Seventeen years before Faye Dunaway shot up the silver screen in Bonnie And Clyde, Peggy Cummins showed the world how deadly a true femme fatale could be in the spectacularly lurid cult classic Gun Crazy (King Brothers Productions, 1950).
The classic tale of a somewhat good boy led astray by a definitely bad girl, Gun Crazy centers around the lives of two gun fetishists (Cummins and John Dall, who also starred in Hitchcock’s Rope) who fall madly in love and embark upon a wild crime spree across the Midwest.
While Dall’s character spends most of the film teetering between the not-so-fine line separating good from evil, Cummins’ Annie Laurie Starr is unrepentantly bad to the bone. When she first appears on the scene as a cowgirl-clad carny girl thrilling small-town yokels with her expert marksmanship, Dall – and by extension, your average, red-blooded American boy watching the film in a theater – is swept off his feet.
Despite her stated intention to push back at a world she feels pushed her around far too often, Cummins’ Annie Starr remains somewhat sympathetic despite her excesses. She truly loves Dall’s would-be Clyde Barrow and the film even allows for some oddly romantic scenes between the couple as they run from the law.
Sadly, Cummins’ strong performance in Gun Crazy did not lead to a long, successful career in Hollywood. Her only other film of note was a 1957 British horror flick, Night Of The Demon.
After retiring from acting in 1961, Cummins adjusted to “civilian” life quite well and is still going strong.
In a 2009 interview, Cummins looked back fondly at Gun Crazy.
“It was a great part. It was a brilliant story from a brilliant writer (MacKinlay Kantor and the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo),” she said. “We had a very good director and a great cameraman.
“I think John Dall and myself were in those days quite well-suited in the parts we had.”
Time has proven the accuracy of her statement. In 1998, Gun Crazy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”