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.
All this week the bad, the ugly and the dastardly will be featured in this year’s Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy, Ruth 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??”
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.”
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 )
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!!
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.
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
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.
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 haven’t. You aren’t 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.
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 )