The TCM Festival does a great job of getting old stars out to be fêted along with their classic films. Rhonda Fleming, Marsha Hunt and others turned up this year, but the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance by Peggy Cummins, wonderful star of Gun Crazy (1950).
Ms Cummins’s conversation with noir expert Eddie Mueller can be watched in almost its entirety here. Very unstarry, a discreetly composed and charming lady, she described a little of her journey to Hollywood, and of the production of this film.
Everything about this film is great, but at the heart of it are two cherishable performances from Cummins and John Dall, who portray a relationship of superb naturalism and evident mutual attraction. The way he looks at her, the way she looks at him, we fall in love with them both. From his episodes of emotional intensity, despite an affable, even-keel demeanor, and from her fanatic need for action, it’s easy also to believe in the disgruntled carny boss’s description of them as “like a couple of wild animals”.
The sense that once they’ve started they cannot stop drives both the film and the relationship. Bart (John Dall) gets cut up about it, but he’s been on this path since childhood. From the fantastic opening prologue – straight without a cut from the credits to little Rusty Tamblyn smashing a window on a rainy night – the movie moves inexorably from one terrific scene to the next, be its focus on character or action (and never action without character), building to a climax of eerie serenity. Eddie Mueller is possibly hyperbolic to claim it is a primary influence on every single living film-maker, but you kind of wish it was. By intelligence, daring, and instinct, one of the greatest films ever.