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Dan LeFebvre 02:05
The movie opens by setting up the time in place, so I thought that would be a great place to start to that would be at Eastham Prison Farm in Texas in the year 1934. We get some information about Easthaj throughout the movie like hearing that Clyde served there for five years. But the movie doesn’t really go into a lot of details. So can you give us some more historical context around East ham prison farm and the role that it played in Bonnie and Clyde’s story?
John Neal Phillips 02:31
You’re right. The the movie doesn’t go into that a lot. They only had two hours. And the focus was really on Hamer and Gault. But Eastham Prison Farm was originally a privately owned farm. And then in the early part of the 20th century, it was leased by the state of Texas to house prisoners and then eventually Texas bought the property. And it’s still a functioning prison farm to this day. One of the old buildings that Clyde Barrow and Raymond Hamilton, Ralph Fults, all of them were housed in still stands. They use it as a kind of a catch all for anything. They need to stuff away somewhere, but it still exists. And the look of the place is about the same, too. Clyde Barrow was sent there for, well, he was to serve 14 years, seven counts of auto theft and burglary. He got two years each and originally they were supposed to be simultaneous, but then he escaped from jail where he was being held. And then he was recaptured. And he was brought back before the judge and the judge was really mad that he had escaped. So he made it concurrent, which meant he had to serve 14 years. But he ultimately served a little under two years there. And then was released mainly because the prisons as they still are to this day were just packed, jam packed. They were like four or five inmates to a cell if they had cells. So governor Ross Sterling, in an effort to ease the population in these prisons started releasing non violent criminals, which he was at the time he burglary, auto theft, nonviolent crimes, although in the joint he had already killed one man, but that was not known until years later that he had been behind that so nonviolent criminals, which he was one were released a lot of them to make. Because it just we’re running out of room. It was a real bad situation. So he Sam, where he served had been there a long time and it had a reputation as pretty remote. It’s still kind of remote. Today, even though it’s very close to Huntsville, it’s where real incorrigible prisoners were sent or prisoners who had escaped. Which Barrow had escaped. So they sent him there because it was hard to escape from Eastham.
Dan LeFebvre 05:17
Okay, so he escaped from somewhere else and then was sent to East him after that.
John Neal Phillips 05:21
That’s right. He was in McLennan county jail and escaped from there while he was awaiting transfer to the State Penitentiary.
Dan LeFebvre 05:30
Okay, now at the very beginning of the movie, we do see a breakout from the prison farm but it’s it’s not Bonnie and Clyde breaking out. We see them waiting in a car and there’s three inmates that pile in was that a breakout that actually happened?
John Neal Phillips 05:41
Yes, on January 16 1934, Bonnie and Clyde and another guy raided Eastham prison farm. And there were four inmates that were in on the escape a fifth one just kind of joined in, but really didn’t know what was happening. And he ran in the wrong direction. And he was captured later that night. But the other four knew to run to the sound of the horn honking, which Bonnie was the one honking the horn, in the movie is portrayed that that she gets out of the car, just as plain as can be just standing out there. Like she owned the place and starts shooting off this weapon. That was bearer that actually did that Bonnie couldn’t walk at that point. They do portray her injury. They have her limping up there with that Thompson submachine gun that was bigger than the actress play. And Bonnie probably would have been bigger than the real Bonnie as well. But Bonnie could not walk on her own at that time because of severe burns she had sustained. So she was to stay in the car. And when she heard the gunfire, she was to honk the horn. It was real foggy that morning. And everybody knew to run to the sound of the horn honking except the one guy that just took advantage of the situation. And he didn’t know what that honking horn meant he ran the other way. And all five convicts escaped and one guard was killed.
Dan LeFebvre 07:17
The movie almost then flips that around. Yeah, cuz Clyde is in the car. And he honks the horn. And then I think Bonnie actually started shooting after the horn was hung. So it sounds like just kind of flipped it around a little bit.
John Neal Phillips 07:27
That’s right. And I told the screenwriter and the director that I was pretty annoyed by that that did not happen. And I explained why it didn’t happen and the director toned it down a bit. It was supposed to be even more radical than what you wound up seeing. So it tried to tone some of that, that down.
Dan LeFebvre 07:47
The way that the movie shows Frank Hamer and many goals getting chosen to lead the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde. It happens through a suggestion by Lee Simmons. And according to the movie, the way it sets up here is the Texas Rangers have been disbanded by the governor at the time of Ferguson. So she’s kind of reluctant to bring in hammer and gold. The impression that I got while I was watching the movie was that they were considered to be legends of their work because of working with the Rangers but then simultaneously also considered to be relics of a bygone era. But then Ma is under she’s facing a lot of pressure because of this ongoing bloodshed with Bonnie and Clyde. And so she kind of relents and agrees to let Hamer lead the hunt. And then of course, later Gault is brought in by Hamer. How well did the movie do showing the way that Hamer and Gault were called in to bring down Bonnie and Clyde?
John Neal Phillips 08:42
The screenwriter John Fusco had to deal with certain elements of the story to try and tell a story that was exciting. So he invented a character that is involved in this particular part of it. As far as exactly how heymer came to be the man who tracked Clyde money, that’s pretty accurate. In the movie, it was Lee Simmons. After that raid at Easton. This is why the movie starts out with the raid on Easton. Because it was that raid that brought the beginning of the end for Bonnie and Clyde. Because Lee Simmons who was the general manager of the Texas prison system, was rather seriously publicly embarrassed by that raid. And he was angry about it and one of his guards had been killed. So he vowed that he was he wasn’t gonna bring in Bonnie and Clyde he was gonna have him killed. And he had no money in his budget. So he had to go to the state to see if they could create a position They can disguise as something other than what it really was a hired gun to go out and kill Bonnie and Clyde that Lee Simmons wrote a book called assignment. Huntsville. Are you familiar with that book?
Dan LeFebvre 10:14
No, I have to check that one out.
