Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Room for Interpretation

Anybody who’s read Jeff Guinn’s excellent 2009 book, Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, knows that onetime Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (1884-1955)—who led the posse pursuing lovebirds/lawbreakers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in the early 1930s—had an ugly, brutal streak. Guinn notes that “By the end of his Ranger career [Hamer] was credited with killing fifty-three men ..” And though he was supposedly bothered by the idea of killing women, he had no trouble whatsoever ending Bonnie Parker’s life during a roadway ambush in northern Louisiana in May 1934.

As Guinn explains, Hamer “fired a burst into [an unarmed] Bonnie through the rear passenger window” of the outlaws’ stolen Ford V-8. “Then, when the car had completely stopped, the six-foot three-inch Hamer walked forward, leaned his towering frame over the front seat where Bonnie was slumped, and fired a final series of shots down through the window and windshield directly into her.”

So I was surprised by this In Reference to Murder item:
Netflix announced this past week that Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson will be playing Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and ex-partner Maney Gault in The Highwaymen, from director John Lee Hancock. This was the project that goes back far enough that it once had Paul Newman and Robert Redford ready to play those roles, before Newman’s health failed.

The plot focuses on Hamer and Gault coming out of
retirement to hunt down the notorious bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde. The lawmen were out of the Rangers by the time Bonnie and Clyde started their robbery reign, but were commissioned as special investigators, coaxed by a consortium of banks to assemble a posse and end the spree of the notorious gang reputed to have killed thirteen cops and others.
Let’s hope Netflix and director Hancock won’t try to whitewash Frank Hamer as some sort of great American hero, but will instead deliver a darker and more nuanced portrayal of the man.

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