A REAL PISTOL-PACKIN’ MAMA

I figure I’d start you off with this nice 40-second clip I took at the 2012 TCM Film Festival:

…because it’s going to get pretty bad girl, pretty fast.

GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON ( Banner )

All this week the bad, the ugly and the dastardly will be featured in this year’s Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Kristina of SpeakeasyRuth of Silver Screenings and Karen of Shadows and Satin.  If you give it half a chance, I think you’ll have a good time reading about some of the questionable characters in motion pictures. Now I know girls are supposed to be the “sugar and spice and everything nice…” types, but among the characters covered in this year’s blogathon you’ll have Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, Ann Blyth as Veda in Mildred Pierce, Margaret Wycherly as Ma in White Heat and some modern bad girls (Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct). Yeah…the weaker sex. I think my girl Annie Laurie Starr will be right at home with these gals, her guns a-blazin’ in GUN CRAZY.

A friend of mine once wrote:

“…Dirty sexy. You ever been turned on by someone you know is bad news??”

PEGGY CUMMINS ( Gun Crazy - III )

My own personal answer? You’d have to buy me dinner first. But as for the movies, well that’d be  “Gun Crazy” ( 1950 ) alright – it’s the whole enchilada of Annie Laurie Starr in a gun shell. The great writer Maya Angelou said: “When people show you who they are, believe them.”  BUT WHAT man ever listens:

“I told you I was no good. Didn’t kid you, did I? So now you know. Bart, I’ve been kicked around all my life. From now on I’m going to start kicking back. Bart, I want things. A lot of things…big things. I don’t want to be afraid of life or anything else. I want a guy with spirit and guts. A guy who can laugh at anything…do anything. A guy who can kick over the traces and win the world for me.”

GUN CRAZY ( I )  PEGGY CUMMINS ( Gun Crazy - II )

Let me get down to brass tacks: the sexy villainy of Annie Laurie Starr. Peggy Cummins plays the femme fatale in “Gun Crazy.” ( When you IMDB her, you’ll see a kindly looking mature older woman. But that’s not in this movie ). I liked her femme fatale. She is not a nice girl, but she does fulfill the requisite traits for being a lethal lady:

*  Sociopath: cares about no one but herself
*  Money hungry: money as escape
*  Dupe-a-dope: get the big lug to do her dirty work
*  Murder: Killing as sexual foreplay ( ooooh, now there’s a bonus )

GUN CRAZY ( II )

It takes two to tango. Her partner-in-crime is Bart Tare played by John Dall. and he’s wonderful. There’s just a hint of nervous unsettling energy about him that Anthony Perkins will perfect ten years later in “Psycho.” Annie Laurie lays her bullets, cards on the table with him. She really is just as willing to let Bart go…to send him on his merry way with a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the head. ( “Kiss me goodbye.” ) And it’s not that Bart is weak, a wuss, ‘whipped’. He just wouldn’t…couldn’t let her go. She’s his psychosexual soul mate. You don’t give that up. ( Have you ever tried? Oh…you’ve never been in that grip? ) Her face is like porcelain… alabaster. ( She reminds me, a bit, of one of my big faves – Piper Laurie. They both have the same small dead eyes ). Annie Laurie’s face is as smooth and unlined as a mannequin; and just as devoid of emotion. She’s a cold-hearted, sharp-shootin’ little package. And she was pretty athletic too. She wasn’t one of those heroines who run from the monster or bad guy and trips and falls down in the woods. She ran hard; wow…the way she bolted down those stairs after the payroll robbery was great. I never saw Bette Davis EVER break a sweat like that in forty movies!!

They say:

Men use love to get sex.
Women use sex to get love.

I say, whatever works. Annie Laurie has a male sensibility…she goes for what she wants, uses whoever she has to. In noir, men usually drive the action forward. In noir, men are usually duped. In a way, Bart is the female role…not initiating but following. He ain’t runnin’ sh*t. Bart thinks he knows just what he’s let himself in for; walks in with his eyes wide shut, but I don’t think he realizes just how far Annie Laurie IS willing to go. She is the drug and Bart is the junkie. It’s interesting to watch just how far he would and does go with this…to the bitter end.

