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.
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.
A group of reckless truckers gear up for trouble.
Above is a beautiful poster for Hell Drivers, a working class thriller set in England dealing with an ex-convict who takes a trucking job for a gravel company and begins risking life and limb trying to break another driver's speed record. It has something of the feel of 1947's They Drive By Night mixed with a British road rally. It also has film noir legend Peggy Cummins in a co-starring role, along with Herbert Lom from the Pink Panther movies, and lead actor Stanley Baker. Oh, and a guy named Sean Connery. And there's a truck crash with a brutal body ejection. But it's this amazing purple promo that prompted us to talk about the movie. We love this art. The manhandling moment depicted, by the way, precedes a kiss, as the thin narrative line between masculine anger and lust is crossed yet again in a mid-century film. Hell Drivers premiered in London today in 1957.
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.
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.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
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