World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Gun Crazy

Gun Crazy
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Produced by Frank King
Maurice King
Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo
MacKinlay Kantor
Based on "Gun Crazy"
1940 story in The Saturday Evening Post 
by MacKinlay Kantor
Starring Peggy Cummins
John Dall
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Russell Harlan
Edited by Harry Gerstad
King Brothers Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • January 20, 1950 (1950-01-20) (United States)
Running time
86 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Gun Crazy (also known as Deadly Is the Female)[1] is a 1950 film noir feature film directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and produced by Frank King and Maurice King. The production features Peggy Cummins and John Dall in a story about the crime-spree of a gun-toting husband and wife.[2]

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. In 1998, Gun Crazy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Accolades 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


At the age of 14, Bart Tare robs a hardware store and steals a gun. He is sent to reform school by a sympathetic Judge Willoughby (Morris Carnovsky), despite the testimony of his friends Dave and Clyde, his older sister Ruby and others that he would never kill any living creature, even though he has had a fascination with guns even as a child. Flashbacks provide a portrait of Bart who, after he kills a young chick with a BB gun at age seven, is hesitant to harm anyone with guns even though he is a good shot with a pistol.

After reform school and a stint in the Army teaching marksmanship, Bart (John Dall) returns home. He, Dave (Nedrick Young) and Clyde (Harry Lewis) go to a traveling carnival in town. There, Bart challenges sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) to a shooting contest, and wins. She gets him a job with the carnival, and he becomes smitten with her. However, their attraction to each other inflames the jealousy of their boss, Packett (Berry Kroeger), who wants Laurie for himself. As Packett tries to force himself on her, Bart enters and shoots a mirror behind Packett. They both get fired, and leave together.

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 Bart 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. While fleeing a police car, Laurie tells Bart to shoot at the policeman driving so they can escape, but he hesitates and becomes somewhat disoriented. Ultimately, he shoots the tire out and the couple escapes. Later that day, Laurie intends to shoot and kill a grocer they had just robbed, but Bart prevents her from doing so. The couple have now been identified in national newspapers as robbers and murderers.

While snowed in, Bart says he is done with a life of crime. 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 hold up the payroll office, but as they are leaving, the secretary pulls the burglar alarm and Laurie shoots the secretary dead. As they are fleeing the scene, Laurie shoots and kills a security guard as well. The two are supposed to split up for a couple of months and have separate getaway cars to minimize the chances of both of them being caught, but neither can bear to be away from the other that long. The FBI is brought in, and the fugitives become the targets of an intense manhunt, yet they evade a state-wide dragnet and escape to California.

In California, Bart arranges for passage to Mexico, but the FBI tracks them down to a dance hall by using the serial numbers from bills from the meat plant. They are forced to flee, leaving all their loot behind. With no place else to go and roadblocks everywhere, they jump on a train and go to his sister Ruby's house. Bart's old friend, now a reporter, notices that Ruby's house has the curtains drawn and the children are not in school. He informs Bart's other old friend, now the local sheriff, and the two plead with Bart to give himself and Laurie up. Instead, the couple flee into the mountains where Bart used to go camping in the summer. They run while being pursued by police dogs, but are surrounded in reed grass the next morning. Fog surrounds them, but Dave and Clyde approach them to try to save their lives. When Bart sees Laurie preparing to gun them down, he shoots her and is in turn killed by the police.



The screenplay was credited to Kantor and Millard Kaufman; however, Kaufman was a front for Hollywood Ten outcast Dalton Trumbo, who considerably reworked the story into a doomed love affair.

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.[3]

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.[4]

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."[5]

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."[6]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 97% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on twenty-nine reviews.[7]


In 1998, Gun Crazy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

American Film Institute Lists


  1. ^ Gun Crazy at the TCM Movie Database.
  2. ^ Gun Crazy at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ Erikson, Hal. Gun Crazy at AllMovie.
  4. ^ Peary, Danny. Cult Movies, Delta Books, 1981. ISBN 0-517-20185-2.
  5. ^ Muller, Eddie. Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, St. Martin's Griffin, 208 pages, 1998. ISBN 0-312-18076-4.
  6. ^ Adams, Sam. Philadelphia City Paper, film review, July 29-August 4, 2004. Accessed: August 1, 2013.
  7. ^ Gun Crazy at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed: August 1, 2013.
  8. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  9. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills
  10. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
  11. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  12. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from School eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.