PEGGY CUMMINS ( Gun Crazy - V )

When they decide to pull their ‘last’ job and separate for two months…maybe three, I’ve watched enough film noir to know what THAT means. She was dumping him, taking the money and not looking back. Brigid O’Shaughnessy would have done it without batting an

ASTOR as Brigid STANWYCK as Phyllis GREER as KathieSCOTT as Jane

eye. Phyllis Dietrichson would have done it. Kathie Moffett would have done it. And if you saw Lizabeth Scott in “Too Late for Tears” at TCM’s recent film festival, you just know she would have definitely high-tailed it outta outta there. Hey fella, yeah you…and you!!!! She’s dropping you like a hot potato. Well they fooled me. I loved how the scene plays out. And that convinced me she really does love him. But I tell ya, the girl was always quick to pull a gun. Her, scared? I’d say no. She just liked to kill. It was survival, but it was also pleasure. I think when the gun goes off…so does she.

PEGGY CUMMINS ( Gun Crazy - I )

Her promises are the sexual heat-seeking missile that keeps Bart hanging on. If I’m thinking sexy, someone more like Gloria Grahame comes to mind to induce men to follow her into hell. Grahame’s sex kittenish looks would lure; but I can also see her snapping into cold b*tch mode to get the job done. With Cummins, I find her contempt and disdain make her sexy. ( Like Joan Bennett’s ). The sexiest I thought she ever looked was near the end of the movie. Running…tired…worn out…she’s fallen in the muddy waters. Her hair’s a mess. Bart is trying to get some rest in the swampy reeds. She now picks this time to be amorous.   She’s been robbing and stealing. Their names are splashed across the headlines in a montage of newspaper print. Teletype info comes in and they’re just one step ahead of the law. Close shaves with checkpoints heighten the excitement. Busting through police barricades with the man you love. Things are out of control. How much more turned on does she need to be? Their fate unfurls before them.  It’s dizzying. What else is left but to face your death being engulfed in the fog. And in the end she’s kind of a mad rabid dog…words foam and spew from her lips:

“One more step and I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you. I’LL KILL YOU!!!!”

Poor Annie Laurie. Poor Bart. A boy into guns who grows up, goes to war, returns home and meets a girl who shares his same passion for guns. Kismet? Serendipity? Fate? This really is a match made in heaven. How many of us ever find our soulmate? He is tethered to her promises like a dog to a leash:

“Bart, I’ve never been much good. At least up to now I havent. You arent getting any bargains. I’ve got a funny feeling that I want to be good. I don’t know, maybe I can’t. But I’m going to try. I’ll try hard Bart. I’ll try.”

…The hollow promises of a soulless killer.

PEGGY CUMMINS ( Gun Crazy - IV )

_________________________________________________________________________

PEGGY CUMMINS

At the 2012 TCMFF after-party I got a chance to speak to ( for about twenty-seconds ) and get the autograph ) of Peggy Cummins, who was sitting next to her friend Eunice Gayson.
( She was the first woman Sean Connery ever said “Bond, James Bond.” ) She was also a guest of the festival as well. I went up to their table and said:

C-Maven: “Ms. Cummins, your performance in ‘Gun Crazy’ was brilliant. Annie Laurie was so bad.”

P. Cummins (smiling): “She was an unpleasant girl, wasn’t she?” 

I had to chuckle at the proper British spin she put on it.

