Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, or just Bonnie and Clyde these days, were notorious outlaws in the early 1930s. They were young lovers, bank robbers, and sometimes ruthless criminals. Their lives were short, but full of scandal and intrigue. Keep reading to discover more about life on the lam with the criminals we still talk about today.
“Some day they’ll go down together / And they’ll bury them side by side / To few it’ll be grief / to the law a relief / but it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.” –Bonnie Parker
Bonnie and Clyde Facts
43. In Their Own Words
Two of the other Texas officers, Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn, gave quite the description of what went down the day Bonnie and Clyde died, and it involved a whole lot of bullets: “Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns … There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren’t taking any chances.”
42. Modern-Day Stories
Various retellings of their story have been released over the decades. The aforementioned Bonnie and Clyde film from Arthur Penn was released in 1967, a Broadway play debuted in 2011, and a mini-series starring Emile Hirsch and Holiday Grainger came out two years later. Currently, Netflix is working on a new series set to debut in 2018. There’s some big names in that project: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, and Kathy Bates are among them.
41. The Other Man
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow weren’t legally married. Nope. Sorry folks. We apologize to burst the bubble. Bonnie was actually married to a man named Roy Thornton, and even wore her wedding ring until the day she died. She also had a tattoo on her knee with their names and intertwined hearts.
40. Young Love Falls Apart
Bonnie was only in her second year of high school when she met Thornton, marrying him days before she turned 16. He physically abused her, but they never formally divorced after the relationship fell apart. Oddly enough, he was sent to jail for five years in 1929 for robbery charges. The two never saw each other again.
39. Love at First Sight
Bonnie was only 19 when she met Clyde Barrow, who had already spent time in prison. He was even on the run at the time they were introduced! He was caught within weeks, though, and thrown back behind bars.
38. They Would Do Anything For Love
No jail cell could keep Bonnie and Clyde apart, and they were in love already. Bonnie managed to smuggle a gun into the jail, much to her mother’s disapproval. He and his cellmates managed to escape, but once again were caught. Clyde was sentenced to hard labor for 14 years and sent to Eastham State Farm.
37. Family Ties
Clyde came from a big family. He was fifth of seven children, and though his family was poor they were fairly close. The Barrows ran a farm, but things turned sour because of drought, so they eventually moved to Dallas.
36. What a Different Life He Could Have Led
Clyde had tried enlisting in the US Navy, but was turned down for medical reasons, likely because of a bout of malaria or yellow fever he suffered from as a child. He didn’t take it well and also had to be reminded of it constantly; he had “USN” tattooed on his arm prior to being rejected.
35. Brotherly Love
One of Clyde’s older brothers was the main influence on his life of crime. Buck convinced the younger Clyde into petty thefts, which soon turned into stealing cars and then escalated further to armed robbery.
34. Young and Dumb
Clyde’s first arrest was for failing to return a rented car. The car he rented was to go see an estranged girlfriend, and though the rental agency dropped the charges against him, they stayed on his permanent record. Just a few weeks later, he and Buck stole a truckload of turkeys. Gobble gobble!
33. Twist of Fate
Years later, just a year before the famous duo were killed, they would live with Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche in Joplin, Missouri, but police caught up with them there; the altercation ended in a shootout, the death of two cops, and the escape of the criminals.
32. Can’t Catch Them
Bonnie and Clyde left behind something interesting when they escaped: a roll of camera film. Newspapers all across the US got a hold of the film and published their personal photos across the nation.
31. Leaving It All Behind
Bonnie and Clyde often had to leave things behind. When police found their stolen cars, they would discover Bonnie’s movie magazines. One time, Clyde had to leave behind his guitar, something that he had been bringing with him on the road. And get this: after fleeing without the guitar, he got a hold of his mother to ask her to ask police if he could get it back. I’m sure you can guess that the answer was a hard no.
30. All in the Gang
The two would eventually gain some criminal friends collectively known as the Barrow Gang. Members included Buck and Blanche, Raymond Hamilton, Joe Palmer, Ralph Fults, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin.
