Gun Crazy aka Deadly is the Female (1950) 7.5/10
PLOT SYNOPSIS: Barton Tare (John Dall) is a sharpshooting kid who loves guns but is a good guy who never shoots at anything except empty beer bottles. He gets a job the circus as a sharopshooter, begins dating the circus's other sharpshooter, Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins, in a terrific turn as a femme fatale), and the two soon elope. Bart is content to settle down and live a modest life with Laurie. But Bart soon finds out that Laurie has plans for a much more expensive lifestyle... and no qualms about using her guns to support that lifestyle. Before long, the couple go on a Boonie-and-Clyde like holdup spree.
Peggy Cummins ... Annie Laurie Starr
John Dall ... Barton Tare
Berry Kroeger ... Packett
Morris Carnovsky ... Judge Willoughby
Anabel Shaw ... Ruby Tare Flagler
Harry Lewis ... Deputy Clyde Boston
Nedrick Young ... Dave Allister
Trevor Bardette ... Sheriff Boston
Mickey Little ... Bart Tare (age 7)
Russ Tamblyn ... Bart Tare (age 14) (as Rusty Tamblyn)
Paul Frison ... Clyde Boston (age 14)
David Bair ... Dave Allister (age 7) (as Dave Bair)
Stanley Prager ... Bluey-Bluey
Virginia Farmer ... Miss Wynn
Anne O'Neal ... Miss Augustine Sifert
I saw this movie on TCM; host Robert Osbourne said that he chose to play this movie cuz it got a terrific response when they screened it recently at the TCM Classic Film festival, an event attended by the 86-year old Peggy Cummins; apparently this is one of those B-noirs (I believe it had a budget of only $400K) that has built up a big cult following (it has a 7.8/10 rating on imdb, and was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry).
As Osbourne pointed out, the low budget probably was a good thing as it forced the filmmakers to improvise and do some really cool stuff.
There is one particularly awesome scene: Laurie drives the car as they approach the bank for a robbery; Bart gets out to rob the bank as Laurie pulls the car up in front of the bank; when a cop starts hanging around the front door, she gets out of the car to distract him; when Bart gets out of the bank, she knocks out the cop; then they jump in the car and make their getaway. THIS IS ALL DONE IN A SINGLE AWESOME SHOT, by a cameraman sitting in the backseat!
Check out this review of the Film Noir Classic Collection;at this link http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/2004-07-29/screen.shtml
The 3rd paragraph has a nice short discussion of this movie.
There is passionate love between Bart and Laurie, with all the Production Code metaphors.
Cummins is the real star here:I wasn't sure how I felt about her at first sight -- she is short and very young-looking (she actually was 24 when the picture was shot, but she could have easily passed for being at least 5 years younger); she has an interesting, faint British accent (she is actually Irish) with a hoarse voice that could make a man crazy -- but she grew on me as the film went along; eventually, you just can't take your eyes off her. It's not that she is the hottest thing in the world, but there is that something
there, something that lets you know that she is a girl who knows what she wants, and knows how to make a guy do what she wants, and you really believe that Bart could be made to do these holdups for her. Their passion runs deep, and this is as much a story about passion as it is about crime (as the above linked-to review says, Bonnie and Clyde
owes Gun Crazy
a substantial debt.
IMO the movie seriously suffers from the casting of John Dall. Yes, he certainly looks the part of the good guy. But he is just not fun to watch. As much as I enjoyed watching Cummins, I cringed every time Dall came on screen. In the early parts, when Bart really a good and low-key guy, I thought Dall was alright; but once they begin their crime spree and Cummins really begins coming into her own, she is just so much better than Dall; it's a darn shame that they didn't get a male lead that can go toe-to-toe with her.
There is a poignant scene toward the end where, hungry and weary, with no place to escape cuz their pictures are on the covers of every newspaper, the couple has no choice but to go to the home of Bart's older sister. The sister, now married with three children, had also been a mother and father to Bart, as we'd seen earlier in the film. Now, Bart has to return shamefaced to her because he has no other options. It is quite a poignant moment, as she is living in a nice home with three children, while they are on the run and miserable. And you get the feeling that Bart could have had that future too... if only he had met a different woman.
Early in the movie, when he returns to his town as an adult after completing an off-camera stint in reform school (for stealing a gun as a child) and the Army, Bart meets his old buddies: one, the sheriff's son, is now a sheriff's deputy; and the other is a reporter, who is married with a kid. They talk briefly about marriage, and Bart is definitely seems like the kind of guy who would be looking forward to a nice quiet married life. Ultimately, it's the woman he falls in love with and marries that destroys him; had he met the right girl, he probably would have wound up just like those two buddies of his. And of course, upon returning to his hometown in the later scene as a wanted man, his two buddies, being a sheriff's deputy and a reporter, will have some work to do.
Catch this one next time it plays on the classic movie channels. And if you are a big noir fan, put this one in your queue.
This movie was originally released under the name Deadly is the Female
but when it did poorly, it was re-released with the name Gun Crazy
. (Both TCM and the dvd use the name Gun Crazy
, which is what appears on the movie's opening titles as well. Gun Crazy
is a far better name than Deadly is the Female
, which is a very silly name....In addition to the fact that the couple's love of guns is a theme that runs through this movie, I suppose that you can read sexual connotations into the name Gun Crazy
. Gun Crazy
is definitely the better name.