Dying Like Crazy


Finished reading Mark Harris’ Scenes from a Revolution. Two unusually large thumbs up.

(The book also seems to be called Pictures at a Revolution by mistake. I like the Mussorgsky quality of that.)

There’s a story told by Arthur Penn at his appearance at Edinburgh International Film Festival which does not appear in the book’s excellent and extensive coverage of BONNIE AND CLYDE. Now, I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems possible, Penn told it, and it’s funny. It plays into Warren Beatty’s well-known predilection for doing lots of takes, not really starting to act until he’s good and ready, that stuff.

This one will require the use of your mind’s eye, so make sure you have it polished and switched on. Ready?


The film’s climactic massacre was conceived by Penn, under the influence no doubt of Kurosawa, as a kind of “spastic ballet” — bodies jerking as they’re peppered with bullets, blood capsules and squibs blazing everywhere. It took half a day to get Beatty and Faye Dunaway wired up with the necessary explosives for the first angle. Four cameras were lined up, each shooting at a different speed. Beatty had control of the pyrotechnics — he’s supposed to be eating a pear, and by squeezing it, he set off the fireworks.

Action! The mayhem commences. But, for reasons known only to himself, Beatty does not begin to act. “He just stood there with a dopey smile on his face as a piece of his head blue off,” recalled Penn. Bullets rippled Beatty’s suit, and still he remained, smiling and blinking slowly. “And all the time Faye Dunaway, behind him, is dying like crazy. I wish to God I’d kept that piece of film.”

I’d rank this lost outtake even higher than the one I described here.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Bonnie And Clyde [Blu-ray] [1967] [Region Free]

What we are about now is a week of posts dealing with period movies from the New Hollywood of the ’70s. Not westerns, so much, mainly ’20s and ’30s settings, and quite a few of them New Hollywood looking at Old Hollywood. Hope you can dig it. Suggestions are still welcome.

15 Responses to “Dying Like Crazy”

  1. Like the Terry Thomas outtake you can just see the whole shot in your mind’s eye. I’m worried that if I ever saw the real thing, it wouldn’t be quite as funny as my version.
    A few quick suggestions. Failures that are rather interesting-Gable and Lombard, W. C Fields and Me.
    Or for more interesting, interesting failures Nickelodeon, and Lucky Lady (not enough written about the latter and it’s Old Hollywood/New Hollywood clash)
    Or films that are quite good Day of the Locust

    Oh and John Bryum’s Inserts

    Also I’ll put in a good word for my favourite Richard Brooks film, “Bite the Bullet” ostensibly a Western, but really more of a period film, set in the early 20th Century. Not enough good things said about it

  2. Warren’s shooting his long-aborning Howard Hughes film even as I post. No title, and no indication of what tack he’ll take vis-à-vis Hughes. I’m sure it’ll be wonderful. Still I hope he casts Stephen Ira in it somewhere (he’s so much like his father in Mickey One)

  3. Still to try Lucky Lady and Bite the Bullet — the others I have seen but won’t necessarily write about…

    The Beatty project is a mystery — I’d like to see him play old crazy HH. One hopes he can survive Nick Ray’s Powerful Curse: https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/a-powerful-curse/

  4. Well The Aviator survived the curse.

    Lucky Lady is Bloody Awful. Huyck and Katz are TERRIBLE screenwrters.

  5. I always figured they wrote all the better lines in Star Wars. My favourite of theirs is Messiah of Evil. Which is dreadful.

  6. Joy Bang’s last movie.

  7. David Boxwell Says:

    As a wee lad in 1967 (6th grade) my teacher, who was a real cool guitar-playing chick named Suzanne, said that the end of Bonnie and Clyde was so shockingly violent that she had to leave the theater. Which made me yearn to see it. She also said that movie violence couldn’t get any more violent.

    And then came THE WILD BUNCH!

  8. Penn movies I’ve been meaning to catch up on: Mickey One and Alice’s Restaurant. I think I’ve seen everything else I’m curious about, and love three of them.

    Theodore Roszak’s Flicker captures that sense of movies getting darker and darker as the seventies approached and progressed…

  9. I second Inserts, I’ve always enjoyed it, for only most of the reasons I’m supposed to. Also, how about some depression era macho fun? Hard Times, Emperor of the North Pole? Just manly men hitting other manly men.

  10. Hard Times is on my list (see header).

    Late period Aldrich is often a little disheartening but Emperor seems to get some votes, and boxcar riding is very much a thing here.

  11. Inserts has some frighteningly thin nudes (a 70s thing, I realize: Shelley Duvall strips in Thieves Like Us) and nice costumes to cover them, and of course Dreyfuss is watchable, but I felt it had a shaky sense of period. There’s a line about “Bonerama” that makes no sense in the ’30s.

  12. Shirley Russell did the costumes for Inserts Richard Dreyfus’ dressing gown is truly spectacular.

  13. “Emperor of the North Pole” is clawing and kicking its way to be on this list.

  14. Always seemed to be on TV when I was a kid. I remember some bad snow continuity (snowing in one half of a shot-reverse-shot sequence) and nothing else. Time to revisit.

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