Why Did Bonnie Have a Limp? The Dark Side of Bonnie and Clyde

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Why was Bonnie seen later with a pronounced limp? Are people confusing it with Clyde’s limp? Here’s the quick answer to that.

Clyde was driving so fast and didn’t notice they were approaching a bridge that was under construction, and they crashed. The battery acid leaked, burning Bonnie’s leg to the bone. It affected the way she walked, thus her limp.

The story of Bonnie and Clyde has been covered from head to toe over the nearly 100 years since their passing.

Photo of Bonnie and Clyde in a Wanted poster
Photo of Bonnie and Clyde in a Wanted poster

Unfortunately, most of it has been romanticized and even glamorized by pop songs and movies.

There is a very dark side to the story of Bonnie and Clyde, and while yes, the murder of innocent people should be considered dark and terrible, there’s more to the story.

Keep reading to find out the interesting details about Bonnie’s limp.

It All Starts with Clyde Barrow

To understand Bonnie’s limp, we need to talk first about Clyde.

Clyde Chestnut Barrow (who often went by the name Clyde Champion Barrow) was imprisoned in one of the worst jails in Texas—the Eastham Prison Farm. While there, not only was Barrow subject to hard labor, but he was also repeatedly beaten and raped by a fellow inmate.

Clyde Barrow
Clyde Barrow

Barrow is said to have killed his tormentor and let another inmate, who was serving a life sentence, take the fall.

As you might expect, Barrow still wanted out of this hell-hole of a prison, and his grand escape plan meant cutting his toes. While no one is sure whether Clyde cut off two of his toes or he had another inmate do it, the fact remains that he lost two toes.

This is why Clyde himself had a strange way of walking. Some felt he did it on purpose, but once you know the real story behind his gait, it makes sense.

Did Bonnie and Clyde Both Have Limps?

Yes, they did, but they didn’t always.

As we talked about above, Clyde’s limp came from having two of his toes cut in an attempt to get moved to another jail or be released from jail.

Bonnie and Clyde together
Photo of Bonnie and Clyde together from a newspaper following their death

What happened to Bonnie is another story.

After getting out of prison (now without two toes on his left foot), Clyde found it difficult to drive with shoes on.

For that reason, he found a way to get around his problem and was known to drive wearing only socks or even barefoot.

One evening, Clyde was speeding down a back road. He was going so fast that he missed signs warning that a bridge up ahead was under construction.

It’s said that Clyde tried to apply brakes, but his stocking-clad feet slid off the pedal.

The car flew off the bridge and landed in the ditch underneath. In the accident, the car battery either exploded or broke open ( read more on Cars from the 20s ), leaking battery acid that severely burned Bonnie’s leg.

In fact, some say that the acid had burned right down to the bone.

While Clyde did his best to attend to and doctor Bonnie’s leg, it would never be the same.

Why Didn’t Bonnie See a Doctor or Go to the Hospital?

Even if Bonnie and Clyde had gone to a hospital, it’s hard to say that there would have been very much doctors could have done at that time.

Not only that—Clyde couldn’t take Bonnie to the doctor or a hospital because they were already wanted criminals when the car accident happened.

Despite being on the run, Clyde still managed to do a pretty good job with Bonnie’s leg. They were even able to get laudanum, a potent painkiller, through a family member who got the prescription in their name and then passed on the medication to Bonnie and Clyde.

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker would never walk normally again.

Sometimes, she was in such pain that Clyde had to carry her.

Clyde’s wounds from the accident would heal, but Bonnie’s leg would never be the same again.

Is This Why Bonnie Is Limping in The Highway Men?

Bonnie and Clyde 1967 promo photo with Faye Dunaway as Bonnie
Promo photo of Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Elizabeth Parker in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.

Movies are made to entertain, and some are more factual than others.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde’s limp is never mentioned or shown in the 1967 movie version of Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

This movie was more fiction than anything else, failing to talk about the real-life burns Bonnie received when the car’s battery poured scalding acid on her leg.

The Highway Men, which shows the life of the former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault who killed the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, is more true-to-life than the movie from 1967.

Yes, Bonnie walked with a limp, and this is clearly shown in The Highway Men. They even show how Bonnie and Clyde got her medication, the help they received from townspeople and family, and eventually, the dramatic and historical justice that was dealt to them.

When Did the Car Accident that Injured Bonnie Parker Happen?

Photo of Bonnie Parker with short description
Photo of Bonnie Parker with short description

The accident itself occurred on the 10th of June, 1933, less than a year before the death of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Bonnie and Clyde were only together and on the run for about two years total. That means that midway through their relationship, Bonnie would suffer from third-degree burns and be in tremendous pain. At least half of the time they were together, Bonnie would be seen walking with a limp.

It’s not known if Clyde blamed himself for the accident or how he was treated at the prison which indirectly led to his limp and later to the accident, but one fact remains. Bonnie Parker would have difficulty walking for the rest of her life.

Final Thoughts

Imagine being on the run from the police and getting involved in an accident where scalding acid poured over your lover’s leg, burning it to the bone in some parts.

You couldn’t go to a doctor or hospital, so you needed to treat the wound yourself. Almost everyone knew or would recognize Bonnie and Clyde because of photos found at the Joplin hideout.

You also couldn’t go home or go to a hotel for fear of being seen. You are left in the open fields of Texas trying to tend to a serious wound.

Clyde most likely contacted his family since the accident happened in Texas. Chances are that they helped him and Bonnie pull through the worst of it.

However, try imagining all the consequences that the gangster couple went through just so they could rob a few small-town banks and some gas stations, never earning more than $1,500 for their trouble.

It hardly seems worth it, does it?

Why Did Bonnie Have a Limp? The Dark Side of Bonnie and Clyde
Why Did Bonnie Have a Limp? The Dark Side of Bonnie and Clyde
The criminal acts of love birds Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow have been well-documented, but some things aren’t talked about much. Why did Bonnie have a limp? Find out here
Gatsby Flapper Girl