Thank you for reading my entry into this year’s Great Villain Blogathon. But don’t rush away. There are more dangerous dames and dashing villains to explore in this blogathon so I hope you check them all out.  ( Psst! My personal favorite performance is Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.  After Scarlett O’Hara, I think the role of Catherine Trammell is the second greatest female role in movies ). And below, see some more of my very favorite femmes fatale doing their thing, in this YouTube video:

(  H O M E  )

 

42 thoughts on “A REAL PISTOL-PACKIN’ MAMA

  1. Pingback: I’M LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE… | CineMaven's: ESSAYS from the COUCH

  2. Well, Theresa, you sure got Annie Laurie’s number.

    What most intrigues me is that the role seems to be totally unique in Peggy Cummins’ work. From the handful of other films I have seen her in, and from examining her filmography, I don’t find the slightest hint that this character was in her. She seems to have made a career playing “nice English girls” and “nice English ladies”.

    Though we are mighty impressed, I don’t think we are quite surprised to see the heights, or depths, of evil displayed by Astor, Stanwyck, Greer, or Scott. They had all shown the intense cool required for those signature roles you point out, but where did sweet little Peggy get the wherewithal for Annie Laurie Starr? And what on earth convinced Joseph Lewis that she was right for the part? She certainly was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Either Joseph Lewis was a genius and spotted something in her or…or…heck, darned if I know! THAT is a great question, Bob. I don’t know if she touched on that at all when she was at the TCM film festival a few years ago to introduce this work with Eddie Muller. I’ll have to go on YouTube and research that. It was one lucky break for her, isn’t it, because Cummins will be remembered for as long as classic film fans see this movie. I like the way she played Annie Laurie with such abandon. The other gals talked a good game ( Astor, Stanwyck, Greer…Scott ) and most certainly wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. But Peggy Cummins’ approach to Annie Laurie put the peddle to the floor! Thank you again for reading and commenting on my work Bob. I appreciate it.

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      • Theresa, I had forgotten that there was a hint that Peggy Cummins could be more than a sweet pretty face. She was originally cast as the lead in Forever Amber. Of course, she was replaced by Linda Darnell, but it was not just Lewis or the King Brothers who thought she had it.

        Jim Kitses interviewed her in ’95 for his BFI monograph on Gun Crazy. She showed him her wedding album from shortly after the movie. He says “I watch page after page go by, and finally ask: ‘Is that who you were–or were you a killer?’ She looks up at me, flashes that smile, and replies: ‘Both – the same girl played both.'” So maybe the nice girl was also a performance.

        Something else from that interview that I want to repeat just to prove that I am a very fair man.She showed Kitses a note that reads “Peggy. I’ve wanted to write you a note for a long time to tell you not to be too unhappy about Amber (but I was afraid you would think me presumptuous). Don’t be unhappy – take it in your stride – do whatever is given you as a substitution as best you can and make them ‘eat their words’. Good luck. J.C.” Everyone can be nice at least once! I will say no more.

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      • Ahhhh yes, I seem to remember that about Cummins and “Forever Amber.” The movie, it still didn’t do too well did it, or was it a hit? “The same girl played both.” There are many people inside of us, we just must tap into them. As for JC, thank you for being fair to her. She was courteous. (You might say, even a broken clock is right twice a day).

        Coincidentally “GUN CRAZY” was on at four this morning. Blazing! Keep passing along those tidbits.

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      • Apparently, someone described as “the producer” (Zanuck? Skouras?) saw her on stage in London, and pegged her for Amber. I wonder what the play was. The book was a big best seller, very hot like Peyton Place a few years later. Today we could read these books and wonder what the fuss was about. Some people might even wonder what was going on, as it was not described in detail. Even though I was very little, I remember Everyone talking about it. Likewise the movie which grossed 5 million, big BO in the forties. Of course, it cost 6, but still, that was a lot of tickets. I think it would have done better with Vincent Price instead of Richard Greene. Peggy thought that she would have gotten better parts if she had been called Margaret.

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      • Hi Bob. Thanxx for the additional information. Wasn’t sure if “Forever Amber” was a hit or miss back then. What’s in a name? Well…Cummins might’ve had something there. Peggy does have a juvenile ring to it than Margaret. But a rose by any other name… All Ms. Cummins and ANYone needs is a chance to show their stuff. Thanks, man.

