By the time I interviewed Arthur Penn in 1981, during a press junket for Four Friends, he was over. Let’s face it — he had about a 15 year period (’61 to ’76) when he was really crackling. He had a great start doing live TV in the ’50s, and kept his hand in as far as it went after The Missouri Breaks, his last half-decent film. And now he’s passed on.
My favorite Penn film after the classic Bonnie and Clyde is Mickey One — an interesting failure — an arty noir thing — with some brilliant scenes and a offbeat nouvelle vague-ish mood. I love the opening scene in the steam bath with Warren Beatty in the bowler and the laughing fat guys.
Penn stumbled with The Left-Handed Gun (’58), his first Hollywood feature, but then he scored big-time with The Miracle Worker (’62). Mickey One (’65) was an interesting experiment, and The Chase (’66) was a reasonably compelling southern melodrama. Then came his masterpiece (or rather his and Beatty’s masterpiece) Bonnie and Clyde (’67) — one of the greatest films of the 20th Century.
The engaging Alice’s Restaurant (’69) followed, and then Little Big Man (’70), and Night Moves (’75 — “like watching paint dry”) and finally The Missouri Breaks (’76). And then it was over. Not a bad run.
Arthur Penn celebrated his 88th birthday two days ago. He was born on 9.27.22.