John Neal Phillips 10:16
It’s out of print. It’s been a long out of print. It’s very rare, but it was published by University of Texas in 1957. Lee Simmons, in his own words, in his book said, I told Frank Hamer to put Clyde and Bonnie on the spot and shoot everyone in sight. Wow. That’s his own words in his own book. There was going to be no arrest. Now, there’s some hearsay that Simmons approached a couple of other Rangers including a ranger named Tom Hickman first and was turned down pickman in particular, that part of the story I got through somebody else who Hickman spoke with. I never spoke with Tom Hickman. But Hickman said that he was approached by Lee Simmons and he turned it down. He said, I don’t ambush people, and I don’t shoot women. Because that’s what it was going to be. It was going to be an execution, it wouldn’t be an arrest at all. Simmons, finally got on to hammer. I don’t know why he didn’t go to him first. He’s perfect. You know. And you’re right. Hammer was absolute legend. And a little bit, to a lesser extent, Gault, but hammer in particular, neither one of them were considered outdated. And, in fact, hammer is one of the few that started out as a ranger riding the range on horseback and very comfortably, made the transition into the fully mechanized 20th century. I mean, he was a Brazilian expert, and quite a scientist in tracking criminals and solving crimes. So no, he was not in any sense of the word considered outdated in his time. Now, the disbanding of the Texas Rangers that that never happened. Mr. Ferguson, never even tried to do such a thing. That was a device that the screenwriter developed to create this conflict going on with the MA Ferguson character, which never happened. She was under no pressure. Nobody knew that she was had anything to do with hammer. This is all very secret. This all came out after the fact, a few months after the fact and it, it didn’t matter to her politically only would have mattered to her politically, if it had failed. It was a big plus on her side, but the screenwriter wanted to create a conflict. There’s a conflict that he creates between golf and hammer, which never existed, and it’s a minor one. But this notion that hammer was reluctant to bring many golf on is, is just an invention. But the screenwriter wanted to create a bit of a conflict there. And then he wanted to create a large conflict somewhere in the governor’s mansion. And so he created that character of that state police guy. I forgot the name of the character, but that’s a total fabrication. But it makes a beautiful scene. There’s a great scene with Kathy Bates, who plays ma Ferguson beautifully. I think in that movie. There’s this great scene where she’s getting ready to enter a ballroom Do you remember that scene? Yeah. And she’s having this this knockdown drag out fight with that the head of the new state police and she’s got this really intense Kathy Bates look on her face. You know, she’s talking and then she turns in this beautiful smile breaks across her face and she enters the ballroom. That is fabulous. That’s really fabulous.
Dan LeFebvre 14:12
Yeah, she did a great job.
John Neal Phillips 14:14
Yeah, it’s well shot. It’s well written and it’s beautifully acted. I mean, gosh, Kathy Bates man. Hammer was brought on exactly the way they show in the movie Lee Simmons brought him in. At least Simmons knew that there was an issue between the Ferguson’s her husband and in ma Ferguson and hammer hammers, the one who resigned from the Texas Rangers when ma Ferguson was elected governor. He resigned. There was no attempt to get rid of the Texas Rangers. by Mr. Ferguson it all sevens knew this. So he met with heymer in Austin just like they they portray their And then Simmons went to Ferguson as they portray there. And Simmons said, I was thinking about Frank Hamer and without batting an eye. She said, Frank Hamer is okay with me.
Dan LeFebvre 15:14
So then how did Gault get pulled in? Because, yeah, like you mentioned, there was kind of some tension, but we see in the movie, Hamer brings Gault, and he kind of he’s hesitant at first, as you mentioned, but then how did he actually get brought in then?
John Neal Phillips 15:26
Maney Gault and Frank Hamer had worked together frequently before that. And golf also had resigned from the Texas Rangers. It is true golf was a little cash strapped at the time. I’m not so sure about the heavy drinking. Gods kind of a shadowy figure actually is not a lot known about that fella. And I think that’s the way he wanted it. But the way he was brought in heymer, as soon as he got on the trail, he came up here to Dallas, which is where I am and met with the sheriff’s Smoot Schmid. And Schmid had already put one of his deputies full time on the trail. And so Schmid introduced hammer to Bob Alcorn, the deputy, and the two of them took off immediately to Louisiana. And through several events, they were able to hook up a deal with some people that were helping Bonnie and Clyde over in Louisiana, but they knew immediately to go to Louisiana because the Henry method is it became clear to Bob Alcorn and Frank Hamer that this ambush was going to get set up, they decided they needed more firepower. And so Alicorn asked for Ted Hinton, of the Dallas Sheriff’s Department. And hammer asked for many goals and many goals on April 14 1934. Met heymer in Dallas. So that’s the way that transpired. And then then the two Louisiana men in Henderson Jordan and his deputy that that made the six that were in the ambush team.
Dan LeFebvre 17:21
We kind of already talked about Ma Ferguson and the Texas Rangers kind of being disbanded there. But the movie portrays it as they’re not being brought back on him and called aren’t being brought back on as Rangers because they’ve been disbanded. And so instead, they’re given this special highway assignment or highwomen, hence the title of the movie. But then it also points out that their jurisdiction is only in the state of Texas, I think later in the movie, there’s a scene where hammer and golf go into Oklahoma, and they’re told in no uncertain terms by the local law enforcement that they’re out of jurisdiction, that you’d go back to Texas. And if I remember right from history, I seem to recall that one of the ways Bonnie and Clyde were able to evade the law for so long was by hopping state lines. So police in one state would be chasing them, then they’d hop the state lines to the relative safety of a different state. Was the way that the jurisdiction worked for law enforcement in the 30s, a factor that allowed Bonnie and Clyde to continue their crimes for as long as they did?
