Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joseph H. Lewis|
|Produced by||Frank King
|Screenplay by||Dalton Trumbo
|Story by||MacKinlay Kantor|
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Editing by||Harry Gerstad|
|Studio||King Brothers Productions|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||86 minutes|
Gun Crazy (1950) is a film noir feature film starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall in a story about the crime-spree of a gun-toting husband and wife. The film was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and produced by Frank King and Maurice King.
The screenplay by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo -- credited to Millard Kaufman because of the blacklist and by MacKinlay Kantor -- was based upon a short story by Kantor published in 1940 in The Saturday Evening Post. Gun Crazy was selected for the National Film Registry, and is also known as Deadly Is the Female.
Bart Tare (Dall) has a lifelong fixation with guns—they make him feel good inside. At the age of 14, he is sent to reform school by a sympathetic Judge Willoughby (Morris Carnovsky) for stealing a pistol from a hardware store, despite the testimony of his friends Dave (Nedrick Young) and Clyde (Harry Lewis), his older sister Ruby and others that he would never kill any living creature.
After reform school and a stint in the Army, Bart returns home. He, Dave and Clyde go to a traveling carnival. There he meets a kindred spirit in sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Cummins). She gets him a job with the carnival. However, their attraction to each other inflames the jealousy of Packett (Berry Kroeger), who wants Laurie for himself, and they both get fired.
The couple get married and embark on a happy honeymoon. She warns him beforehand that she is "bad, but will try to be good". When their money runs out though, Laurie gives her husband a stark choice: join her in a career of crime or she will leave him. They hold up stores and gas stations, but the money they steal does not last long. Finally, she persuades him to take on one last big robbery so they can flee the country and live in peace and comfort. They get jobs at a meat processing plant and make detailed plans.
They get away with a lot of money, but Laurie has an uncontrollable homicidal streak that comes out when she is frightened. During the robbery, she kills her office manager and a security guard. Afterward, they are supposed to split up for a couple of months, but neither can bear to be away from the other that long.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is brought in, and the fugitives become the targets of an intense manhunt. In California, Bart arranges for passage to Mexico, but the authorities track them down by the serial numbers from bills from the plant. They are forced to flee, leaving all their loot behind.
With no place else to go, they go to Ruby. Bart's old friends, now a reporter and the local sheriff, plead with him to give himself and Laurie up. Instead, they flee into the mountains where Bart used to go camping in the summer. They are surrounded, and Dave and Clyde approach them to try to save their lives. When Bart sees Laurie preparing to gun them down, he shoots her and in turn is killed by the police.
- Peggy Cummins as Annie Laurie Starr
- John Dall as Bart Tare
- Berry Kroeger as Packett
- Morris Carnovsky as Judge Willoughby
- Anabel Shaw as Ruby Tare
- Harry Lewis as Sheriff Clyde Boston
- Nedrick Young as Dave Allister
- Trevor Bardette as Sheriff Boston, who apprehends the teenage Bart
- Mickey Little as Bart Tare at age 7
- Russ Tamblyn as Bart Tare at age 14
- Paul Frison as Clyde Boston at age 14
- David Bair as Dave Allister at age 7
- Stanley Prager as Bluey-Bluey
- Virginia Farmer as Miss Wynn
- Anne O'Neal as Miss Augustine Sifert, Laurie's supervisor and first victim at the plant
- Frances Irvin as Danceland Singer
- Robert Osterloh as Hampton Policeman
- Shimen Ruskin as Cab Driver
- Harry Hayden as Mr. Mallenberg, the plant manager
The picture was originally slated to be released by Monogram Studios. However, the producers, King Brothers Productions, chose United Artists as the distributor. Gun Crazy enjoyed wider exposure since it was a United Artists release.
In an interview with Danny Peary, director Joseph H. Lewis revealed his instructions to actors John Dall and Peggy Cummins:
- I told John, "Your cock's never been so hard," and I told Peggy, "You're a female dog in heat, and you want him. But don't let him have it in a hurry. Keep him waiting." That's exactly how I talked to them and I turned them loose. I didn't have to give them more directions.
The bank heist sequence was shot entirely in one long take in Montrose, California, with no one besides the principal actors and people inside the bank alerted to the operation. This one-take shot included the sequence of driving into town to the bank, distracting and then knocking out a patrolman, and making the get-away. This was done by simulating the interior of a sedan with a stretch Cadillac with room enough to mount the camera and a jockey's saddle for the cameraman on a greased two-by-twelve board in the back. Lewis kept it fresh by having the actors improvise their dialogue.
Critical response 
Critic and author Eddie Muller wrote, "Joseph H. Lewis's direction is propulsive, possessed of a confident, vigorous simplicity that all the frantic editing and visual pyrotechnics of the filmmaking progeny never quite surpassed."
Sam Adams, critic for the Philadelphia City Paper, wrote, "The codes of the time prevented Lewis from being explicit about the extent to which their fast-blooming romance is fueled by their mutual love of weaponry (Arthur Penn would rip off the covers in Bonnie and Clyde, which owes Gun Crazy a substantial debt), but when Cummins' six-gun dangles provocatively as she gasses up their jalopy, it's clear what really fills their collective tank."
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "We go together, Laurie. I don't know why. Maybe like guns and ammunition go together." - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Gangster Film
- Gun Crazy at the TCM Movie Database.
- Erikson, Hal. Gun Crazy at AllRovi.
- Peary, Danny. Cult Movies, Delta Books, 1981. ISBN 0-517-20185-2.
- Muller, Eddie. Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, St. Martin's Griffin, 208 pages, 1998. ISBN 0-312-18076-4.
- Adams, Sam. Philadelphia City Paper, film review, July 29-August 4, 2004. Last accessed: January 5, 2008.
- Gun Crazy at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: December 3, 2009.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Gun Crazy|
- Gun Crazy at the Internet Movie Database
- Gun Crazy at Rotten Tomatoes
- Gun Crazy at the TCM Movie Database
- Gun Crazy at Film Site
- Gun Crazy at 10 Shades of Noir
- Gun Crazy title film clip at Veoh
- Gun Crazy film clip at YouTube (the bank heist scene)