother, photographer Irving Penn.

Penn was a star director on Broadway, winning Tonys for All the Way Home and The Miracle Worker, which he later made into an Oscar-winning movie; he went on to score in Hollywood, forging a strong rapport with the demanding Warren Beatty as a star in Mickey One and star-producer of Bonnie and Clyde, which was Penn's crowning achievement.

Bonnie and Clyde holds up extraordinarily well: it feels fresh, smart and very indie. It's hard to imagine how bold and violent the film was at the time. Dede Allen's stacatto editing and the brutal action was too much for many moviegoers and critics. Pauline Kael was a champion who helped turn the tide in 1967, as did Roger Ebert. (Mark Harris's account of Bonnie and Clyde's production is in Pictures at a Revolution; Peter Biskind's is in his Beatty bio, Star.) Film clip below.

Penn also directed the lauded revisionist western Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. His other western, The Missouri Breaks, is a classic case of a movie--and out-of-control movie stars Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson-- run amuck. Night Moves is a great 70s film noir, starring Gene Hackman in a breakout role.

I met Penn in 1987 when we both attended the Havana Film Festival (along with Bob Rafelson, Oliver Stone, Alex Cox and Sonny Mehta). He lent me a grey t-shirt when I was shivering in an unheated airport waiting room. He was a gentle, soft-spoken, thoughtful and articulate man, and it's a shame that Hollywood--as it tends to do--did not offer him more opportunities to share that filmic intelligence with the rest of the world.

Here's the NYT obit, Bob Westal, The Wrap, and Moviefone.

Bonnie and Clyde clip:

This article is related to: Directors, Headliners, Video, Stuck In Love, Obit, Warren Beatty, Trailers, Roger Ebert Fellowship


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.