Reflections on Noir #2: Gun Crazy (1950)

In the 1950 film noir, Gun Crazy, Laurie, the femme fatale, represents a dark reflection of the male protagonist, Bart. GunCrazy

This duality of the femme fatale and male protagonist, although present in many other film noirs, seems even more explicitly marked in this film, in which Bart and Laurie can almost be considered two sides of the same personality.

GunCrazy2Both Laurie and Bart are obsessed with guns and carry them everywhere.  The contest scene illustrates the connection between the two characters because Laurie and Bart perform the exact same feats of marksmanship. The scene suggests that they are both equal in skill in their handling of guns. In this scene, Laurie is wearing a wild-west style cowgirl outfit, which is echoed by the cowboy outfit that Bart wears when he joins her stage act.  Later in the film, when they are about to commit a robbery, both characters are shown together in these matching outfits for the first time. The outfits suggest that Bart and Laurie are now on the same wavelength and announce the emergence of a single Laurie-Bart unit. Bart joins her criminal act in the same way that he joined her stage act. However, beneath this veneer of uniformity, there are fundamental differences between Laurie and Bart. The opening sequence establishes Bart’s past and heavily emphasizes the strange contradiction that although Bart loves guns, he is not a killer and he will not even shoot animals. This fear of killing is apparently linked to the childhood trauma of killing a chick when he was a little boy. Thus, up until the very end of the film he refuses to shoot a single person. In moments of pressure and anxiety when Bart and Laurie are being pursued by the police, Bart is able to remain level-headed and does not give into his impulse to shoot.

GunCrazy3

By contrast, Laurie has no problem killing and may even derive a kind of perverse pleasure from it.  Unlike Bart, she does not think before she shoots—she acts out of fear and does not restrain her impulses. Her wild, animalistic nature is perhaps best evident at the end of the film when she bears her teeth like a ferocious animal. Laurie also entices Bart into engaging in a criminal enterprise –a string of robberies. Here, Laurie becomes like the voice of “the Devil” whispering in Bart’s ear and tempting him to use his marksmanship skills in dishonest, unlawful and deadly pursuits. As a result, Laurie appears to be the embodiment of Bart’s dark, repressed desires. She represents what Bart could become if he acted on impulse and relaxed his morals and qualms about murder. This idea is further reinforced by Laurie’s one-dimensionality and lack of a past. The film denies us any insight into Laurie’s past except that she committed a murder in St. Louis. Throughout the film, Laurie tries to make Bart become like her and see the world through her perspective. Ironically, this is accomplished at the very end of the film when Bart shoots Laurie out of an impulse to protect his friends.

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Crazy
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042530/
Rotten Tomatoes: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1031278-gun_crazy/

Previous Article: Reflections On Noir #1: Pandora’s Box (1929) & Out of the Past (1947)

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