John Neal Phillips 18:18
Absolutely. And Barrow knew it. He used the jurisdictional issue to his advantage. It was greater than just the state line. There are jurisdictional issues between municipalities and the county, and then County, the county police in a municipality would have no jurisdiction in the county. And no county officer would have any jurisdiction in a certain witness capacities. And another thing is, you know, this being the depression, these municipalities and counties were out of money, they had few resources. So they had very few Deputy Sheriffs, very few police and no communication other than the telephone. And then this jurisdictional thing. And Barrow knew all of that, and he used it to his advantage. There’s a story of one of the first murders attributed to Barrow was this man down in temple Texas. murdered on Christmas day trying to keep Clyde and wt Jones from stealing his car on Christmas Day. Imagine that the audacity of somebody trying to prevent you from stealing their car. Anyway, so they shot him and killed him on the way out of town. Barrow had Jones climb up a telephone pole and cut the wires. He had all these tools in the lightning and he frequently cut telephone lines. And then as soon as you’re across the county line pretty soon safe, but it was better to be across the state line. That’s why I hung around in places like far northeastern Oklahoma and Joplin Missouri Joplin, Missouri is perfect place number one, it was corrupt as hell at the time. And number two is very close to three or four state lines. You know,
Dan LeFebvre 20:20
Something else that we see in the movie is when we see hammer and gold visiting the Parker and barrel family homes in the West Allis viaduct. According to the way the movie shows it, they have I think there’s a mention of huge drag now something like 1000 men, but then Bonnie and Clyde are still able to slip in and out of their homes unnoticed, and we don’t really see how they’re able to do it in the movie. But at one point, hammer and golf notice a bunny that they knew that Bonnie and Clyde had and it was delivered to Bonnie’s mother at her home. Is it true that they were able to evade so many people who were watching they knew where their families lived, and they were seemed like the law was watching him. But the way the movie portrayed it, it looks like they’re able to pretty much get out whenever they want to. And
John Neal Phillips 21:04
That was pretty much the case. It had to do mainly with West Dallas was not part of Dallas. It was part of the county. The jurisdiction was the county that didn’t prevent Dallas police from going over there and picking people up occasionally. But mostly it was Dallas County area and they didn’t have the manpower. Dallas County is a huge territory. It really is. And they didn’t have the manpower and even after they started dedicating Bob Alicorn and then later Ted Hinton to doing nothing but tracking Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde was very good at slipping in and out and everybody knew how tight he was with his mother. And his father to a lesser extent, but his mother and his sister and his brother. There was a period there when they were at their hottest that they visited three, four times a week and they had different techniques for doing that. Marie, the youngest sister told me a story. She lived there at the filling station. They had house in the back, and she would go into town to Dallas catch the bus in front of their filling station there. One day she’s waiting at the bus stop. And she had a friend with her they were going to go into town and watch movies. And Bonnie and Clyde drove up and sat there at the bus stop, never got a car. That was the thing they’d pull up in a car they never would get out. And the car I’d be running and Clyde would have it in first and the clutch to press ready to take off. They sat there talking to Marie and eventually Clyde felt comfortable enough to offer Marie and her friend arrived into town. And so they got in the car. And I asked Maria say Weren’t you afraid to ride with him? Considering everybody’s after him? She said I was stupid and stupid and know how dangerous it was exactly what she said. Anyway, they went into town to what is not what is Dealey Plaza. It looked different than that underpass wasn’t there. And there were hotels in the like there were that plazas. But they parked right in front of the courthouse and sat there for the longest time just visiting and the whole darn nation’s looking for him and he’s sitting in front of the Dallas County Courthouse. One thing that he counted on was very few people had ever actually seen him. They were in law enforcement. And he counted on people not knowing who he was, or at least law enforcement and a few law enforcement knew Bonnie No, but they would disguise themselves but it didn’t matter. He was pretty brazen. That story is a pretty good example of how brazen he was and how easily he just moved in and out of town.
Dan LeFebvre 24:12
Something else that that we see in the movie is that it seems like they kind of had a secret code I think it’s a red beans and cabbage a well when the the lawman here that Bonnie’s mom is making red beans and cabbage that that must mean that Bonnie and Clyde are coming home that they have these sort of codes that they would use to communicate or it sounds like they could just pull right up whenever they want it to almost
John Neal Phillips 24:34
That red beans and cabbage that comes from a 1934 book called fugitives. It was written by a Dallas news reporter named Jan fortune. A lot of those stories she plagiarized just took him straight out of crime magazines. I mean word for word, magazines. But he can’t discount all of it. interspersed in there are actual things that family members confirmed to me actually did take place. A lot of it, they said they don’t know where some of that stuff came from. They’re not sure about the red beans and cabbage. Blanche says she never heard of that. But she was actually in prison when a lot of that was going on. But Marissa, she didn’t remember any of that either. There is a Dallas police wiretap the transcript from about a month of April 1934, just before they were killed, and that’s a pretty interesting thing to read. And there’s a recurring name that comes up and I’ll be darned I can’t forget. I can’t remember the name. It’s the alias that Jesse James used when he was went underground when he was really hot. That name comes up. Oh, the so and so’s are coming. And Platt barrows nephew told me that he’s not he wasn’t sure, but he thought that might have been a code there. Because Clyde Barrow is a huge fan of Jesse James. Clyde even went to Jesse James grave in Missouri. And he read everything he could about Jesse James. And one time when he he and Ralph’s were together. They had abducted a police chief from electric Texas and they’ve taken his weapon off of a prized weapon. It was this pearl handle nickelplated 45 caliber six shooter, you know, the old style six year and they had that and they got to some someplace, they already released the police chief and they still had the weapon. And clouds started target practice and fanning it like they do in the movies, you know, fan in the trigger. And he said to Ralph, he said that so Jesse James would do and Ralph said, I don’t think so. Exactly, Jay wrote it. Blow your finger off doing something like that. But he was a big fan of Jesse James and I’ll be darned I can’t remember the alias that Jesse James took. But that name pops up in this transcript two or three times, which may have been a code but I’ll tell you there’s that there are two or three times in that transcript. When Kumi plaids mother is on the phone, and she knows that phone is tapped. There are things that she said a man called to tell him a story and said do you want me to tell you over the phone which told me they knew the phones were tapped? She said Yeah, tell me now. And they talk kind of openly about the kids. Kids coming into town or the kids get away you know and so there they weren’t trying to hide that too much. Another technique Clyde had was he would put a note in a soda pop bottle and drive by the gas station throw the bottle out.
Dan LeFebvre 28:11
I think we see some of that happening in the movie like babies we see bottles being thrown.
John Neal Phillips 28:14
Yeah, yeah, they try all kinds of things the bunny rabbit is based on probably a true account it appears in that Jan fortune book but it’s also confirmed by Joe Palmer later that Bonnie had this rabbit that was going to be a gift for mother so the screenwriter for the movie work that in to the script or but as far as that seen with a hammer going into West Dallas Hey, we’re never went to was Dallas ever. He didn’t have any need to he knew where Barrow was he was over in Louisiana. He was setting that up over in Louisiana. It took a while because of various things. Number not least which making sure that they actually get this guy because he was pretty vindictive, if you found out people were working to put him on the spot. He was going to come after him.
