Here’s to Gun Crazy star Peggy Cummins, who passed in London on 12.29 at age 92. Odd as this may sound, I never even saw Joseph H. Lewis and Dalton Trumbo‘s groundbreaking film until three years ago. Here’s a confessional that I wrote in this space:
“I was flipping through films on my new Roku player and came upon a high-def version on Warner Classics. I’d been told for decades that Gun Crazy was an essential noir that everyone loves, but I wasn’t expecting to be blown away.
“I was half-asleep when I started watching at 11:30 pm but I woke right up. It’s genius-level — a major groundbreaker, pulp art. Those long takes shot from the rear of John Dall and Peggy Cummins‘ moving car (particularly that legendary three-minute-long bank robbery sequence), the urgent sense of immediacy, that semi-improvised-sounding dialogue, those urgent close-ups, conflicted emotions, the sexuality, the fog-shrouded ending in the swamp…all of it.
“I hereby apologize to Lewis, Trumbo, Dall, Cummins and the whole team for missing this classic for so long. “From Wiki page: ‘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.”
“‘In an interview with Danny Peary, Lewis revealed his instructions to Dall and 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.”
“From Sam Adams, bearded critic for the Philadelphia City Paper: “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.”