The gun is dangerous but the shoes are killer.
Above: a second cool promo image of Welsh born Irish actress Peggy Cummins from her 1950 b-noir Gun Crazy. We recently shared some photos of her as pre-Princess Leia. To see those just click here.
A long time ago in a hairstyling session far, far away.
And you thought the people at Lucasfilm thought up Princess Leia's double-bun hairdo. Nope. We'll admit they tightened it up a bit, but the earliest version of the style we've ever seen is in the above test shots with Peggy Cummins made for an unidentified movie. We thought we'd be able to identify the film because there are other shots from the session, and in some the slate being held in front of her bears a character name—Betty Cream.
But a scan on the interchannels shows no character by that name ever played by her. Possibly, it was a character whose name changed or whose part was cut, but here's what we think really happened. The only character in Hollywood history named Betty Cream was played by Helen Walker in 1946's Cluny Brown. That year was just before Cummins began scoring featured roles, so it's possible she did the hair/make-up sessions, but was axed. It happens, for various reasons.
Cummins and Walker had similar careers. They started near the same time, and had nearly the same number of roles, but while Walker did appear in a few notable crime movies such as Nightmare Alley and Call Northside 777, it was Cummins who made an indelible mark on crime cinema by playing the lead in Gun Crazy. It's a movie that remains much discussed today due to its depiction of a character obsessed with firearms, and what it implied about the U.S. You can read a little more about it here.
They're not really going anywhere but they look mighty good doing it.
What's a period drama without a fake driving scene? Nearly all such sequences were shot in movie studios using two techniques—rear projection, which was standard for daytime driving, and both rear projection and lighting effects for simulating night driving. Many movie studios made production images of those scenes. For example, above you see Jane Greer and Lizabeth Scott, neither looking happy, going for a fake spin around Los Angeles in 1951's The Company She Keeps. We decided to make a collection of similar shots, so below we have more than twenty other examples (plus a couple of high quality screen grabs) with top stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Mitchum, and Raquel Welch. We've only scratched the surface of this theme, which means you can probably expect a second collection somewhere down the road. Incidentally, if you want to see Bogart at his coolest behind the wheel look here, and just because it's such a wonderful shot, look here for Elke Sommer as a passenger. Enjoy today's rides. Humphrey Bogart tries to fake drive with Ida Lupino in his ear in 1941's High Sierra. Dorothy Malone, Rock Hudson, and a rear projection of Long Beach, in 1956's Written on the Wind. Ann-Margret and John Forsythe in Kitten with a Whip. We think they were parked at this point, but that's fine. Two shots from 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice with John Garfield and Lana Turner, followed by of shot of them with soon-to-be murdered Cecil Kellaway.
Shelley Winters, looking quite lovely here, fawns over dapper William Powell during a night drive in 1949's Take One False Step. William Talman, James Flavin, and Adele Jergens share a tense ride in 1950's Armored Car Robbery. William Bendix rages in 1949's The Big Steal. Frank Sinatra drives contemplatively in Young at Heart, from 1954. George Sanders drives Ingrid Bergman through Italy, and she returns the favor, in 1954's Viaggio in Italia. Harold Huber, Lyle Talbot, Barbara Stanwyck and her little dog too, from 1933's Ladies They Talk About. Virginia Huston tells Robert Mitchum his profile should be cast in bronze in 1947's Out of the Past. Peggy Cummins and John Dall suddenly realize they're wearing each other's glasses in 1950's Gun Crazy, a film that famously featured a real driving sequence, though not the one above. John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge in 1951's The Scarf. James Mason drives an unconscious Henry O'Neill in 1949's The Reckless Moment. Hopefully they're headed to an emergency room. Marcello Mastroianni driving Walter Santesso, Mary Janes, and an unknown in 1960's La dolce vita. Tony Curtis thrills Piper Laurie with his convertible in 1954's Johnny Dark. Janet Leigh drives distracted by worries, with no idea she should be thinking less about traffic and cops than cross-dressing psychos in 1960's Psycho. We're not sure who the passengers are in this one (the shot is from 1960's On the Double, and deals with Danny Kaye impersonating Wilfrid Hyde-White) but the driver is Diana Dors. Kirk Douglas scares the bejesus out of Raquel Welch in 1962's Two Weeks in Another Town. We're familiar with her reaction, which is why we're glad the Pulp Intl. girlfriends don't need to drive here in Europe.