Dan LeFebvre 29:08
Something we do see in the movie is Bonnie and Clyde are. They’ve seen like rock stars. Like I think there was a scene in coffeyville Kansas where we see people just mopping their car, kind of like you’d see with celebrities today. There’s another scene in a rural gas station where the attendant tries to cover up the fact that they stopped there. There’s even another point where I think the movie compares them to Robin Hood. They’re stealing from rich banks and giving to the poor people. What was the contemporary opinion of Bonnie and Clyde during their crimespree?
John Neal Phillips 29:41
Well, it was mixed. That term Robin Hood was an actual reference made by Dallas newspapers. The first time Barack comes to prominent attention. A fourth or technically Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff was shot and killed by Clyde Berra here in Dallas County. They were attempting to arrest somebody else and Berra showed up instead. And there was a huge shootout and barrel got completely away, of course. And the newspapers started wondering, well, who is this Clyde Barrow. So they started snooping around and those that would talk, I would say, well, cloud gives us money. And so they started referring to them as modern day Robin Hood’s. But the public opinion was mixed and part of any kind of pop cultural reference to them at the time as to be understood in in the time that there was no television, no internet, the only entertainment was if you could get to the movies, a lot of people couldn’t even afford that. newspapers were the big thing, the big thing. So a lot of people who are you know, just eking it out, if they were able to do that, I found it easy to kind of live vicariously through these gangsters, these outlaws that were in the newspapers a lot, because it was kind of abstract. I mean, think about it, you’re reading about something that you didn’t personally experience, you can really get into that. And it’s exciting, you know, and so there was a lot of that. And until you were a victim, then it was different. So that went on for a long time. And it was a fact that the average citizen, who was really having a hard time in the depression, often blamed their predicament on three things, the crooked banks, all banks are crooked, to great cross section of people. All politicians were crooked, and they were in cahoots with the banks, and all law enforcement are crooked. And that there was an element of truth and, and not an element of truth to all of that. But that was a public perception. And anybody that could make fools out of politicians, police and banks, just fine with them. So here’s Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde knew this. Cloud was he could have been an advertising executive, he knew how to market himself. And so the Yeah, the the Robin Hood moniker is pretty accurate, right down to newspapers actually using that term to describe them. But then, later on, in their spree, after the bodies started just mounting up, and especially after the Easter Sunday shootings, public opinion turned against them. And a good deal of that was caused by law enforcement, law enforcement, new. Schmidt, the sheriff here in Dallas County knew that this ambush that was going to happen in Louisiana was was going to come to pass and knew that they were probably going to have to take Bonnie out with Clyde. Because she was always so close to him, it was just gonna be impossible not to get her to. If they could get her away. Everyone thought that Bonnie could easily be rehabilitated and go straight. But she just wouldn’t leave Clydeside at all. So they figured that I have to get him and they got to have to get him when he’s slightly off guard, which he rarely was and she was always there. So you can see it in newspaper accounts, especially from press releases from the sheriff’s department, how they were starting to include Bonnie more and more in the story.
John Neal Phillips 33:57
A really good example of this has to do with the grapevine shooting, the Easter Sunday shooting of the two highway patrolman who apparently had stopped because they thought the car was in distress and they’re going to offer help probably. That was one of the highway Patrol’s jobs to help stranded motorists and that card been there all day. And they driven by once and saw that car there and then when they came back that afternoon, they saw that car there so they probably pulled up there to try and help Clyde and Henry meth and kill those two guys. But you won’t see it from Tarrant County from the news reports in Tarrant County but in Dallas County. The news reports completely omit Henry method from being there. And they have Bonnie shooting. One of the officers there which is portrayed in the movie and I pretty annoyed by that and I told them that told the director that I told the screenwriter that but they still kept it in the director. Did tone it down a bit more but that portrayal of her shooting that guy and say look at their cloud Look at his hit bounce that never happened. And I’ll tell you how I know that never happened. That came from a witness, who was a farmer nearby named William Schaefer, when he was first interviewed by law enforcement said he was too far away to have seen anything. You heard the shots and that was it. By the time the book I’m Frank Hamer comes out, which is in the early 1960s. This witness has changed his story to the point where he has crawled up close enough to the scene to actually witness all the shooting and comes up with this thing with Bonnie saying Looky there, Clyde, look at his head bounce. There’s a couple of things wrong with that. That story never mentioned Henry methan, who was there he was the other gunman. And also there were two other witnesses to the actual shooting. The actual shooting of the officer that Bonnie was charged with shooting there. They were in a car on the road nearby and drove by and they saw the taller of two men shooting the officer that was laying on the ground. And the taller of two men was Henry method. The shorter was going to be Clyde Barrow. Henry method was almost six feet tall Barrow was about five, eight. So there’s a lot wrong with that story there. Well anyway, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department completely eliminate Henry method from the scene. Whereas the fingerprint expert in Tarrant County identifies the thumbprint of Henry method on one of the whiskey bottles. Dallas County says it was Bonnie’s fingerprint. It was on that whiskey bottle and Tarrant County raises and they change that story but that they still keep concealing Henry method because well, Schmidt knew that they were working to deal with methods parents over in Louisiana at that time. And part of the deal was the state of Texas would offer Henry mithuna full pardon, in exchange for putting Bonnie and Clyde on the spot. And Governor Ferguson already signed an agreement to this and that agreement was in the sheriff’s desk over in Louisiana. And it would have looked pretty bad for Henry method be charged with a double murder that Marion Ferguson has given him complete immunity to sounds like an episode of homeland or something. So the public opinion of buying fire was mixed. It was mostly it was for them. But they’re toward the end, you know, for good reason. I mean, these these folks were scary, scary people. But just what they were doing on their own was scary enough without having Dallas County Sheriff’s Department inventing more stuff, because they knew they were going to have to kill Bonnie, because she was just never going to be far enough away from clod to get him but without getting hurt too. So they started inventing this, this image of hers this well hammer himself in a later interview describes her as a quote she dog, unquote. That’s what he says.
Dan LeFebvre 38:40
There’s a scene in the movie where we see Frank Hamer going to actually talk to Clyde’s dad, Henry Barrow. And during that conversation, Henry points out that he knows that there’s only one way that this is going to end. There’s a scene in there that particular line that kind of stood out to me It said Henry says something like ended now ended for my family. It seems like the movie kind of changed things around one of you said that the hammer really had no need to go to West Allis, then I’m assuming that he never really talked to Clyde’s dad. And I’m assuming based on what you were just saying that. I’m sure that their families knew that. Really, there was probably only going to be one way that this was going to end. Would that be a pretty accurate statement?
