Arthur Penn, the director who literally reinvented Hollywood moviemaking with his genre-busting Bonnie and Clyde, has died.
Evan Bell, the filmmaker's friend and accountant of 25 years, told E! News that Penn passed away Tuesday night—a day after his 88th birthday—from undisclosed causes.
After honing his craft in theater and television, most notably with The Miracle Worker, for which he was nominated for an Emmy, Penn made his feature debut helming the 1958 Western The Left Handed Gun, which starred a young, rascally Paul Newman as Billy the Kid.
Four years later, he garnered his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director for his big-screen version of The Miracle Worker, which chronicled the relationship between a young blind and deaf Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. The film earned a Best Actress Oscar for Anne Bancroft as Sullivan and Best Supporting Actress for Patty Duke as Keller.
But it was a little gangster film that no one in Tinseltown thought would do anything that proved to be his greatest achievement.
Bonnie and Clyde starred Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as lovers-turned-bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, on the run during the Depression.
Inspired by the French New Wave, the 1968 film was a kinetic mix of humor and violence, capped by a bloody climactic shootout. While initially dismissed by many critics, Bonnie and Clyde became a blockbuster at the box office for Warner Bros. as well as a counter-culture milestone influencing generations of filmmakers. Ultimately it scored 10 Oscar nominations and transformed Beatty, who produced the film, into a major force.
Penn had previously worked with Beatty on 1965's Mickey One. Other notable credits included directing Robert Redford in 1966's The Chase, Dustin Hoffman in the revisionist Western Little Big Man (the Native Americans were the good guys!) and 1969's Alice's Restaurant, based on troubadour Arlo Guthrie's famous song. Later efforts included 1975's Night Moves and 1985's Target, both with Gene Hackman, the 1987 thriller Dead Winter and 1989's Penn & Teller Get Killed.
Penn's final directing credit was the play Fortune's Fool in 2002, and he served as an executive producer for a brief stint on NBC's Law & Order.