A Guide to Artist, Authors, Directors & Musicians

In Profile: Arthur Penn


Arthur Hiller Penn was an American produce and director best known for The Chase of 1996, Bonnie and Clyde of 1967, Alice’s Restaurant in 1969 and revising the western Little Big Man in 1970. Additional films directed by him included The Miracle Worker, The Missouri Breaks, and Night Moves. In the 1960s and 1970s, Arthur Penn was a director who was considered innovative, stimulating, and unpredictable. However, after this period, his films became sporadic and not very noteworthy.

Penn had his ups and down in the film industry. For example, Penn was so angered at how Warner Bros. changed his take on The Left-Handed Gun that he stopped making movies and turned his attention to Broadway. In 1956, he debuted a Broadway play which lasted just a few days. However, Penn did not give up; he made his name on Broadway as director of The Miracle Worker and All the Way Home which won Tony Awards.

Films like Night Moves, The Missouri Breaks, and Four Friends were favored by movie critics but they did not have any box office appeal. Many of his films represented what was taking place in the U.S. at that time. For instance, Bonnie and Clyde, a landmark film focused on the crime they committed because there were economic problems with the government not supporting farmers.

Penn was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but when he was 3 his mother and father divorced. He moved to New York with his mother who moved around a lot between New York and New Jersey. When he turned 14, Penn moved back to Philadelphia because his father became ill he wanted to help him with his business which was repairing watches. Arthur Penn joined the Army during World War II where he formed a theater group.

After leaving the Army, Penn studied in Italy, then he returned to New York where he worked on NBC’s Colgate Comedy Hour as a floor manager. Director, producer Arthur Penn decided to make New York his home rather than Los Angeles because he did not like the Hollywood industry’s view on his film ideas. Penn had a successful career in the early 1950s by writing dramas for TV.

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