John Neal Phillips 39:28
Yes, exactly. Right. everybody involved knew. The only way it was going to end was with Clyde being killed. And Bonnie wanted to go along with him. Even people that ran in the gang like brow false. He said there was no way in hell the Clyde Barrow was ever going to be rehabilitated. And there was sure no way in hell he was going to be taken alive. He had promised his mother That if he got cornered, that he would kill himself he was not going to go back to prison at all. That hellhole he called it. Now the portrayal of hammer talking to Henry there that may have actually happened with Ted Hinton, who was one of the six officers. He was a Dallas County Deputy Sheriff. And he was one of the six officers that eventually killed him over in Louisiana and Hinton in his book said he went out and talked to Henry Barrow more than once, and that that’s less likely true. So the screenwriter knew that. But the focus was on hammer and golf. So he wanted to turn it into hammer, having that conversation.
Dan LeFebvre 40:47
Okay, so they did talk to his father than Henry Barrow, but not not necessarily him. Okay. Okay.
John Neal Phillips 40:52
Yeah. Yeah, it’s doubtful they ever talk to mom, though. She did not have any use for cops at all, which is probably rubbed off on Clyde. Henry was a very, very quiet fella. No one I ever spoke to, could ever remember him appearing to ever be angry. He was very soft spoken, very quiet. Whereas cue me was a hell on wheels. She was somebody to contend with. She had a little tiny, tiny lady. But everybody in the immediate vicinity was scared to death. I heard she was a holy terror. She was really something
Dan LeFebvre 41:34
Sounds like Clyde took more after his mother then.
John Neal Phillips 41:37
Yeah, the the youngest sister told me of, of all the children. They were divided down the middle, and temperament. Half of them were of the temperament where they get mad. And then that was it. They never thought about it again. But there was just as many of the kids they get mad and never forget it. And that was Clyde. He never forgot anything. And was easily hacked off about things. I remember, early on when I was interviewing Ralph fullz for what eventually became running with Bonnie and Clyde had a photo of Clyde, pretty well known photo of him kind of crouching in front of the stolen car. And he’s got his fedora hat on. And Ralph looked at that picture. And he said, he looks pissed off this picture, that particular look on his faces, how he looked when he was hacked off about something.
Dan LeFebvre 42:47
You mentioned Henry methvin, and how it sounds like a hammer knew right away to go to Louisiana. But the way that the movie portrays it, there’s almost some detective work that goes on beforehand. And then eventually, they do end up finding out that Henry methvin has family in Louisiana, so that must be where they go. And we see hammer and bolts both going there together. And I think they actually find the hideout at Henry’s dad’s place, but nobody is there initially. How did the movie do showing just a way that they tracked Bonnie and Clyde to Louisiana? It sounds like there were definitely some changes there.
John Neal Phillips 43:24
Yeah, hey, Ron went straight to Louisiana. He didn’t. He didn’t fool around. He was in Louisiana. Seven days after he signed on. According to a hammer, I’m sorry, 17 days after you signed on the whole driving around. And wondering where Clyde’s going to be, you know, very little of that ever happened. And they went over to Louisiana, suspecting that Henry method would be a contact that his family was there. And knowing how barrel operated, he would probably come into the area and then make a circuit again, this huge, you know, multi 1000 miles circuit that he would draw, but he would probably come back to Louisiana. And so they went to Louisiana, and they located Henry’s parents who were really really down and out. They were living in a tent in Castro, Louisiana, near the town square in Castro, Louisiana. It was through an intermediary named john joiner, it was discovered that the methods would like to make a deal that they could put Bonnie and Clyde on the spot if they could get a deal for their son Henry. But Castro was a problem. Apparently law enforcement there were corrupt, or at least that’s the way hammer put it. They were corrupt. So they had to figure out a way to get them to an non corrupt parish there and Louisiana, which is portrayed a bit in the movie, you’ll remember Manny Gault went into first meet with Henderson Jordan and offered him a bribe. And none of that ever happened. But that was to illustrate the issue of trying to figure out who, who’s straight and who’s not. Because it was a real dicey thing, it really was. They were able to find an abandoned farmhouse in bienville. Parish, which is where Henderson jerden was. And this mediator, john joiner, he arranged for the methods to move into this unused farmhouse in bienville. Parish, which put them in Henderson joordens jurisdiction, and then Bonnie and Clyde started going there. And that’s the house that’s portrayed that hammer and golf go into, they never did do that. They didn’t have to that. Well, even if they had had to, it would have been dicey for them to do that. It would have tipped off cloud, and then he didn’t never come back. You didn’t never come back. He didn’t know one way or another.
John Neal Phillips 46:13
If somebody from outside had been in there, nevertheless, they got the methods moved into this place and binding clouds started coming there. And then they told Henry, that they have this deal. And the deal went like this. They were working with this intermediate john joiner so that the methods never had to meet face to face with law enforcement. So john joiner, took this proposal to Henderson Jordan, this is before him or even showed up, took this proposal to Jordan even though they were living in Castor and the next Parish, john Joyner new Henry, new Henderson jerden. And the FBI was involved in this too. There was an agent named Kendall I think it was his name. He was at some of the meetings between john joiner and Henderson. Jordan, was not active beyond that, but was at some of the meetings there. And so john Joyner said the methods want a pardon for their son. So, about this time, hammer and Bob Alcorn start showing up. And so hammer and Alicorn. And this agent Kendall, and Henderson, Jordan, draw up this paper. It’s a handwritten document that offers Henry, full pardon in the state of Texas in exchange for Bonnie and Clyde. And hammer, takes it to Austin and personally meets with Ferguson and Ferguson signs, signs. And hammer takes it back to Louisiana and Jordan keeps it in his desk. And in the meantime, Bonnie and Clyde are coming and going, and they haven’t figured out how to how to make clouds stop his car long enough to shoot him. It takes a while. They think maybe they’ll go in before they move them into bienville Paris, they think they’ll go into Castor and just start blazing away and Castor but they’re worried about hitting anybody innocent, you know, I mean, it was in the town square. So that’s when they devised this, this idea of moving them into this house, which is much more remote. And there was just this one road in or out north and south there and they would have to either come from the south to the north or the north to the south. And more likely than not, he’d come from the north to the south, because his circuit went all the way up to Canada and back. So it was quite a process but it was all in Louisiana. There wasn’t any of this you know driving up to coffee Ville and all that crap that never happened. But it looks cool in the movie, they able to use it to create a couple of other scenarios and not least to which is that group of fans that kind of crowd around the car. You know to indicate man a lot of people are on these people’s sides.
