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Young Faye Dunaway: 'Bonnie And Clyde's Bonnie, Then And Now

Entertainment | July 25, 2020

Left: Faye Dunaway on the set of 'Bonnie and Clyde,' directed by Arthur Penn. Right: Dunaway in 'The Happening.' Sources: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images; IMDB

With her portrayal of Bonnie Parker in Bonnie And Clyde (1967), Faye Dunaway grabbed moviegoers' attention and didn't let go. The young and gifted actress appeared in a string of big movies with A-list co-stars, earning Best Actress Academy Award nominations for Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown (1974), and a win in the category for Network (1976). Dunaway specialized in playing tough, assertive women, and has herself been categorized as such.

Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker in "Bonnie and Clyde." franceculture)

Faye Dunaway made the transition from Broadway to the silver screen look like a walk in the park. Her Hollywood debut in The Happening came the same year she broke through to stardom in Bonnie and Clyde. Dunaway’s body-altering commitment to the portrayal of the wafer-thin Bonnie Parker earned her first Academy Award nomination and set her down a path of tinsel town success. During her hall of fame run, she worked on giant films like The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), The Arrangement (1969), Little Big Man (1970), Chinatown, The Towering Inferno (1974), and Network. Despite a ridiculously successful career, Dunaway sometimes was labeled difficult or eccentric. However, whether it was on stage or the big screen, Dunaway got the job done. 

Faye Dunaway Was An Almost Immediate Success

It didn't take long for Dunaway to start racking up awards. (goldderby)

After an army brat childhood, an extremely intelligent Dunaway bounced around a number of different theatrical universities. Along the way she even turned down a Fulbright Scholarship to join a theater company founded by Robert Whitehead and Elia Kazan. After two plays that won her critical acclaim, “A Man for All Seasons” and "Hogan’s Goat," the big-time and Warren Beatty, who would play Clyde Barrow, came calling.

For her role as Bonnie Parker, Dunaway lost 25 pounds. “I spent weeks working out wearing a 12lb weight belt, with smaller weights around my wrists to help me burn off the pounds faster.”

She Worked With Hollywood Legends, Becoming A Legend Herself

From working with one leading man to another. (imdb)

Her sexy and dangerous performance in “Bonnie and Clyde” not only led to an Oscar nomination -- it also put her in play to work with a who’s who of Hollywood heavyweights. Over the years, Dunaway plied her craft opposite Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman. Even though she worked with such sex icons, Dunaway tried not to mix business with pleasure. “I have a rule: you know it’s going to ruin the performance and ruin the movie, so you don’t do that.” One exception was Italian lothario Marcello Mastroianni, with whom she enjoyed a tumultuous two-year relationship. 

Commitment To Her Craft

Dunaway in "Network." (imdb)

Dunaway never went into a project without full commitment. During Chinatown she decided Jack Nicholson would have to hit for real. "We tried it the other way, where he puts his hand just in front of my face, but it didn't work," she recalled. "Finally I said, Jack, you're just going to have to hit me.” That full-tilt approach and take no prisoners attitude earned her the nickname “the gossamer grenade,” from the Mullholland Man himself.

Hard To Work With Or A Hard Working Woman In A Man’s World?

Her and Beatty's Oscar mistake lives on in infamy. (nbcnews)

As Dunaway, herself has said, “A man can be difficult and people applaud him for trying to do a superior job. A woman can try to get it right and she’s a pain in the ass.” For the three-time Oscar-nominated actress, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. Rutanya Alda, who worked with Dunaway on Mommie Dearest said, “My first day on the set, she slapped me.” Bette Davis named her worst person in Hollywood to Johnny Carson. Other tales of her less than stellar behavior detail her throwing some type of liquid in the face of Roman Polanski or throwing food props during photo shoots. Perhaps the best description of Dunaway comes from her when comparing herself to the character, Maria Callas for the touring production “Master Class:”

"People who are quote larger-than-life I think are more intensely alive, more committed, less lackadaisical, maybe a little less accessible, capable of incredible commitment and devotion to something, and all of those things she was, or I am. Does that make her larger-than-life or does it make her intensely alive? ... I think there's a lot like me in Maria. A lot of her is about working-class girls, the same hunger and determination that she had, and I think I have it."

Tags: Bonnie And Clyde | Faye Dunaway | Ladies | Then And Now

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!