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On Wednesday, Beatty fondly recalled working with Penn.

“I will always treasure the singularly honest, joyful, adventurous intelligence of Arthur Penn both as a collaborator and as a loving friend,” Beatty said in an e-mailed statement.

Bonnie and Clyde,” released in August 1967 and then rereleased early in 1968 in response to unflagging interest, appalled the old and fascinated the young, widening a generational divide not only between audiences, but critics.

The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, then at the end of his career _ an end hastened by “Bonnie and Clyde” _ snorted that the film was “a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie.’”

But Pauline Kael, just starting her long reign at The New Yorker, welcomed “Bonnie and Clyde” as a new and vital kind of movie _ an opinion now widely shared _ and asked, “How do you make a good movie in this country without being jumped on?”

“The accusation that the beauty of movie stars makes the anti-social acts of their characters dangerously attractive is the kind of contrived argument we get from people who are bothered by something and clutching at straws,” Kael wrote. “’Bonnie and Clyde‘ brings into the almost frighteningly public world of movies things people have been feeling and saying and writing about.”

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, with Estelle Parsons winning for best supporting actress, and is regarded by many as the dawn of a golden age in Hollywood, when the old studio system crumbled and performers and directors such as Penn, Beatty, Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese enjoyed creative control.

Penn, who had fought _ and lost to _ the studios over the editing of such early films as “The Left Handed Gun” and “The Chase,” now was able to realize a long-desired project _ an adaptation of “Little Big Man,” based on the Thomas Berger novel.

“Originality is filtered out like tar is filtered out of cigarettes,” Penn once complained. “I have not had a lot of success with the suits _ or the dresses. Executives are executives. They’re going to interfere as much as they can.

“(‘Little Big Man’) didn’t happen until I had so much clout I sort of made it happen.”

None of Penn’s other films had the impact of “Bonnie and Clyde,” but the director regarded “Little Big Man,” released in 1970, as his greatest success, with Dustin Hoffman playing the 121-year-old lone survivor of Custer’s last stand. It was, again, a violent and romantic re-imagining of the past and an angry finger pointed at the war and racism of the present.

Penn earned Academy Award nominations for both films and for his first movie, “The Miracle Worker,” based on the Broadway show about Helen Keller, played by Patty Duke in an Oscar-winning turn, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, played by Bancroft. Among Penn’s other stage credits: “All the Way Home,” which won both the Tony and Pulitzer Prize in 1961 as best play; “Two for the Seesaw”; the musical version of “Golden Boy”; and “Wait Until Dark.”

Penn traced his affinity for alienated heroes and heroines to the trauma of his childhood. Truffaut’s film “The 400 Blows,” he once said, “was so much like my own childhood it really stunned me.”

When he was 3, Penn moved from Philadelphia to New York with his mother after his parents divorced. He and his mother, a nurse who had run a health food store, lived in a succession of apartments in New Jersey and New York City, and the boy attended at least a dozen elementary schools.

At age 14, Penn returned to Philadelphia to live with his ailing father and help him run his watch repairman’s shop.

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