Dan LeFebvre 49:14
You mentioned the the house, the one road in and out that movie calls it wrinkled road. And the way that the movie portrays the ambush happening is IV meth and Henry’s father pulls his his car onto the road. I parked it I think on the wrong side he Jacks up is front right bumper takes off the tire and then when Bonnie and Clyde’s car comes down the road. Everything according to the movie seems to go to plan. Deputy Hinton positively identifies Clyde in the car from a distance and then when it gets closer, Clyde stops the car and he asks IV if he needs help changing the tire. Then we see Frank Hamer step out and stick them up he raises his rifle. And there’s a moment of pause we see a look of terror on Bonnie and Clyde’s faces. through the windshield on the car, and then all the other law men stand up clear that they’re outnumbered regardless, Bonnie and Clyde reach for their guns and the lawman open fire. They pretty much unload everything that they have and Bonnie and Clyde are killed. How well did the movie do showing the actual ambush happening?
John Neal Phillips 50:20
Yeah, that’s pretty solid. All except Hamer and Gault stepping into the road. They never did that. But all the rest of it is pretty darn solid. I was pretty amazed. There’s a couple of minor details that were left out. It didn’t matter. They really nailed it seen the look of it in the like that the only thing that never happened was hammer stepping out and saying stick them up law. They never said a damn thing. They just shot them. I interviewed three people who were close enough to hear the shots. Two are working in a field and one was driving along and truck that just come around the corner. And all three of them describe two distinct shots. And then what sounded like dynamite going off with all the other weapons. The two shots apparently were Prentice Oakley. Even Hinton mentions this in his book. Oakley had died before I started researching this but uh, I interviewed a close friend of his and this friend of his said a couple of things about that. But one, he mentioned that Prentice Oakley was so nervous and so wired up that he jumped up before anybody gave an order and he squeezed off two shots. And Hinton in his book said he saw Clyde’s head snap back. And that’s when the car start going. Going off down the road. Berra probably headed in first gear and had the clutch depressing when he was hit. He let the clutch go. And the cars taken off a hammer describes Bonnie screaming. And then all of them unloading on the car. No one else mentions the screaming. Well, the only other one to write about it is Hinton he didn’t mention the screaming. Hammer mentioned Bonnie screaming like a Panther, he said, but neither one of them went further guns, the guns around the back seat. I think Bonnie had a pistol on her lap, or a peach or a sandwich depending on who which source you eat. The peach and the sandwich were people that came up to the road after the ambush to see what the including these two farmers that I was I interviewed anyway. Yeah, hammer and golf never stepped in that road. Nobody’s identified themselves. Nobody said anything. They just opened fire on the car there. But all the rest of his I mean, it’s just dead on. And I remember when they were shooting that scene, they invited me to come over to see that because I wanted to see how they did the car, how they want to make that car look like it’s getting hit. It’s pretty interesting how they did that. But remember, between a couple of takes Woody Harrelson just kind of commented to nobody in particular who’s just standing there in the road, while they’re getting ready to reset the cameras, and he said, You know, when that car starts coming up that road is kind of exciting. And it really was.
Dan LeFebvre 53:22
At the very end of the movie, there’s some text on there, and it explains that 20,000 people attended Bonnie Parker’s funeral, and some 15,000 went to quiet barrows. Then it says that the Texas Rangers were reconstituted in 1935 after ma Ferguson left office, and Manny Gault went on to work as a Texas Ranger until his death in 1947. And Frank Hamer went into retirement until his passing in 1955. How well did the movie do wrapping up the story?
John Neal Phillips 53:53
Well, of course, the Texas Rangers never were disbanded to begin with. So I’ll tell you what did happen. And this happened after Ferguson left office, the legislature combined the Texas Rangers with the highway patrol into a one large group called the Texas Department of Public Safety. And so the Texas Rangers still exist. And, of course, the highway patrol still exists. Many goals. I really don’t know what he did. He’s such a shadowy figure. The screenwriter john Fusco did a lot of research on that guy. Found out a hell of a lot more than I thought about him. But hammer, he still worked in a variety of security positions and one of the greatest seeg you got time for me to tell you the story. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Are you familiar at all with Lyndon Johnson when he ran for the Senate and there the famous 87 votes from Alice, Texas that suddenly materialized
Dan LeFebvre 55:00
No, not that part of it. I’m more familiar, obviously with him and you know, being president.
John Neal Phillips 55:05
Yeah, right. Well, of course, Johnson in 1948 ran for the US Senate against a really popular former governor named Koch Stephenson. So Johnson’s campaign manager, who is john Connolly, who later became governor of Texas. He pulled out all the stops, and he was cramming vote boxes and doing all kinds of things to try and get Johnson to win. And he won by 87 votes. But Koch Stephenson didn’t buy it. He had heard there’s some skullduggery in this little town called Alice, where there’s all these voters names all signed in the same ink in the same handwriting. He had heard this. And so he hired some lawyers to go down and look at it and the lawyers went down and they couldn’t they weren’t allowed to see. Boat box 13 that’s that’s the vote but vote voting box. 13 had these names in it. So Koch Stevenson asked Frank Hamer, to go down there with them. And Frank Hamer was, let’s see, he would have been 6564 or five then and was pretty much retired by them. But he was friends at coke Stevenson, so he said, Go down there. And so this lawyer is telling the story of this lawyer, and another lawyer and Frank Hamer go down to Dallas, Texas, actually, the lawyers were there already, and hammer shows up at their hotel. And the lawyer had heard of Frank hammer. But he was kind of appalled that this old man that came walking through the door there is wondering, What on earth is he gonna be able to do here? And immediately, hammer just took command. And it turned into Frank hammer, you know? And he said, Okay, we’re gonna walk down to the bank where this box 13 is kept. And we’re gonna take a look at that box. And they say, okay, instead, okay, I want you guys to get up and take your jackets off. And I’m gonna take mine off. And they said, Why do you want us to do that? And he said, because I want everyone down there to see you’re not armed, and that I am armed. Because there were these pistolero is just kind of encircling this bank building to try and keep people out. And so it’s like a scene out of high noon or something, the way it’s describe these two lawyers and fry hammer, heading toward that bank down the middle of the street. And this lawyer is telling stories, not really sure what the heck is going to happen here. Because hammer is armed to the teeth. And he’s walking like he’s not stopping. And they’re kind of behind him. Sort of like No Country for Old Men. What about your gun I’m hiding behind you. They get close to the bank. And hammer raises his hand and with his finger, he just flicks his finger like that, to indicate everybody get the hell out of the way in the seas parted. Because everybody was saying my hammers in town, Frank hammers in town, Frank hammers in town. And sure enough, they parted. And they went in, and they looked at that box 13. And sure enough, their signatures in the light. So they went back to Austin to report and in the meantime, box 13 disappeared and totally disappeared. But that is a great story. I mean, it’s just like out of a Western. Amer kept taking jobs until he died in 1955. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre 58:47
You had the chance to actually interview some of the real gang members, like you mentioned earlier, Ralph Fults as well as Blanche Barrow. What was that like? And did they seem remorseful for what they’d done it all?
