Gun Crazy (1950)

GUN CRAZY (DEADLY IS THE FEMALE)

Notorious LAURIE STARR! Nothing deadlier is known to man..

Peggy Cummins / John Dall / Berry Kroeger / Morris Carnovsky / Anabel Shaw / Harry Lewis / Nedrick Young / Mickey Little / Russ Tamblyn / Screenplay Millard Kaufman (Dalton Tumblo) & McKinlay Kantor  / Production Design Gordon Wiles / Original Music Victor Young  / Cinematography Russell Harlan  / Stunts Dale Van Sickel  / Production Frank King & Maurice King  / Director Joseph H. Lewis

LULU GOES WEST

Never has the gun been so reverentially mythologised as in the hallowed light and shadow play of Film Noir, and none so erotically centre stage as in Dalton Tumblo’s short story turned motion picture, ‘Gun Crazy’, aka. Deadly is the Female. The female in question is the hypnotic Peggy Cummins, playing Laurie Starr, a carnival gunslinger extraordinaire who en-flames the desires and passions of small town gun obsessive, Barton Tare (John Dall),  blazing a trail of drive-by robberies, and shootings from State to State, that can have but one self-destructive outcome. Arthur Penn’s 1967 movie of the Bonnie and Clyde story borrowed extensively from it’s gun-totting predecessor, taking special notice of it’s loose naturalistic cinematography style, and most clearly of all, the sexuality of the relationship on-the-run.

In both stories, this sexuality oscillates from the couple (for Bonnie a frustration that is achingly one sided), to the erotic thrill of the danger ride, which in this case specifically surrounds ‘the gun’, as instrument of power and freedom. Initially, Barton struggles as a youth with his desire to possess and fire guns, trapped in a confusingly fractured  adolescence that seeks something fundamental to being, without knowing quite what it is that is desired. ‘Girls!’, the audience cries.. ‘He just needs to meet a nice girl!’ Almost right, he needs to meet a ‘Bad-girl’. When encountering the almost preternatural beauty Laurie Starr, time seems to slow to a silent pause when their eyes first meet.. something hangs in the air.. and the explosion of a pistol direct to camera marks the union  (albeit a blank). In one instant, both Barton and we ourselves, are hopelessly smitten. His rationale of this joining places the two of them into two clear aspects of the gun: weapon and bullet – “We go together, Annie. I don’t know why.. maybe like guns and ammunition go together.”

Personally, I’m thinking it makes more sense to consider Laurie as the gun and powder complete. What our protagonist has sought all his life is the Noir Fatale. Stealing a pistol as a boy, entering the army (surrounded by guns of every description), collecting antique pistols.. did not cure his thirst for the ‘fire of the hand’. The gun’s cold precision and aim alone was not enough, he needed the elemental wild fire in the explosion. The Femme-Fatale in her pure, unadulterated form, as incandescent raw sexuality, wrapped up in excitement and death. Very Catholic. okay, chalk up another victory for Mr.Freud.. it’s all desire and symbolic ejaculations!

‘These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in it’s own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately: long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.’

Romeo and Juliet | Act II, Scene VI

What? I hear you cry? Woman cast once more in the role of wicked Lulu, a siren torment to hapless man? Dancing unconcerned in a blaze of glory, whilst all around her burn? Peripheral female characters just spinsters or exhausted mothers tied to the stove?  Yup. Don’t be too harsh though (he urges his readers), six decades have passed, and it is, after all, just a movie. Did I really just utter that much disliked phrase? (I’ll stop with the over-accumulation of question marks now). Besides, it’s all character exaggeration, violent symbolism, and lurid sexual exploration (nee, exploitation), y’know.. Film Noir.


‘And now, our great Star-Act. Ladies and gentlemen, as owner and manager of Packett’s Carnival, it is I, myself, who present to you.. The Famous. The Dangerous. The Beautiful.. Miss. Annie Laurie Starr..’

‘..direct from London, England and the capitals of the Continent, before whose remarkable marksmanship the greatest pistol and rifle-shots in America have gone down to defeat. Sooo.. here she is, ladies and gentlemen. Sooo appealing. Sooo dangerous. Sooo looovely to look at. The darling of London, England.. Miss. Annie Laurie Starr!’

‘I saw the two of you, the way you were looking at each other tonight, like a couple of wild animals. Almost scared me.’

‘..she ain’t the type that makes a happy home.’

‘Here am I, mad about you, mad about you
I can’t lie, I’m mad about you, mad about you,
Though I said to my heart, don’t fall.
How I love the enchantment of it all,
If you knew all the dreams I’ve had about you,
Then you’d know that I’ve got it bad about you,
Press your lips to my lips and hold me near, so near,
Can’t you see I’m mad about you, dear.

If you knew all those dreams I’ve had about you,
Then you’d know that I’ve got it bad about you,
Press your lips to my lips and hold me near, so near,
Settle down, you, gadabout*, you,
Please don’t make me sad about you,
Can’t you see I’m mad about you, dear.’

~Victor Young~

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PEGGY CUMMINS (b. 18th Dec. 1925 – Denbighshire, Wales)

‘Notorious LAURIE STARR! …wanted in a dozen states… hunted by the F.B.I.!’


Her Violent Loves! Her Vicious Crimes! Her Wild Escapes!’

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One comment on “Gun Crazy (1950)

  1. Diandra says:

    Great write-up of this movie. Excellent use of pictures too.

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