Penn, Arthur Hiller, 1922–2010, American director, brother of Irving Penn, b. Philadelphia; studied Black Mountain College and the Actors' Studio, Los Angeles. Penn, who often dealt with themes of alienation in American life, began directing dramas for live television during the early 1950s. His Broadway credits include Two for the Seesaw (1958), The Miracle Worker (1959, Tony Award; also dir. 1957 telecast and 1962 film), Toys in the Attic (1960), and Wait until Dark (1966). His first film, The Left-Handed Gun (1958), a psychologically probing study of Billy the Kid, was also an adaptation of a television drama and dealt with a social outsider, a theme which recurs frequently in his other films. Penn's masterpiece, Bonnie and Clyde (1967), is a darkly brilliant study of Depression-era outlaws that combines high drama with comedy, explicit sexual content, social comment, and extreme violence. The film paved the way for such practitioners of the "New American Cinema" of the 1970s as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Robert Altman. Displaying an offbeat take on several screen genres, his other movies include Micky One (1965), The Chase (1966), Alice's Restaurant (1969), Little Big Man (1970), Night Moves (1975), and The Missouri Breaks (1976). Among his later, less commercially successful films are Four Friends (1981), Dead of Winter (1987), and Inside (1996).
See M. Chaiken and P. Cronin, ed., Arthur Penn: Interviews (2008); L. D. Friedman, ed., Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" (2000); studies by R. Wood (1969) and J. S. Zuker (1980).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.