Baby Face Nelson (film)

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Baby Face Nelson
Babyfacenelson.jpg
Theater release lobby card
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by Al Zimbalist
Screenplay by Irving Shulman
Story by Daniel Mainwaring
Robert Adler
Irving Shulman
Starring Mickey Rooney
Carolyn Jones
Cedric Hardwicke
Leo Gordon
Jack Elam
Elisha Cook, Jr.
Music by Van Alexander
Cinematography Hal Mohr
Edited by Leon Barsha
Production
company
Fryman Enterprises
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • December 1, 1957 (1957-12-01) (United States)
Running time 85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.25 million (US rentals)[1]

Baby Face Nelson is a 1957 crime film noir based on the real-life 1930s gangster, directed by Don Siegel, co-written by Daniel Mainwaring—who also wrote Siegel's 1956 sci-fi thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers—and starring Mickey Rooney as Baby Face Nelson, and featuring Leo Gordon as John Dillinger.[2]

Plot[edit]

Chicago mob boss Rocca manages to get Lester Gillis sprung from jail in Joliet. His motive is to have Gillis kill a labor organizer, but Gillis refuses, preferring to work with Rocca's gang on robberies instead. He meets mob moll Sue Nelson and they start a relationship.

Gillis is relaxing, alone in his hotel room, when cops burst in, finding a gun Rocca has planted to frame Gillis for the labor leader's murder. Gillis vows revenge, escapes from the cops with Sue's help, then guns down Rocca and two henchmen. He adopts Sue's surname as an alias.

In a holdup at a pharmacy, Gillis is winged by a gunshot. He goes to Doc Saunders, whose patients include America's most wanted criminal, John Dillinger. Acquiring a nickname, "Baby Face Nelson," a grateful Gillis joins up with Dillinger and quickly becomes the FBI's second most wanted man.

The ruthless Baby Face goes on a shooting spree, even killing innocent motorists just to steal a car. He doesn't like playing second fiddle to Dillinger, but after the arch-criminal is shot in Chicago, it becomes Baby Face's turn to be public enemy number one. He commits multiple murders, even killing Doc in a fit of anger, and frightens Sue by placing a rifle sight on children.

Trapped by a roadblock, Baby Face flees on foot and is shot several times. Stumbling to a graveyard, he pleads with Sue at first, then taunts her, to put him out of his misery, and she does.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

When the film was released film critic Bosley Crowther panned the film writing, "Baby Face Nelson, heading the double bill on the Loew's circuit, is a thoroughly standard, pointless and even old-fashioned gangster picture, the kind that began going out along with the oldtime sedans. As a matter of fact, one of the few absorbing sights in this United Artists release, starring Mickey Rooney, is a continual procession of vintage jaloppys, chugging in and out of the proceedings ... The other distinction, also mild, is Sir Cedric Hardwicke's professional portrait of a seedy, lecherous and alcoholic physician who consorts with criminals."[3]

More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote a somewhat positive review of the film, writing, "Don Siegel's (Charley Varrick/Riot in Cell Block 11/Dirty Harry) raw and twitchy gangster biopic about a thirties public enemy Number No. 1 is typical bang-bang stuff but is fluidly shot. This low-budget crime story was made in 17 days and is an ugly portrayal of a violent self-destructive sociopath; it's a revisionist and fragmentary presentation of Lester Gillis, known as Baby Face Nelson (Mickey Rooney). Rooney's flowery performance as the trigger-happy hood with the inferiority complex over being short and the wall-to-wall action, give this Prohibition-era set B-film its pulse."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  2. ^ Baby Face Nelson at the Internet Movie Database.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosly, film review, The New York Times, December 12, 1957. Accessed: July 6, 2013.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Dennis, film review, Ozus' World Movie Reviews, January 25, 2007. Accessed: July 6, 2013.

External links[edit]