Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Fight to Redeem Frank Hamer's Name

October 30, 2018
   John Boessenecker wrote a wonderful and very accurate book about the real Frank Hamer, and we featured an excerpt on his epic rise as a Texas Ranger in True West magazine.

  The problem we still have with Hamer is that a half-century ago, a classic movie turned him into a villain.

The Twisted Genius of "Bonnie And Clyde" 

   "When I was a kid, I noticed four things about movies: the characters could always find parking spaces at every hour of the day and night; they never got change in restaurants; and husbands and wives never slept in the same bed. Women went to sleep with their makeup on and woke with it unmussed. I thought to myself, I'm never going to do that. In 'Bonnie and Clyde', Bonnie counts out every penny of change, and C.W. [Moss] gets stuck in a parking place and has a hard time making a getaway."
—Robert Towne, who worked on the script for three weeks and added these counter-intuitive touches

   During the shoot, the crew called the death scene, "the Jack Kennedy scene," and with good reason. In the Zapruder-like, slow-motion, protracted, spastic death sequence, a fragment of Clyde's scalp is blown away as a grim reference to JFK's assassination, which had transpired a mere three years earlier. The bloody scene took four days to shoot. Both Warren Beatty and the director Arthur Penn wanted to make a statement about Vietnam, just then heating up. They wanted to show the disproportionate use of power against the powerless, or as one writer put it, "B-52s, against black-pajama-clad peasants." The director, Arthur Penn couched it this way: "They're not Bonnie and Clyde, they're two people who had a response to a social condition that was intolerable."

   The filming wrapped in December of 1966.

   Warner Brothers released the film "Bonnie and Clyde" starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in 1967 and it became a runaway hit, earning two Academy Awards. But Warren Beatty and his creative team made one mistake. They foolishly used Frank Hamer's real name and made him the villain with a fictitious plot point where he is captured by the Barrow gang and humiliated, so Hamer kills them in revenge. Mrs. Gladys Hamer was not amused over the portrayal of her dear, dead husband (he died in 1955) and sued Warner Brothers for defamation and the unauthorized usage of Hamer's name. The studio paid $20,000 as a settlement, but the damage had been done. Because of the film, most people around the world still view Hamer as a bad guy. This would take a long time to remedy, but it started with Boessenecker's acclaimed book and then earlier this year it took the gumption and commitment of another guy and we are about to honor that guy with the True Westerner Award for 2019 for his new movie, starring Kevin Costner as Hamer, that attempts to redeem the Ranger's good name.

   Stay tuned. We are covering all of this in the next issue of True West magazine.

   Oh, and the movie premieres in March of 2019.

"When our boys are overseas, they are fighting for the safety of their country and people. Likewise, peace officers fight for the safety of the public. Yet if they have to kill a man in the line of duty, they are usually criticized severely by the people they are defending."

—Frank Hamer

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