Robert Mitchum again, this time in the passenger seat, with Jane Greer driving (and William Bendix tailing them—already seen in panel ten), in 1949's The Big Steal. The film is notable for its many real driving scenes.
James Mason keeps cool as Jack Elam threatens him as Märta Torén watches from the passenger seat in 1950's One Way Street. And finally, to take a new perspective on the subject, here's Bogart and Lizabeth Scott in 1947's Dead Reckoning.
Peggy Cummins hit Hollywood with guns blazing.
According to a story yesterday in The Hollywood Reporter, Wales born Irish actress Peggy Cummins died in a London hospital December 29 after suffering a stroke. She was ninety-two years old. Cummins, who was born Augusta Fuller, played the morality challenged Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy, a low budget film noir that rose above its humble station over the decades to eventually be included in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. While the film is often characterized as a breakthrough fro Cummins, it was actually her eleventh screen role, and did not lead to a career of top notch offers. However, she ultimately appeared in more than twenty-five productions, with her last coming in 1965. The above photo was made a promo for Gun Crazy and dates from 1950.
Love and the art of armed robbery.
Above, a French promo poster for the American film noir Gun Crazy, which premiered in France as Le Démon des armes today in 1950. Haven't seen it? We think it's well worth a viewing.
A change of title helped turn an overlooked film into a revered classic.
Above, a West German promo pamphlet for Gefährliche Leidenschaft, which was the American thriller Gun Crazy. If you read German, then you know the German title means “Deadly Is the Female,” and that’s in fact what the film was called in the States upon its initial release. But after lackluster box office, King Brothers Productions changed the title and marketing campaign, and success followed. Today the movie is in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, an honor reserved for movies of special cultural, historic, or aesthetic significance. This pamphlet was made by Illustrierte Film-Bühne, and you can see more examples of that company’s work here and here. Gun Crazy premiered in the U.S. in 1950, and in West Germany today in 1951.
Famed San Francisco film noir retrospective returns for its annual run.
The most popular film noir festival in the world launches its eleventh edition tonight in San Francisco when the Noir City Film Festival returns to the Castro Theatre. It runs until February 3, and screens 27 films, including three new 35mm restorations. Some of the movies on the slate this year include 1950’s Try and Get Me!, 1949’s Repeat Performance, 1948’s High Tide, 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, and 1962’s Experiment in Terror. Along with the films, the festival features guest of honor Peggy Cummins, who played the unforgettable character Annie Laurie Starr in 1950's Gun Crazy. There’s also a noir themed nightclub with live music, torch singers, burlesque and more. Although we love living overseas, events like this are a reminder of why the Bay area lifestyle is so wonderful. If we ever return to the U.S., it’ll be straight back to the Bay. The festival poster above is just the latest in a long series, and we’ve uploaded all the predecessors below. You can find out more about the Noir City Film Festival at the festival website.
Born with a six gun in her hand.
The tagline from the film goes: She believes in two things... love and violence. The film is called Gun Crazy, aka Deadly Is the Female, and it was way ahead of its time. The leads are two of the first legitimate anti-heroes in American film, and Peggy Cummins, as a carnival sharpshooter named Annie Laurie Starr, is one of the baddest women this side of Bonnie Parker. She wants the finer things in life, and it is her ambition, more than that of her partner, that propels the pair into a crime spree. They see themselves settling down in Mexico, but their “one last job before quitting” goes terribly wrong and instead they find themselves running for their lives.
We really recommend this one. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it transcends its limitations to evolve into a surprisingly artful film. There’s a moment where co-star John Dall muses: “We go together, Annie. I don’t know why. Maybe like guns and ammunition go together.” It’s one of the best summations of a relationship we’ve ever heard, and for people inclined to look at the movie deeply there's a pointed commentary on American gun culture. Cheapie b-flicks from this period disappeared forever nine times out of ten, but this one is still with us. There’s a reason for that. Gun Crazy premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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