Danny Lee, Special Effects Man on 'Bonnie and Clyde,' Dies at 95

Bonnie and Clyde 1967 Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Bonnie and Clyde 1967 Still - H 2014

A Disney veteran, he later won an Oscar for his work on the studio's 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks'

Danny Lee, a special-effects maestro who orchestrated the memorable bullet-ridden finale for Bonnie and Clyde and received an Oscar for his work on the Disney fantasy Bedknobs and Broomsticks, has died. He was 95.

Lee, who contributed to more than 50 Disney films during his career, died Nov. 28 at an assisted living facility in Prescott, Ariz., his family announced.

In an era before computer-generated effects, the Wisconsin native blew up houses and cars, created rain, flew people and beds in the air and helped create what was, at the time, one of the most shocking endings in cinema history.

At the conclusion of Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the criminal legends played by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are killed by police in a hail of gunfire, their bodies shown jerking around in slow motion.

Lee is believed to be the first effects man to use synthetic blood capsules and exploding electric squibs to simulate bullets entering a body. By doing so, he accurately captured the 1,000 rounds of ammunition that the real cops pumped into Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934.

Lee punched holes in their car and filled them with squibs embedded in putty. When the police opened fire, the charges were set off. The fabric of Dunaway's clothes was thinned to showcase the maximum effect of the blasts on her.

"She looked like a telephone switchboard with all those wires coming out of her," Lee once said.

Said director Penn in a 2008 interview with NPR: "It was a time where, it seemed to me, that if we were going to depict violence, then we would be obliged to really depict it accurately — the kind of terrible, frightening volume that one sees when one genuinely is confronted by violence."

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), starring Angela Lansbury, also had a memorable ending, this one featuring suits of armor brought to life to battle the Nazis. Lee shared his Oscar for Bedknobs with Alan Maley and Eustace Lycett.

A son of Carl Lee — an effects man who worked on Abbott & Costello comedies — Lee joined Disney Studios in 1969 as head of special effects. He worked on films in the Herbie, the Love Bug series as well as on The Shaggy D.A. (1976), Freaky Friday (1976) and The Black Hole (1979), for which he received another Oscar nomination.

Earlier, Lee was a freelancer who traveled around the world to work on-location for such films as The Ten Commandments (1956), Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), On the Beach (1959), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Mary Poppins (1964) and The Great Race (1965).

After he retired in 1981, Lee and his wife, Jane, opened Danny Lee Studios in Chatsworth, Calif., where he taught classes.

In addition to his wife, survivors include grandchildren Stephanie and James, great-granddaughter Alexis and cousins Marjorie, Lory, Michael, Karen, Rachel and Rebecca.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday at Ruffner Wakelin Funeral Home in Prescott. Donations may be made to Hospice Compassus of Prescott or Liberty Ellis Island Foundation.

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