John Neal Phillips 58:58
Ralph sure was. Part of the reason why Ralph wanted to do a book at all, was to try and make some kind of amends. Part of his idea was to alert people to the fact that this can keep happening if we don’t do something about it. That’s why we really get into the Texas prison system a lot because more than one person in law enforcement, and people in the prison system stated flatly, if he’d been treated better, Barrow, if he hadn’t been mistreated in prison, we wouldn’t be talking about him today. And same with Joe Palmer to also around Barrow. So Ralph was very remorseful. I remember one time, but there’s two incidents one, I was over his house and his son was there. And at one point while we’re talking his son asked, well, Dad, what was the most spectacular thing you implied ever? Did in this look came over Rouse face and he turned to us and he said, there wasn’t anything spectacular about any of it. This wasn’t fun at all. It wasn’t fun for me. wasn’t fun for Bonnie and Clyde and it sure wasn’t fun for our victims, none of them. And then this other time, Ralph and I went to visit a man who had once been a hostage of him and Raymond Hamilton after a big Gunfight in Collin County. And it was like a couple of little high school buddies getting together again, it was really interesting to watch these two guys, one of whom had been an outlaw who held a gun on this other guy there. They were talking like their old school buddies or something, but at one point, the way they had encountered this fella Raymond Hamilton or Al fullz, had been set up to be ambush just like Bonnie and Clyde had been ambushed. But they happen to drive right through the ambush, and we’re not even wounded. Ralph had a slight crease on his forehead. And that was it. And Raman added crease on his forehead. But it right after the car was all shot to pieces and it was falling apart. So they carjack this guy that was on the road. And they made him come with him. And then they abandoned his car and took another car. Well, that fella, when we went to visit him that fella said, Yeah, you know, it got below freezing at night, and my car froze up and the engine block cracked. And so that car was ruined. And this look came over Ralph’s face like Oh, God, I did that. You know. I mean, it’s one thing to even have a car during the Depression. If you could afford the tires and the gas and the oil could drive and then to have it as some jackass run you off the road to where you leave your car there and freezes up and ruins the car, you know, and that look came over his fate. Yeah, he was very remorseful. I couldn’t tell if Blanche for sure. Or not. Did you ever see the Warren Beatty movie? Bonnie and Clyde?
Dan LeFebvre 1:02:09
Yes, I have. Yeah.
John Neal Phillips 1:02:12
You know what she told me about that movie? She said that movie made me look like a scream and horses ass. That was bland. Blanche made it really clear that she was with Clyde Barrow because she wanted to be with him. I asked her at one point when she and buck were wounded. Really bad in Iowa. And Bonnie and Clyde. They were wounded too. But they got separated. And Bonnie and Clyde and wt Jones escape but Blanche and buck got caught. And I asked her do you think Clyde felt bad about leaving his brother behind there? She said Well, I hope he didn’t. And then she put it this way. Well, we were all young and really stupid and I don’t make an excuse there for that but we were all there because we wanted to be there she said you know so I really couldn’t tell if she had any remorse for other than the way it kind of dominated all the rest of her life. The three months she was with him just defined the rest of her life. Yeah,
Dan LeFebvre 1:03:20
I was really curious about that because they were so young at the time. And then just yeah, it’s gonna dominate rest of their lives, how much remorse they would feel you know, once they once a lot of it started to sink and I imagine you know after after it was over after Bonnie and Clyde were killed. A lot of that would start to sink in just exactly you know how much what they had done?
John Neal Phillips 1:03:41
Yes, sink in in the hard way. Marie, the younger sister back to the earlier question about the effect on the families that Bonnie and Clyde had it was a tremendous effect in the way that Marie put it was those two boys and she’s talking about Clyde and buck. Those two boys made my poor mama Whitehead. She said mostly she was you know pro Clyde and book but when it came to her mama she was you know if it affected her mama in it did. She was very angry with them about that is a complex thing. It really is like anything involving humans.
Dan LeFebvre 1:04:22
But since you were also involved in the making of the movie, what’s one of your favorite stories from that process?
