The Story (continued)
Gun Crazy (1949)
Laurie's boss/lover Packet, with whom she has presumably traded sex for top billing and pay, confronts Bart about their mutual interest in his "claim": "I've got a claim on her...Why don't we go over and get...? She won't hesitate to give you the low-down. Anybody tell you about her and me?" As she primps in front of her dressing-room mirror for Bart, Laurie further spurs and angers a boozing, jealous, black-mailing Packet by de-masculinizing him - and he grabs her. Brutal, ruthless, money-grasping, and hard-hearted, Laurie demotes her "two-bit" lover:
Laurie: If you lay your hands on me like that again, I'll kill you.
Packet: Like that guy you killed in St. Louis.
Laurie: You're gonna hold that over my head for the rest of my life, aren't ya?
Packet: Yeah, 'cause you're mine. Where do you think you're going tonight, all dressed up like that?
Laurie: You don't own me, Packy.
Packet: I told him I did. I saw him comin' over this way. I told him plenty. I saw the two of ya. The way you were lookin' at each other tonight. A couple of wild animals. Almost scared me.
Laurie: It should. He's a man.
Packet: Honey, I'll make money like you want me to - big money. But it takes time. You gotta give me time.
Laurie: You'll never make money. You're a two-bit guy...No guts, nothing. I want action.
When Bart bursts into the trailer, Packy reaches for the mirror to throw it at him. Bart responds by drawing his pistol and shattering the reflected glass - creating cracks across Packy's face. Scared because of their emerging relationship as "a couple of wild animals," he terminates the sharpshooters' jobs by promptly firing both of them.
On the road together, Bart assures her: "I've got money. We'll get along alright." And then he proposes: "We'll want to see a justice of the peace or something, won't we?" She smiles and accepts: "Is that the way you want it?...Sure, it's OK with me." They stop at the next town, and emerge from their car outside the Desert Justice of the Peace's office. Before "signing up for an awful long term," each of them confess to wayward elements of their lives and she promises to try to better herself, as the camera moves in for their classic clench and romantic kiss (with the soundtrack playing the film's theme song "Mad About You"):
Bart: I've served a term already. Reform school. When I was a kid, I stole a gun from a hardware store and I...
Laurie: Is that what you wanted to tell me, Bart?
Bart: I wanted you to know.
Laurie: Bart, I've never been much good, at least up to now, I haven't. You aren't getting any bargain.
Bart: I'm doin' alright.
Laurie: But I've got a funny feeling that I want to be good. I don't know. Maybe I can't, but I'm gonna try.
Bart: We'll make it.
Laurie: I'll try hard, Bart.
Bart: We'll make it.
Laurie: I'll try.
In a very short montage of images, the couple briefly experience an idyllic, cliche-ridden honeymoon signifying the good life, as they rapidly spend all of Bart's money. The romantic pair shop for a ring in Jamison's Jewelry Store, climb a trail in front of a cascading waterfall [at Niagara Falls?], pose in front of a hot springs geyser [at Yellowstone?], dine lakeside, snuggle together in the front seat of a convertible surrounded by natural landscapes, dance in a swanky club house, and gamble at a Las Vegas casino. After the short-lived and dream-like interlude in which they exhaust their savings, they are impoverished and hock the ring at a Pawn Shop where "top prices" are paid [cancelling their societally-approved marriage?], and are located at a counter in a greasy-spoon diner shaped like a narrow train-car. They are each served unappetizing, grilled hamburgers and coffee, declining onions to save themselves a nickel, and serenaded by the radio playing "Mad About You":
Laurie: What a fool I was to think we could buck Las Vegas.
Bart: We just ran into a bad streak, that's all.
Out of money and with a "bad streak" of luck, Laurie schemes that they pull off an armed robbery, but he is uncertain and revulsed by violent gunplay that might kill people:
Bart: Somebody might get hurt.
Laurie: How can anybody get hurt if we don't hurt them?
Bart: It's too dangerous, I tell you.
Later, in their drab, cheap hotel room, a domestic squabble brews. As Bart squints down the barrel of his long-nosed gun above his case of weapons, Laurie emerges from the bathroom behind him, wearing a white, terry-clothed robe (and naked underneath) - she is complaining and dis-satisfied with her unexciting life. As he cleans his gun barrel by thrusting (phallically) a brush within it, she pulls on her nylons and rejects his proposal of a forty-dollars a week job at Remington. When he suggests pawning his guns to "make another start," she counters with an appeal to his flagging masculinity, telling him that she wants "a guy with spirit and guts" - if he can't deliver, she suggests: "You better kiss me goodbye." Agonizing over what to do (his dangling hand opens and closes at his side), he finally succumbs to her wily, fearless, and ruthless ultimatum - goaded to illicitly pursue happiness and acquire "things":
Laurie: What a joint! No more hot water.
