American Director Of Bonnie and Clyde Arthur Penn As A Prominent Influencer

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Arthur Penn, American director and 12-time winner of entertainment awards, to include film and Broadway, is well-known for his 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde. Constantly moving from home to home due to his parent separating, Penn explored the professions of watchmaking but found his passion for the entertainment industry when he enlisted in the United States Army Infantry in 1943. There he started a performing theatre troupe which was the beginning of his career as a director. Although he had a desire for theater, he accidently found the appeal for film and live television. For much of the 60s and early 70s, Arthur Penn was a prominent influencer in the “golden age” of television, becoming one of the strengthening filmmakers when the industry was experiencing great crisis. For fifty years he progressed fluently between stage, film, classroom, and television, focusing on work that only represented his interest, becoming a Master in each field.

Arthur Penn Research Paper

Born September 27, 1922 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Arthur Penn was the youngest son of two boys. Just like any Master on their way to Mastery, Arthur experience many ups and downs. On September 28, 2010 Arthur Penn died, in Manhattan, New York, one day after his eighty-eighth birthday, after receiving news of his legacy being published (Liebman, 2011). In this paper we will explore Arthur Penn adventure to Mastery by identifying his keys to mastery, his emotional pitfalls, and his strategy for the creative-active phase.

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Keys to Mastery

Keys to Mastery requires a person to open their mind and allow their Dimensional Mind to take over. Robert Greene (2012) defines the Dimensional Mind as a transformation from consuming to creating, by using everything you know and making it your own, a new and original idea. To awaken the Dimensional Mind, a person must move through the creative process which require three step, Creative Task, Creative Strategies, and Creative Breakthrough (Greene, 2012).

Creative Task

The creative task is about exploring things from different and new angles. According to Robert Greene, (2012), creative activity is one that involves our character, our emotions, our levels of energy, and our mind (p.178). When Arthur took a job as executive producer in 1993 for Law & Order, he refined it into a marvel of mass production (Segaloff, 2011). Arthur had an unorthodox way of directing television which was seen by his thorough demand for artistic freedom, due to his background in theater. The creative task that a person chooses to work must have an obsessive element (Greene, 2012). He was promised freedom to run the show how he wanted but after 13 episodes, he decided leave. Arthur felt that he was the wrong person for the job because he believed in improvisation, while the head writers were a “let’s do this and we’ll put this together” and you do what we say type production (Segaloff, 2011). Although, in the end Arthur left, it was his choice to leave so that he could direct his creative energy that makes the Master (Greene, 2012).

Creative Strategies

Creative strategies are about keeping the mind open and flexible. According to Robert Greene, (2012), the only antidote is to enact strategies to loosen up the mind and let in alternative ways of thinking (p. 180).There are five strategies Robert Greene suggested to use to keep the mind from tightening up which include; cultivate negative capability, allow for serendipity, alternate the mind through “the current”, alter your perspective, and revert to primal forms of intelligence (Greene, 2012). Arthur Penn alter his perspective by created a groundbreaking story of two Depression-era outlaws not only to contest Hollywood’s strict censorship code, but to shake studio system itself in order to usher in the film revolution (Martin, 2016).

Creative Breakthrough

In 1970 Arthur was in Munich shooting the Olympic Games when eleven Israeli athletes were murdered by a supporter of a Palestinian terrorist group. Robert Greene (2012), states “at a particular high point of tension they let go for the moment (p. 198). From that moment he stated, “I lost my bearing, I just witnessed a massacre, I couldn’t for the life of me recall what it was that drew me to filmmaking in the first place, I seemed to lost my grasp on reality (Martin, 2016)”. To regain his stability, he started to work with in the norm of genre filmmaking, where he could function with guarantee within an accepted structure (Martin, 2016). The key is to be aware of the process and to encourage yourself to go as far as you can (Greene, 2012).

Emotional Pitfalls

Emotional pitfalls usually hit a person when they have reached the Creative-Active phase in their career (Greene, 2012). This is a time when a person begins to experience new challenges due to their work being more publicized and under high scrutiny (Greene, 2012). Sometimes this can lead to Master feeling insecure and they begin to lose self-confidence. The best way to overcome these emotional pitfalls it to identify them early so that a person does not become a victim and get trap. Six of the most common threats a person may experience on their way to Mastery includes; complacency, conservatism, dependency, impatience, grandiosity, and inflexibility. Although Arthur Penn never become a victim of all the emotional pitfalls, he was close to experiencing, conservatism for his film 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.


“Creativity is by its nature an act of boldness and rebellion (Greene, 2012).” In 1967, Arthur Penn produced Bonnie and Clyde staring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. It was reported that studio head, Jack L. Warner, hated the film because he could not recognize which genre to put the film in (Martin, 2016). Therefore, he decided to announce the opening with little to no publicity into second-tier theatres. Arthur received many negative film critics for the film because of the violence and sexuality. Robert Greene, (2012) states, “make creativity rather than comfort your goal and you will ensure far more success for the future (p. 201).” With all the negative going on Bonnie and Clyde, the film was re-released to theaters and earned over $50 million, winning two Oscars and 23 awards overall. Although, Arthur Penn faced conservatism he overcame it and now Bonnie and Clyde, is one of his most known work of arts.

Strategies for Creative-Active Phase

The Authentic Voice

The authentic voice is about, spending over ten years captivating the methods and conventions of a field, personalizing, exploring, and mastering the inevitable, to find their authentic voice to give birth to something unique and expressive (Greene, 2012). Both John Coltrane and Arthur Penn grew up during the Great Depression and live in Philadelphia. John Coltrane a musician and Arthur Penn being a director, both boys had their shares of ups and downs being brilliant and gifted in their selected career path. John had his unconventional music while Arthur had his unorthodox way of directing and they both thrived off improvisation. In the end both men changed their industries forever.


In conclusion, no matter what obstacles Arthur faced he strived to be the best in completing his Life’s Tasks. At the end of his life, however, Penn stated, “I must confess an unfulfilled ambition: I wish I had been bolder. Too often I censored myself. That’s a terrible thing. It’s the very obverse of creating (Liebman, 2011).” From being the youngest Penn immigrant in Philadelphia to mastering the craft in three mediums: Broadway, television, and motion picture, Arthur has set an example of what Mastery is.


  1. Bingham, A. (2003). Great Director, Penn, Arthur: Senses of Cinema. Retrieved from
  2. Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 175-201, 202-204, 205-246.
  3. Liebman, R. (2011). Arthur Penn: American Director. Library Journal, 136(3), 114. (FSL)
  4. Martin, R. (2016). THE MOVIE & THE DIRECTOR: Biography of Arthur Penn. Critical Insights: Bonnie & Clyde, 20–28.
  5. Segaloff, N. (2011). Arthur Penn: American Director. The University Press of Kentucky. (FSL)


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