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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The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI

(1947)

Orson Welles – Michael O’Hara / Rita Hayworth – Elsa Bannister / Everett Sloan – Arthur Banniser / Glenn Anders – George Grisby / From the Novel ‘If I Die Before I Wake’ Sherwood King / Screenplay Orson Welles / Produced & Directed Orson Welles

Till all about, the sea was made of sharks..

Lured by the sensuous Lady from Shanghai (Rita Hayworth), Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles) is drawn into a web of malicious back-stabbing & a heady combination of Raymond Chandler film noir and dizzying German expressionism. Welles convinced the Studio bosses to let him make this ‘simple little murder movie’ , but the poor fellows must have screamed blue murder when they saw the finished product. It’s not a film that runs all that smoothly, but the quality and sheer oddness of the piece elevates it high above it’s formulaic contemporaries. Welles & Hayworth only had one more year of their marriage to go in 1947, but the lingering intensity of Hayworth’s close-ups betray nothing short of giddy adoration. The gorgeously inventive opening scene has Welles & Hayworth seemlessly rolling from literary narration to bantering dialogue, in a fashion reminiscent of Richard III. Sergio Leone made a whole career out of imitating Welles sweaty close-ups on Glenn Anders, and other influences on modern filmmaking are too numerous to list. Orson’s decision to give his lead character an Irish brogue is a little jarring at first, but before long it makes perfect sense, especially when we come to his mesmerizing ‘shark monologue’, which more than finds echoes in Quint’s chilling Indianapolis tale in Jaws.

BANNISTER – Well, Michael!

MICHAELWell, Mr. Bannister?

BANNISTERMy wife´s lost her sense of humour, and you´ve lost your sense of adventure. Sit down and have a drink. Give him a drink, George. And don´t look so shocked. Michael may not be in the Social Register, but then neither are you…anymore.

MICHAELIs this what you folks do for amusement? Sit around toasting marshmallows and call each other names? If you´re so anxious for me to join the game, l´d be glad to. I have a few names l´d like to be calling you myself.

BANNISTER Oh, but, Michael, that isn´t fair. You´re bound to lose the contest. We´ll have to give you a handicap, Michael. You should know what George knows about me…if you really want to call me names…

BANNISTERAnd, Michael…if you think George´s story is interesting… you ought to hear the one about how Elsa got to be my wife..

ELSADo you want me to tell him what you´ve got on me, Arthur?

MICHAEL Do you know…once, off the hump of Brazil… I saw the ocean so darkened with blood it was black… and the sun fainting away over the lip of the sky. We´d put in at Fortaleza… and a few of us had lines out for a bit of idle fishing. It was me had the first strike. A shark it was. Then there was another. And another shark again. Till all about, the sea was made of sharks… and more sharks still. And no water at all. My shark had torn himself from the hook .. and the scent or maybe the stain it was, and him bleeding his life away… drove the rest of them mad..

MICHAELThen the beasts took to eating each other. In their frenzy.. they ate at themselves. You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes. And you could smell the death reeking up out of the sea. I never saw anything worse.. until this little picnic tonight.

MICHAELAnd you know there wasn´t one of them sharks in the whole crazy pack that survived. l´ll be leaving you now.

BANNISTERGeorge, that´s the first time anyone ever thought enough of you to call you a shark. If you were a good lawyer, you´d be flattered.

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PRODUCTION

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 QUINT’s INDIANAPOLIS FISH TALE

‘Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte… just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named “The Battle of Waterloo” and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.’

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