Director Arthur Penn, a myth-maker and myth-breaker who in such classics as Bonnie and Clyde and Little Big Man refashioned movie and American history and sealed a generation's affinity for outsiders, died last night, a day after his 88th birthday. Daughter Molly Penn said her father (no relation to actor Sean) died at his home in Manhattan of congestive heart failure.
After first making his name on Broadway as director of the plays The Miracle Worker and All the Way Home, Penn rose as a film director in the 1960s, his work inspired by the decade's political and social upheaval, and Americans' interest in their past and present. Bonnie and Clyde, with its mix of humor and mayhem, encouraged moviegoers to sympathize with the lawbreaking couple from the 1930s, while Little Big Man told the tale of the conquest of the West with the Indians as the good guys. "A society would be wise to pay attention to the people who do not belong if it wants to find out where it's failing," Penn once said.