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  3. The warped relationship of Annie Laurie and Bart is totally enthralling. We spend so much time with them in close quarters that it starts to seem normal and then “normal” people (Bart’s family, their victims) intrude on their fantasy land and it leaves the viewer slightly queasy.

    It may seem odd to quote Disney’s “The Jungle Book”, but when Bart gets that first look at Annie I hear Balloo the Bear telling Mowgli “Stay away from them. They ain’t nothin’ but trouble.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey hey there Caftan Woman! You’ve hit the nail on the head when you talk about hanging with Annie Laurie and Bart so much, “normal” people start to look intrusive. ( “And WHY can’t Annie Laurie ‘borrow’ your baby?” HUH?! ) Disney and Film Noir? If the advice fits… Perfectly normal. L0L! This is also why I love film. It can take us and pretzel us into any position they want to; make us identify with villains. And we can live pretzeled up…for at least the length of a movie. Annie Laurie & Bart ARE soul mates. Thank you for reading.

      By the by, I’ll be printing up YOUR write-up on Raymond Burr in “Pitfall” and have some nice leisurely reading for my train ride home. I’ll also be writing about “Pitfall” myself very soon and will link folks over to your more in-depth look at Burr in that film. Gawwwwwsh, was he icky or WHAT when he had Lizabeth Scott modeling those dresses in the dress shop she worked in. Eeeeeew!! How he ever got to play Perry Mason is beyond me. Thanks for your comments.

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  4. “Gun Crazy” is SUCH a terrific movie that isn’t as well known as it deserves to be. And your review has certainly done it justice. This movie is everything you said. I can’t imagine anyone other than Peggy Cummins (or John Dall) in this film.

    Thanks for joining our blogathon with this über femme fatale!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Didn’t she though? I was stunned when I saw her on the Red Carpet. She was so unassuming but I tell you, in the midst all the stars that strolled down the TCM carpet that year, she truly stood out in my mind. Thank you again.

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    • Hi Silver Screenings. First off, thank you for including my post in this year’s GREAT VILLAINS BLOGATHON. I wanted to get Annie Laurie in there first with the likes of “White Heat” “Mildred Pierce” and ‘Mrs. Iselin’ in “The Manchurian Candidate” coming up. Whew! Tough cookies. “GUN CRAZY” should be more well-known if it isn’t already. It’s almost a procedural for what bat-sh*t crazy looks like. But also what passion and obsession looks like. Bart’s obsessed with Annie-Laurie, and Annie-Laurie’s obsessed with guns and money. A match made in heaven, huh.

      I agree with you. Peggy Cummins has her stamp on this character. A fella won’t know what hit him once she straps on her gun belt and takes aim at his heart. To quote my friend Bob: “…where did sweet little Peggy get the wherewithal for Annie Laurie Starr? And what on earth convinced Joseph Lewis that she was right for the part? She certainly was.”

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  5. Pingback: The Great Villain Blogathon Schedule | Silver Screenings

  6. Great post on a consistently underrated film. I love how it constantly makes the viewer question what’s normal and where the line blurs. Sometimes I find myself endorsing the relationship between Annie Laurie and Bart and then I have to remember that I’m watching from such a skewed perspective. But for what it’s worth, Peggy Cummins has to be one of the best-dressed villains in movie history.

    PS – Thanks for the link! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hellllooooo there ‘GDF.’ I’m glad you liked my post. I can’t believe this film is underrated. ( Really? A young couple goin’ out Bonnie & Clyde-style in a blaze of glory? ) Well then more people should know about it. I really like the crazy pathology of Annie-Laurie; I mean she’s not just crazy. But the girl’s been hurt and wants things. I get that. ( ?? ) I love when movies immerse us into another world ( good or bad ) and we start questioning ourselves. My favorite outfit of Cummins was the cowboy hat. She was a petite little China doll, who packed a wallop. Thanxx again for reading and responding. Now for “Fatal Attraction.” ( I like that the movie didn’t make out Ann Archer as some nagging wife to warrant his affair. Michael Douglas had the opportunity…and Glenn was Close. Ugh!!! Ohh boy! )

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  7. Pingback: The Great Villain Blogathon: Day 1 Recap | Silver Screenings

    • I hope you get to check this out Wolffian. Coincidentally “Gun Crazy” was actually on at 4:30 this morning. I’m glad my post made you want to see the movie. It’s a good one. Thanx again.

