Last night the history channel carried an hour long program about D.B. Cooper, our famous skyjacking thief. The program featured a team of criminal investigators researching the D.B. Cooper case. As the team detailed the antics of the man they believed to be D.B. Cooper, they would occasionally laugh or smile. It was like, “He was a crook, but, what a guy.” (I have to admit they had me smiling, too.)
That got me to wondering: why do we make folk heroes out of bandits and outlaws? For example, the Godfather was so popular, a sequel or two was the order of the day. (A mean, murderous mafia don is fun to watch?) I see a new version of Bonnie and Clyde is out. And, let’s not forget Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Of course, you can’t talk about folk hero crooks without mentioning Robin Hood. I know of about six Hollywood films of the story of Robin Hood, going back to early black and white films. (That doesn’t include Men in Tights. Now that one was funny.)
And I remember my sainted, Christian grandmother once saying, a tone of pride in her voice, “We are related to Jesse James.” My limited research says it ain’t so, but she was willing to believe it, like the guy was some kind of hero instead of thieving, cold blooded killer. Oh, yes. Hollywood made a film out his life, also.
So what gives? Why this admiration for big time crooks? The daring of their deeds? The size of the haul? The cleverness of the thief? I’m not sure I know. Maybe someone will enlighten me.
I’ll stop with a memory of the closing scenes of a movie, the name of which I don’t remember, with Paul Newman’s character and his bank robbing girl friend sailing into the wild blue yonder with a suitcase full of stolen money. (The critics liked the film.)
p.s. I think I better include The Great Train Robbery and The Taking of Pelham 123. If you have others you would like to add, please feel free.