Bart: Well, it's a roof anyway.
Laurie: Yeah, it's a roof alright. How are we gonna give the room clerk the money when we move out?
Bart: I can still get that job at Remington.
Laurie: Forty dollars a week?
Bart: We can get by on that.
Laurie: Yeah, maybe you can, but not me. It's too slow, Bart. I want to do a little living.
Bart: What's your idea of living?
Laurie: It's not forty bucks a week.
Bart: Tell me, when did you get this idea?
Laurie: Oh, I've always had this - ever since I can remember. If I don't get it one way, I'll get it the other.
Bart: I didn't think we'd had it figured out that way. (She steps into her bedroom slippers.)
Laurie: Well, so I changed my mind. I told you I was no good. I didn't kid you, did I? (She lights a cigarette for herself.) Well, now you know. Bart, I've been kicked around all my life. Well, from now on, I'm gonna start kicking back.
Bart: What is it you want?
Laurie: When are you going to begin to live? (She leans down with her hands on his shoulders from behind, speaking directly into his ear.) Four years in reform school, then the Army. I should think they'd owe you something for a change. What's it got you, being so particular?
Bart: Let's not argue. I'll hock my guns. It'll give us enough dough to make another start.
Laurie: There isn't enough money in those guns for the kind of start I want. Bart, I want things, a lot of things, big things. I don't want to be afraid of life or anything else. I want a guy with spirit and guts. A guy who can laugh at anything, who will do anything, a guy who can kick over the traces and win the world for me.
Bart: Look, I don't want to look in that mirror and see nothing but a stick up man staring back at me.
Laurie: You better kiss me goodbye, Bart (she drops onto the bed and reclines back), because I won't be here when you get back. Come on, Bart, let's finish it the way we started it, on the level. (She cooly drags on her cigarette as he nervously clenches his fist.)
The blackmail scene ends with his sexual acquiescence and gratification, his decision to remain, and a close-up of his mouth inching towards hers for a passionate kiss, and dissolves into the gunshot blast of a gumball bowl - an orgasmic, erotic/violent beginning of their crime rampage as gun-toting 'wild animals.' Their shooting-exhibition talents are transferred from carnivals to a series of small stick-ups and robberies - of their hotel, a liquor store, another store clerk, and a gas station. Also, they cleverly acquire a car by deceiving a Cadillac-driving, middle-aged man (Don Beddoe). Laurie appears as a lone hitchhiker next to a curvy road sign and gets a lift. Non-chalantly, as he carries on a suggestive conversation with her while driving, she removes her large gun out of her small purse and points it at his mid-section: "Would you like to stop for a while?"
Laurie and Bart (wearing their Western showbiz outfits and guns) drive into the town of Hampton, with the camera firmly positioned in the center of the back-seat of their stolen Cadillac. It is a often-celebrated, superbly-crafted, impromptu, seemingly ad-libbed and spontaneous screen moment. The gritty, realistic scene is composed of an unedited, continuously-rolling three and a half-minute point-of-view shot. During their approach, Bart nervously gives directions to tentative driver Laurie as they wind their way from the outskirts of town into the downtown area and nervously look for a parking space. Fortunately, one opens up in front of the Hampton Building and Loan building: "Now it's this next turn so take it easy. Here comes a car...Here. (He lets her puff on his cigarette.)...watch that rock...Ok, ok, go ahead. You're right, it is pretty crowded. I wonder if there's gonna be a parking space. There's a car just pulled out. We can get in there. Yeah, yeah...Don't worry. I won't be a minute longer than I have to. Here goes nothin." [The sexual suggestiveness of the lines portray two nervous lovers gearing up for an exciting escapade, equating the violence with the sexual nature of their crime.]
Laurie is perturbed when a town policeman (Robert Osterloh) turns the corner and stands on the sidewalk in front of the bank: "Oh, get out of there. All right copper, go on. That's right. Stand right there. OK!" She pulls the car up closer to the curb. The camera trails her and shoots out the front right window as she engages the cop in conversation, and he compliments her on her "nice getup" and "good-lookin' gun." He inquires: "What show are you with?" advertising the town as an "easy town on shows." But he won't allow her to handle his gun: "I killed a man with it last year." When Bart emerges with an alarm bell ringing, Laurie karate-chops the policeman in the neck to knock him down and render him unconscious, and the two escape - with the camera still filming the long-take from behind their shoulders inside the car! As he drives them away, they tensely argue together and he scolds her:
Bart: Thought I told you to stay in the car.
