Gun Crazy (1950)

Gun Crazy Gun Crazy poster
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
1950/USA
King Brothers Productions

Repeat viewing
#216 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Bluey-Bluey: It’s just that some guys are born smart about women and some guys are born dumb.

Bart: Some guys are born clowns.

Bluey-Bluey: You were born dumb.

The roots of film noir are in low-budget pictures – those shadows and locations disguise shoestring sets.  Gun Crazy is one of the classics coming from outside the studio system.  It was selected for the National Film Registry in 1998.

Bart Tare has been obsessed with guns since he was a child.  The mania extends only to shooting – he cannot kill a living thing.  He finally succumbs to the temptation to steal a revolver when he is an adolescent and is caught and put in reform school.  After serving a stint in the military as a shooting instructor, Bart returns to his home town.  He meets up with his childhood friends  – now a reporter and a sheriff – and they go to a carnival where they see a shooting exhibition by the lovely Annie Laurie Starr.

Gun Crazy 1

It is love at first sight for Bart and Laurie, who flirt while they compete at target shooting. The couple soon marry and Laurie immediately starts agitating to exploit their expertise in stick-ups.  Bart is the more timid of the two but he is hooked on Laurie and afraid to lose her so he agrees.  So begins a life of crime reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde.  With John Dall as Bart, Peggy Cummins as Laurie, and Russ Tamblyn as the young Bart.

Gun Crazy 2

Peggy Cummins is the standout in this movie.  She is resembles a wild cat in heat as the femme fatale who tempts Bart to his doom and when she is frightened she is like a caged animal. The visuals, lit by cinematographer Russell Harlan, are gorgeous.  So are the compositions director Joseph H. Lewis comes up with.  The script is serviceable, if not brilliant or particularly hard-boiled.  One of the screenwriters was “Millard Kaufman”, a front for Dalton Trumbo who was a blacklisted member of the Hollywood Ten.

I had not noticed before how often John Dall appears to squint.  Odd in a supposed sharp-shooter!

Clip – “flirting with guns”

 

 

6 thoughts on “Gun Crazy (1950)

      • One of the great low budget noirs. It has been said that Lewis cast John Dall, a gay man who did not project a strong masculinity,, as the lead to indicate the power that Annie Laurie had over his character Bart.. I like John Dall and he was especially good in Rope by Hitchcock but this was a different type of role for him. I thought he played it well in a low-key manner. Peggy Cummins did a good job hiding her British accent . This films shows how a true gem can be made on a shoestring with practically unknown actors. Bigger is not better!!

        • I had not known that Dall was gay. Lewis was reportedly very explicit in his direction to the actors if you know what I mean. I thought Dall was good but Cummins just lit up the screen. The camerawork was remarkable. Russell Harlan was only two years away from his first Oscar nomination. I’m looking forward to seeing Detour this month for another great ultra low-budget noir.

          • Detour!!!! It is the zenith of the low budget film, the tops, the best. And Ann Savage, whose voice (in this film) is like fingernails on a blackboard gives the performance of a lifetime as Vera. She is the only person to whom I ever wrote a fan letter….it was about ten years ago and I got her address from my cousin who lives in Hollywood and works for the AFI.. She has passed away since so I’m glad I wrote. Damn, she is amazing in the film. But that is for the Detour review.

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