29. Brother Down
Clyde’s brother Buck would be killed in a shootout with police midway through 1933. Blanche, his wife, was captured. Bonnie and Clyde’s gang was narrowing down.
28. The Couple Who Is Buried Together, Stays Together
Bonnie and Clyde wanted to be buried together, so much was their love for each other. Upon their deaths though, they were buried separately. Bonnie’s mother didn’t approve of the relationship her daughter had with Clyde and reversed their wishes. Thousands of people went to each of their funerals in Dallas, with newspapers even publishing special editions!
27. Go Shorty
Neither of the two were particularly tall. They lived during the depression era, a time when women and men were typically 5’3″ and 5’8″ on average, respectively. Bonnie was a small 4’11” while Clyde was 5’4”. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were cast as the pair in the film about their lives, and they were quite a lot taller. Dunaway was 5’7″ and Beatty 6’2″.
26. Who Needs Toes Anyway?
Clyde, unknowingly just days away from being released from a labor camp, cut off two of his toes. He had no idea his mother had persuaded the judge to let him out on parole. As a result, he walked with a limp for the rest of his short life. Because of the injury, he also couldn’t drive while wearing his shoes. We wouldn’t try that at home, folks.
25. Back in the Habit
After he was freed from labor camp in 1932, Clyde went back to doing what he knew best: robbing banks and small businesses with his gang. Bonnie even got in on the action, but was caught after a failed robbery and put in jail for two months. It was there that she started writing poems, mostly about her life with Clyde.
24. Can’t Catch a Break
Clyde actually did try to clean his life up, futile though it was. He started working at a glass company in Dallas after he was released, but lost his job because the police kept harassing him.
23. Big Dreams Bonnie
It’s a little surprising that Bonnie got herself into a life of crime: She was an honor student, had hopes of becoming an actress, and liked to write poetry. In fact, before she and Clyde were caught, she wrote a poem entitled “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.” Naturally, it was published in a number of newspapers after their deaths.
22. Light ‘Em Up
Bonnie’s acting hopes came early. You would often find her on stage performing in talent shows or school pageants. She always told her friends that her name would one day be in lights. She wasn’t technically wrong, but it wouldn’t be for what she had hoped for.
21. Musically Inclined
Clyde also had big dreams. He wanted to do something in the music field, and even learned how to play the saxophone and guitar. The fateful day that Bonnie and Clyde were shot down, police found a saxophone left behind in the car.
20. Change of Scenery
Bonnie’s father passed away when she was just four years old, and her mother uprooted her family to a poorer neighborhood to live with Bonnie’s grandparents.
19. Pretty Little Lies
After her short stint in jail, Bonnie was released from custody when she claimed that Clyde and his gang had kidnapped her. However, she went right back to him and their crime spree ways, even crossing multiple state lines to do so.
18. Do No Harm
Though any loss of life is too many, the pair didn’t actually harm that many people between them. Clyde kidnapped people when he could, preferring not to kill. When it came time to release his captives, he would sometimes give them money so they could get back home.
17. Is Three a Crowd?
Bonnie and Clyde spent a lot of time on the run with their partner in crime, W.D. Jones. The trio often stole food and cash to get by, ate on the side of the road or sometimes rented rooms if they wanted some privacy. They also stole cars and switched up license plates so no one would catch on.
16. She Was Just Blowing Smoke
Some of the photos recovered by police showed Bonnie holding guns and smoking cigars, but the cigars were actually just loaners from W.D. Jones. “Bonnie smoked cigarettes, but…I gave her my cigar to hold,” he said.
15. Choosing Their Poisons
Bonnie and Clyde both smoked, and Camel was their preferred brand. Bonnie also enjoyed herself some whiskey, though (perhaps surprisingly) Clyde stayed away from alcohol. He wanted to stay sober in case they needed to leave on a moment’s notice.
14. The Things We Love Will Be Our Undoing
I mean, if you’re on the run, would you stop to visit family every now and then? Probably not, even though you’d want to. Well, Bonnie and Clyde did–and frequently. Unfortunately for them, the authorities caught onto this, and that’s how the Texas Rangers found them.
