Crazy About Guns and Peggy

By: Mike McCrann

There is a great movie featuring a fantastic actress you’ve probably never heard of.

The movie is Gun Crazy (1950) and the actress is Peggy Cummins.

Peggy Cummins was brought to America from her native Britain in late 1945 by 20th Century-Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck. She was selected to play the lead in the movie version of Forever Amber. For those of you too young to remember, this scandalous book was the biggest best seller since Gone with the Wind, and every actress in Hollywood wanted to play brazen Amber, a femme fatale of the 17th century.

Peggy_02 After five weeks of filming, Cummins was deemed too young for the part and replaced by Linda Darnell. The resulting film made money but was a critical fiasco.

Zanuck put Peggy Cummins in several films (The Late George Apley and Moss Rose) but her American career never took off. Before returning to England, Cummins made one last film in the U.S.: Gun Crazy.

Gun Crazy is probably the greatest B film ever made. The two-killers-on-the-lam crime drama was a precursor to Bonnie and Clyde and is today considered one of the seminal film noirs with Peggy’s performance as the evil predatory Annie Laurie Starr one of the most memorable performances in film history.

Director Joseph H. Lewis' brilliant direction—including the bank heist scene filmed in one long take—makes this film totally unique. Cummins is selfish, evil, and totally self-centered, and even admits to co-star John Dall (Rope) that "I'm bad...but I'll try awfully hard to be good."

But Annie is all bad. And she will lie, steal, or kill to get what she wants.

Peggy_03Director Lewis talked about his instructions to both actors: "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.' I turned them loose. I didn't have to give them more directions."

If you haven't seen Gun Crazy, rent or buy it and you will see the gorgeous Peggy Cummins give a performance that makes Faye Dunaway's Bonnie look like a girl scout.

Peggy Cummins is alive and well in England and she will always have this great jewel of a film as a permanent record of her sublime beauty and talent. As Michael Adams wrote in Movieline in 2009, Gun Crazy was "made for a measly $400,000 in 30 days [but] the results were pure pop poetry and years ahead of its time."