Baby Face Nelson (film)
|Baby Face Nelson|
Theater release lobby card
|Directed by||Don Siegel|
|Produced by||Al Zimbalist|
|Based on||story by Irving Shulman|
|Music by||Van Alexander|
|Edited by||Leon Barsha|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$1.25 million (US rentals)|
Baby Face Nelson is a 1957 film noir crime film based on the real-life 1930s gangster, directed by Don Siegel, co-written by Daniel Mainwaring—who also wrote the screenplay for Siegel's 1956 sci-fi thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers—and starring Mickey Rooney, Carolyn Jones, Cedric Hardwicke, Leo Gordon, Anthony Caruso, Jack Elam and John Hoyt.
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. He 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 (Cedric Hardwicke), whose patients include America's most wanted criminal, John Dillinger (portrayed by Leo Gordon). 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.
- Mickey Rooney as Lester M. 'Baby Face Nelson' Gillis
- Carolyn Jones as Sue Nelson
- Cedric Hardwicke as Doc Saunders
- Leo Gordon as John Dillinger
- Anthony Caruso as John Hamilton
- Jack Elam as Fatso Nagel
- John Hoyt as Samuel Parker
- Ted de Corsia as Rocca
- Elisha Cook, Jr. as Homer Van Meter
- Robert Osterloh as FBI Agent Johnson
- Thayer David as Connelly
- Dabbs Greer as FBI Agent Charles Bonner
- George E. Stone as Mr. Hall - Bank Manager
- Lisa Davis as Ann Saper - the Lady in Red
- Emile Meyer as Mac - Detective
- Dan Terranova as Miller
- Murray Alper as Alex - Bank Guard
- Harry Antrim as Pharmacist
- Tom Fadden as Postman Harkins
- Duke Mitchell as Solly - Pool Hall Attendant
The Production Code had recently repealed a ban on dramatising the lives of real criminals. Producer Al Zimbalist formed ZS Productions with Irving Shulman to make a film based on the latter's unpublished novel about Baby Face Nelson. He originally announced he was seeking Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra or Tony Curtis for the lead.
Filming started in October 1955. Zimbalist did some second unit filming in Chicago himself.
Rooney says he was offered a million dollars to buy out his interest in the film but he refused, confident it would be a success.
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."
The Los Angeles Times called it a "bitter bloody drama".
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