Laurie: I couldn't help it. The copper came out there.
In the tensely claustrophobic scene, they honk at cars blocking their route, and careen around corners, holding onto their hats. An erotic, ecstatically-glazed and fulfilled look crosses Laurie's excited face when she turns around to check out whether they are being pursued, and leans into Bart with thrilling, gratified reassurance that no-one is following: "It's all right, it's all right...Yeah, it's all right. Go on, keep goin'." A policeman in a station takes down notes from a phone call: "Blue sedan, Illinois license, no number, both dressed in cowboy clothes. Yeah I know, fancy, a man and a girl." The two criminals pull their Cadillac with a 1949 Illinois plate to a halt, next to its bound and gagged owner on the side of a country road. Just before fleeing in their own car, Laurie deflates one of the car's tires with a pistol shot.
Play-acting the normal life by dressing as a prim, respectable, bespectacled couple, the two robbers drive up to a roadblock, and Laurie cautions Bart: "Pull up easy. Pull up easy." Smiling, they innocently claim that they are from the scene of the crime, and live only two blocks from Main Street where the incident happened. As they drive off, Bart has disturbed, upsetting second thoughts about their deepening life of crime, but his sociopathic companion comforts him with words of love:
Bart: Laurie, this isn't gonna work out.
Laurie: Why not?
Bart: Well, that man in the cashier's cage didn't think I was on the level. For a minute, I thought he was gonna call the cops.
Bart: But you can't shoot a man just because he hesitates.
Laurie: Well, maybe not, but you can sure scare him off like that hotel clerk...You know something, I love you. I love you more than anything else in the world.
Their next robbery is of the Rangers and Growers Exchange. The couple, now wearing criminal garb - dark sunglasses and long trenchcoats, race out of the office after the heist and cross a busy street at a fast-pace, as more alarm bells ring and the owner shouts: "Help, help, stop those people." Bart prevents the villainous Laurie from shooting the man. Again, part of their frenetic, fearful retreat is filmed from a camera placed in the car's back seat, as they make a dangerous, dizzying U-turn in the street and are pursued by a siren-screaming police car giving chase. Once more, they combatively bicker at each other. Ultimately under pressure, he lies to her to please her, claiming that he killed the driver:
Bart: You could've killed that man.
Laurie: He'd have killed us if he'd had the chance.
Bart: They're gaining on us. Go on, faster!
Laurie: I can't get this thing any faster. I can't make it go... (Bart crawls into the back seat - his gigantic face filling the screen in agonizing close-up as she repeatedly demands that he shoot.) Shoot. Why don't you shoot? Shoot! Shoot, do you hear me?
Bart: All right. (Finally after debating within himself, he fires at the front tire and successfully deflates it. He crawls back into the front seat.)
Laurie: Get 'em?
Bart: Yeah. (A grin slowly widens across her mouth.)
Another police report is taken as police trail them in several states on a cross-country crime rampage: "Tan sedan, 1949 model, license number 13X572..." The Star-Dispatch headlines read: "HOLDUP PAIR CRASH STATE LINE BARRIER!" The Daily Eagle pictures them on the front page after the criminals were identified by vengeful Packet: "CARNIVAL OWNER NAMES KILLERS! Implicates Former Employees in St. Louis Murder." In Bart's hometown of Cashville, his boyhood friends read the teletype machine's output about their friend's notorious banditry. Bart's young niece has even heard of his infamous reputation: "Is he a murderer?" Ruby reassures the young girl: "He's not a murderer. He's never shot anybody in his life, just things."
In another impersonation, Bart is dressed in a stolen military uniform and is complimented by Laurie: "You're very handsome in it." He recalls wearing his own Army uniform years earlier before entering into her sped-up, isolated, imprisoning, anti-social world that has become a living nightmare:
Bart: ...that's when I was a fairly honest guy.
Laurie: You mean, before you met me?
Bart: I don't know. It's just that everything's going so fast. It's all in such high gear, and sometimes it doesn't feel like me. Does that make sense?
Laurie: When do you think all this?
Bart: Nights. I wake up sometimes. It's as if none of it really happened, as if nothing were real anymore.
Laurie: Next time you wake up, Bart, look over at me lying there beside you. I'm yours and I'm real.
Bart: Yes, but you're the only thing that is, Laurie. The rest is a nightmare.