When the pair would go and visit Clyde’s family, he had an interesting way of getting his kin’s attention. He put a note inside a Coke bottle, with details of when and where to meet, and threw it towards the house while speeding past. Their families remained supportive of them, despite their criminal behavior.
12. Hoping For Better Days
If Bonnie and Clyde were doing well for themselves, their families would benefit too. In fact, Clyde was hoping to buy land in Louisiana for his parents when he was killed.
11. Beginning of the End
The Barrow gang committed multiple murders. Clyde himself killed a police officer as well as the owner of a store. One member of the gang, Henry Methvin, murdered a cop in Oklahoma—an act that would bring about the demise of Bonnie and Clyde.
10. The Big Betrayal
Bonnie and Clyde, feeling the heat from the murders, took refuge in the Methvin farm in Louisiana to hole themselves up until things died down. But Methvin’s father was hoping for leniency for his son’s crimes, and turned to the police to set up an ambush. On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were driving along when they saw the elder Methvin apparently broken down at the side of the road. The duo went to help him, and the police, who had been lying in wait, opened fire.
9. Take Me to Your Leader
Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was the one who took the lead on the ambush, since he had been tracking the gang for months.
8. Nothing Good Starts in a Getaway Car
Bonnie and Clyde’s car from that fateful morning is something to behold, and is still all riddled with bullet holes. You can actually go visit it too! If you’re ever in Vegas, go check it out at Whiskey Pete’s Casino, just outside the city.
7. Die Young
There are reportedly 150 bullet holes in Bonnie and Clyde’s death car alone. In the autopsy, the coroner reported 17 bullets in Clyde and 26 in Bonnie. But that’s only the official account. Unofficially, there were many more. The undertaker found it difficult to keep the embalming fluid in their bodies, such was the nature of their wounds. Ironically, the undertaker’s assistant had been kidnapped earlier by the gang, and before they released him, Bonnie jokingly gave him five dollars and asked him to take care of them when they died, not thinking he actually would.
6. By the Numbers
Bonnie and Clyde didn’t commit as many bank robberies as we think. During their four-year crime span, they really only robbed about 15 banks, and some of those they robbed multiple times. They never got away with too much money, either. It’s believed the smallest amount they ever got was $80.00.
5. Petty Thieves
Smaller robberies, like at gas stations or small grocery stores, were easier for the pair to manage between just the two of them, but they had to be done more frequently since they didn’t get a whole lot of money out of them. This also meant they couldn’t stay in any one place for too long, since these frequent crimes were much easier to track then the rarer, bigger jobs.
4. Live Fast
While driving around with Clyde during one of their sprees, Bonnie suffered a terrible leg injury during a car accident. Battery acid burned her leg so badly that she had to be carried almost everywhere after; in some spots, she was burned right down to the bone. The accident was pretty much Clyde’s fault: He had been driving too fast on a Texas road and missed the warning sign for an upcoming bridge that was under construction.
3. Why Did People Love Bonnie And Clyde?
Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Jim Wright, grew up in two of the states, Texas and Oklahoma, that Bonnie and Clyde were popular in. He once gave a quote that helps to illuminate their appeal: “Even if you did not approve of them,” he has said, “you still would have to envy them a little, to be so good-looking and rich and happy.”
2. Taking a Little Piece of Their Life
The public was infatuated with the couple. When word got out about their deaths, people descended on the scene, attempting to take souvenirs. Later, when the bodies were taken to the coroner’s office, the people went there too, just to get their hands on anything they could. There were those who wanted to cut off Clyde’s ear or fingers, and some wanted to cut off pieces of Bonnie’s dress, blood soaked and all. And get this: one man offered Clyde’s father cash money for his body. This man offered $30,000, which today would be well over $600,000.
1. Words to Remember Them by
The epitaphs on Bonnie and Clyde’s separate tombstones couldn’t be more different. Clyde’s reads “gone but not forgotten,” while Bonnie’s has “as the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.” How…nice?