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    • Hi Marsha – You had a gem-in-waiting and it took you about a year? For shame! L0L! Well you finally saw it and that’s what counts. Wasn’t Peggy Cummins amazing? By the end…in the swamp, she was practically foaming at the mouth; all she wanted was love. And lotsa lotsa money. ( Lesson #1: Nothing can fill the hole INSIDE you, from the OUTSIDE ). Thank you for reading my post on “GUN CRAZY.” Go back to the blogathon. More good stuff awaits. Thanks again.

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  8. Loved your post, Theresa — and I love your pick! Annie Laurie is one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite noirs. And how awesome that you actually got to exchange sentences with Peggy Cummins. Lucky. Thanks so much for contributing to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Karen, I appreciate your reading my take on one Miss Annie-Laurie Crazy Girl. Whew!! She kept me on the edge of my seat throughout with her antics. She’s one of my favorite lethal ladies as well. I was nervous to approach Ms. Cummins at the festival, but she was very warm for our ‘brief encounter.’ Thank you and the other ladies for including me in this blogathon. And now I’m off to print up some more of the write-ups to read. Veda…another one of my favorite gals. Can’t wait to read your post. Thanks Karen.

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  9. Awesome pick, love this movie and her performance. Not only shows what magic can be made for a few dollars’ budget but what the right casting does to make a film last forever. Cummins might have been terribly disappointed she missed out on Forever Amber but look at what immortality she got from this role (and other movies, I love Curse of the Demon too). So glad you met her! Nice moment, and so glad you brought one of the ultimate noir bad girls to the blogathon, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kristina for including me in this year’s blogathon. I’m diving head first into the blogosphere and blogathons are just the ticket. Isn’t it in show biz they say “when one door closes, another one opens,” ? Peggy Cummins is like Jane Greer, remembered for all time for one particular film. I love the fact that this out of control girl, is in control. ( How crazy is that? ) Glad you enjoyed my post.

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  10. I’ve never seen this (not on DVD in the UK) – but will aim to track it down and watch it soon. Sounds as if you had an amazing time at the festival!

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    • Hi Judy! I hope you do get to see “GUN CRAZY.” ( Poll your friends…somebody’s GOT TO have it ). Peggy Cummins does a great job. The TCM Classic Film Festival…a great way to spend a long weekend: watching classic films on the big screen. Thanks for reading.

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    • “GUN CRAZY” is wild. I swear, if WE wanted to get outta that car with those two crazy kids, I don’t think we could. I am a cinematic junkie. The only way to take drugs…vicariously. But these girls ain’t got nuthin’ on Ma Jarrett. She borders on child abuse what she made of her son in WHITE HEAT. Will be reading your write up shortly. Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. Whew! So much good stuff to read with a blogathon!!

      Pssst! Folks…go—–> here.

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  11. One more thought on Gun Crazy, I was mulling over the plot while cleaning the kitchen and at least Bart comes out of his “junkie” fog long enough to stop Laurie’s crazy idea of kidnapping his toddler nephew and take him on the run with them! I shudder to think what would have happened to that little tot out there in the fog and swamp as they’re being chased by the cops!

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      • I’m trying to convince them to watch classic movies! I’ve had some successes: King Kong, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sergeant York, Citizen Kane, Wait Until Dark, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, and most of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals; Seven Brides is a fave as is also West Side Story. It’s battle at times, though, as my sons like all of the comic book character films that seem to be the main money makers for studios now. Star Wars is popular in my house as well as Lord of the Rings. I have also had them watch some classic horror films: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, The Birds. I myself did enjoy Fast and Furious 7 recently with my oldest at his college’s Moms Weekend. 🙂

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