‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Director Arthur Penn Dies at 88

Oscar nominee also directed “The Miracle Worker” and “Little Big Man”

Film director Arthur Penn has died. He was 88.

His daughter said the cause was congestive heart failure.

In a career that spanned four decades, Penn directed such classic films as "Night Moves," "The Miracle Worker," and "Little Big Man."

But he made his cinematic mark directing "Bonnie and Clyde." Heavily influenced by the French "New Wave" movement, the bloody crime drama heralded a new age in American moviemaking.

Starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the movie embraced the anti-establishment feeling sweeping the country as the sixties came to a close. Penn's staging of the bank robbing couple's demise — arriving in a hail of police gunfire — was billed as the grisliest in film history. It inspired the term "ballet of bullets." The era of screen violence it kicked off, however, would rapidly grow more pitched as auteurs such as Sam Peckinpah and films like "The Wild Bunch" stepped into the fray.

Penn was nominated for an Oscar for his work on "Bonnie and Clyde," "The Miracle Worker,"and the counter-culture hit "Alice's Restaurant." It was "Miracle Worker," a 1962 drama about Helen Keller, that made Penn's name and earned star Anne Bancroft an Oscar for best actress.

In the seventies, Penn continued his hot streak, directing the revisionist western "Little Big Man" with Dustin Hoffman and the Gene Hackman thriller "Night Moves."

The director, who was so firmly attuned to the sixties youth culture, miscalculated badly with "The Missouri Breaks." On paper, the 1976 drama should have been a big success, starring as it did two of the decade's hottest actors, Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. Yet Penn appeared to lose control over his two charismatic stars and the drama careened into self-indulgence — even including nonsensical scenes of Brando in a dress. The movie was critically panned and Penn never recovered from the drubbing.

Penn's later work such as the Vietnam drama "Four Friends" (1981) and the thriller "Dead of Winter" (1987) landed with a whimper. By the end of the 1980s, Penn was reduced to directing "Penn & Teller Get Killed," a dark comedy vehicle for the popular Vegas act.

In addition to his film work, Penn was also an accomplished stage director. Among the Broadway shows he directed were "Sly Fox" (1976), "Wait Until Dark" (1966), and "Fortune's Fool" (2002). He also directed the original Broadway production of "The Miracle Worker" in 1959.