America's Corporate Art: The Studio Authorship of Hollywood Motion Pictures

By Jerome Christensen | Go to book overview
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5 Saving Warner Bros.
Bonnie and Clyde, the Movements, and the Merger
(1964-1968)

To be white and a radical in America this summer is to see horror and feel
Impotence.

Andrew Kopkind

Everything is given, without provoking the desire for or even the possibility
of a rhetorical expansion…. We might (we must) speak of an intense
immobility
: linked to a detail (to a detonator), an explosion makes a little
star on the pane of the text or of the photograph.

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Because Warner Bros, paid to make it and because the familiar Warners shield precedes its title card, Bonnie and Clyde is generally talked about as a Warner Bros, movie. But Bonnie and Clyde was never in fact a Warner Bros, product. As the closing credits declare, the movie was released in the summer of 1967 under the copyrights of two new and short-lived companies, Warner Bros.Seven Arts and Tatira-Hiller, after Warner Bros. Motion Picture Corporation had ceased to exist. The regime had changed at Warners on November 14, 1966, when Jack Warner, the last surviving brother, sold his 1, 573, 861 million shares in the company for twenty dollars a share to Seven Arts Production, a company that Variety described as “basically a distributor of old pictures to television stations.” The terms of the takeover, which would be completed the following July, “stipulated that [Jack] would remain an independent producer and the company would finance his pictures.” One recent beneficiary of Jack Warner’s support was Warren Beatty, who, earlier in 1966, had secured financing for the David Newman and Robert Benton script of Bonnie and Clyde, which he planned to produce. Warners was not Beatty’s first choice. He had contacted the studio only after he had been turned down at Twentieth-Century Fox and toyed with by United Artists. Beatty eventually struck a deal with Warners that guaranteed a remarkable ownership share of 40 percent of the adjusted gross to Tatira-Hiller, a production company formed by Beatty and named after his parents.1

The chief executives at Warners never wanted to make the movie. According to legend, Beatty had to crawl on his knees to Jack Warner and plead for the S10 million dollars he needed. According to Beatty, “Warners didn’t understand the movie at all. They wanted us to shoot it on the back lot. There’s a

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