Bonnie and Clyde with gun 2

Of the photos left behind in Joplin, many of them show Bonnie and Clyde in gag poses, brandishing guns at each other.

Joplin was arguably the place that led to the downfall of two of history's most infamous criminals.

The director of a new documentary about the Barrow gang, "American Experience: Bonnie and Clyde," points easily to how pictures published in The Joplin Globe back in 1933 helped build them up and break them down.

"Once those photos got out, (Bonnie Parker) could no longer control the story," said John Maggio, the director behind the new episode of the PBS series. "She was the author of the myth, but once the photos got out, she lost control."

Maggio has directed several episodes of "American Experience" focusing on criminals such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Billy the Kid. In most cases, it's easy to find something that humanizes an outlaw.

But in the case of Bonnie and Clyde, there weren't many redeeming qualities to find, he said.

The pair had led a gang on a yearlong crime spree across the South and Midwest, Maggio said. What made the pair stand out was public reaction.

The gang holed up in a garage apartment in southern Joplin in 1933. When word reached the police that the gang was in town, they moved in, and the pair made a quick getaway, but not before a shootout that left two officers dead. The criminals also left behind clothes, weapons, jewelry and rolls of unprocessed film that were developed by the Globe and published.

The photos eventually appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country, and the legend took off.

Maggio's documentary begins with the end — thousands of onlookers traveled to two funeral homes in Dallas in order to catch a last glimpse of the pair. The "Romeo and Juliet" story that drew people in made people want to follow the story until the end, he said.

"There were something like 10,000 people there," Maggio said. "We found footage of it. Throngs and throngs of people just wanting to get a last look at them. They meant something, even though they were cold-blooded killers."

Their rise and fall is detailed throughout the documentary, which goes in-depth into Barrow's upbringing, including a harrowing story of what happened to him while in prison, and how it affected him. Maggio also examines the changes the gang prompted in law enforcement.

People on both sides of the story are interviewed, including Clyde's nephew Buddy Barrow, and L.J. "Boots" Hinton, the son of Ted Hinton, a member of the posse that killed the pair in their final shootout.

And Maggio draws the parallel of how today's media environment can be found back in the Depression era, all thanks to those photos.

"Those photos are what we do today," Maggio said. "They were selfies. She was offended that they showed the cigar in her mouth. It has everything to do with what we do today in a hyperpublicized world."

Follow Features Editor Joe Hadsall on Twitter at @JoeHadsall.

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Joe Hadsall is the digital editor for The Joplin Globe. He has been the editor of the former Nixa News-Enterprise and has worked for the Christian County Headliner News and 417 Magazine.