John Neal Phillips 1:04:28
Woody Harrelson is a complete, insane freak. He was everywhere is like there were three of them. He had this bicycle. And he had this this backgammon game going on with some of the crew. And so here he is dressed as Manny Gault and he’s got this backgammon game under his arm and riding off on a bicycle between takes to play back again with friends but he he was hilarious. That guy was And I couldn’t believe it. He had this friendly sort of battle going on with one of the camera operators. Apparently this camera operator had scolded Woody Harrelson for getting in in the sun for a shot when all the other shots, they had this awning set up to diffuse the light. And in one of the shots, Woody got just a little bit in the sun. And after that every single take when the first assistant director is getting ready to say roll action. Woody Harrelson singing, here comes the sun, here comes the sun and data, data, data data. And then then you hear the first assistant director say action and all of a sudden he’s Manny golf. I couldn’t believe it. The sun I don’t know, you know, he’s, he’s really good. He was really good. But really, my favorite thing was the special effects guys that rigged the car to look like it was getting shot up. They were so nice. In fact, everybody in the crew was really nice that they knew that. My background is in art, but I have a degree in filmmaking. And I teach a film class at the college where I teach. And they knew that and so they were showing me everything. And the special effects guy showed me and they let me photograph it, they let me video it for my class. Every single little thing that they did, they had these fantastic devices that they had built themselves to make that car look like it was getting shot to pieces and and they took the historic photos of the real car. And they had three cars that they use, and the one that gets all shot up by hand, they took a hammer and a punch. And they punched every hole in that car based on the photo of where the hole was supposed to be. And whether it was an entry room, entry hole or an exit hole out the other side. Then they put these little blasting cap charges inside that hole and then they bonded the thing up and repainted it even in person, you could hardly see the little dimple there. And then they had all that wire to this motherboard. And remotely, they could make any one of those go off anytime they wanted. And then for the glass, the class, they had these little half inch pieces of copper tube and you know these glue guns. Yeah, you know, electric glue guns. They’re the glue sticks, and they cut little pieces of glue sticks and stuck them in those half inch holes and add a little charge at the end that was hooked up to the motherboard. And they would fire those little pieces of glue through the glass. And it really looks like if you see the movie again, you’ll see all the glasses flying out. Because the little blue stick pieces are making the glass fly. But it doesn’t matter. It works. It worked really great. I remember running into the special effects supervisor on one of the scouting locations scouting. And then I found out he was in special effects. I said how are you going to do the car? And he said, Oh, you’ve got to see this. And he started explaining it to me. And I said oh yeah, I’ve got to see this. So they invited me to come out to film into that. That was interesting that and Woody Harrelson being such an insane freak. He is a lot of fun that guy.
Dan LeFebvre 1:08:43
Yeah, well, I mean, at the very end of the movie, they do show actual photos of it. And I didn’t look at the two side by side but man like the the holes and everything, you know, in the movie as well. And then seeing the real ones. It looks really, really close.
John Neal Phillips 1:08:57
Yeah, they’re very close. Yeah, they work really hard on that. And then the bit where the car takes off down the road. That’s the second car. And that one already has all the holes in it. So they shoot the ambush scene, or the car blows up and everything and then they bring the second car out. And that car has no engine, so it had to be towed there. But they had this great rig. They had a hook on the underside of the car hooked to a steel cable that was thread through a bunch of pulleys that ran for about a quarter of a mile down the road then cross the road so the camera won’t pick it up. And then through a bunch of more pulleys and then it was hooked up to a golf cart. And so when the car starts to move, it’s actually the golf cart pulling it. And there’s a young fella underneath the hood, who’s actually there’s a little tiny steering wheel and he’s actually steering the thing because Bonnie and Clyde are dead. They can’t. They can’t see where they’re going and he’s steers it very deliberately right into the embankment just like it really did. And that same guy’s operating the smoke machine to make it look like the radiator got hit. There, those special effects are pretty cool. Yeah, those are pretty cool that you guys that work together on that. They had worked all their career on that. And their dads had worked together as special effects guys all their careers together.
Dan LeFebvre 1:10:26
That was kind of cool. That’s fascinating. It’s fascinating. Let’s say that you were in charge of directing the movie. Is there anything that you really wish they had included? That didn’t make it into the film?
John Neal Phillips 1:10:38
Not really, I thought the screenwriter and the director did a great job. I mean, it’s a great movie. It’s not strictly historically accurate, but it’s pretty darn historically accurate. The production designer worked really hard to make sure everything right down to the way badges were supposed to look. I was furnishing all these photographs. They’re all peppering me with questions. What does this look like? How did cars park on the street in Dallas in 1980? You know, stuff like that. What was in Smoot Schmidt’s office hanging on the wall, you know, things like that? What kind of clothes did Miriam Ferguson wear? That kind of thing. This is the the look of the of the thing and the sound of it. And everything is really great. I thought I thought it was a great movie. I never watch movies, thinking I’m gonna learn a lot about history. I go to historian for history. And for that reason, I love the Beatty movie. Bonnie and Clyde. I think it’s a fabulous movie, man. There’s nothing about that. That’s accurate. But it’s a great movie. It really is a great movie. But I tell you of all the movies, I’ve seen this one, the highwomen is the closest to really capturing the time and the feel and the look of the thing. That’s another thing, the cinematographer in that movie, he’s a big deal. When I first met him, I was kind of odd because he’s such a big deal. He shot Seabiscuit and Pearl Harbor and jurassic world and all these things. And when I first met him, I said, You shot one of my favorite movies. And he said Yeah, what’s that? I said Benny in June, which an old Johnny Depp movie. The first assistant director heard that and he said, you know, that was on the other night. That’s a pretty good little movie in in the cinematographer said, Yeah, that’s a pretty good movie. And then they started joking. Have you ever seen that movie?
Dan LeFebvre 1:12:46
I haven’t. No. I’m gonna have to go watch it now. That’s for sure. Yeah.
John Neal Phillips 1:12:50
Well, the the Johnny Depp character. He makes grilled cheese sandwiches with a an iron. And so the first assistant director said, that’s a really good movie, except I don’t know if you could make a grilled cheese sandwich that way. And the cinematographers name is john Schwartzman. He said, Oh, yeah, you can I tried it. And it’s pretty good.
Dan LeFebvre 1:13:15
And I’ll have to try that too.
John Neal Phillips 1:13:16
Yeah. But that guy, that cinematographer, he knew I taught this class and he told me all kinds of things that they do to those digital cameras to make the digital image look closer to film because film as a livelier look to it. It’s just different. They actually destroy, partially destroy the digital camera to make it have that kind of film look to it. And so that was really interesting, too. But as far as directing it, I wouldn’t do anything different. JOHN Lee Hancock did pretty dang good, I thought.
Dan LeFebvre 1:13:50
Thank you so much for coming on to chat about the highwomen you’ve got a great book called running with Bonnie and Clyde. And then of course also you edited Blanche barrows memoir called my life with Bonnie and Clyde. So let’s say someone is listening to this and they want to learn more about the real story. Can you give an overview of your books and where someone can pick up a copy?
John Neal Phillips 1:14:10
Yeah, running with Bonnie and Clyde is the full story from before Bonnie and Clyde to after Bonnie and Clyde. And then my life with Bonnie and Clyde which is blanches memoir covers that very intense three month period that she was with them. They’re they’re both published by University of Oklahoma Press and you can go to their website. Oh, you press calm and order straight from there or you can order from Amazon or any place that sells excellent books.
Dan LeFebvre 1:14:42
Thank you again so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
John Neal Phillips 1:14:45