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Cultural Contexts and Film Elements in "Gun Crazy"

Categories: FilmFilm Analysis

What will be discussed in this essay is the cultural contexts and film elements that was used throughout the film Gun Crazy. What will also be discussed is The director and how he came up with idea for the film Gun Crazy. Also how he came to be one of America’s essential directors. Then the first cultural context that will be discussed is geographical which is the origin of the films location. The second cultural context is social which will explain the issues represented in the film.

The final cultural context is technological, explaining what tools and methods were used to make the film. For the film elements mise-en-scene and cinematography will be discussed.

Joseph Lewis began his career in the 1920s as a camera assistant. He later then moved to Metro- Goldwyn- Mayer in the editorial department. He was an apprentice as a second unit director. Then in 1937 he was given a full directing contract at Universal in 1937. In 1953 Lewis had a heart attack, which stopped his directing business for a moment.

Later in 1959, he moved to directing television series. He directed shows such as The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, and The Big Valley. He retired in 1966 and then later died at the age of 93.

The 1950 film Gun Crazy starts off as teenage Bart smashes the window of a hardware store and steals a gun. He is then caught and sent away by the judge to reform school. He later then returns and tells his friends that he has joined the Army after reform school and has returned to settle down.

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That same day, the friends go to the carnival, where they the sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr. The carnival owner challenges one of the audience members to a shooting match with Laurie, and after Bart wins he gets a job at the carnival. When Bart and Laurie start to show an attraction towards one another it makes the owner upset. After the owner fires them both, they run off together. As Bart convinces Laurie that they should get married, they go on a honeymoon and run out of money. Bart wants to sell his guns and get a job in order to work up some money. Laurie decides to take the “easy” way out and rob banks. As they continue to rob banks, Bart becomes unsure if he wants to continue a high life of crime. Laurie then persuades Bart to do one more heist at the Meat Company. They take jobs with the company and plan to rob the office. When the time for them to rob the office comes, Laurie’s boss pulls the alarm after they get ready to leave. When Laurie finds out what she did she shoots her boss and an officer. Then Bart and Laurie escape through the meat packaging company and leave the scene. Bart later reads in the paper about the two that were shot and killed. Laurie then confesses she killed a man once before while doing another job. When Bart’s old friends catch up to him he greets them at gunpoint. They tell Bart to give himself up, but Bart and Laurie take Ruby’s car and drive off. The car breaks down, they run into the woods and stay in a swamp for the night. The next morning, they hear Bart’s friends calling out to him. Laurie starts to utter the words “ I’ll kill you” repeatedly and prepares to shoot. Bart then shoots her and he is then shot by his friends.

Themes that were tied into this movie were western and sexuality. The theme of western is shown when Laurie is introduced to Bart in the beginning of the film. Also being western had a lot to do with sharpshooting. As the film progresses the western theme doesn’t exactly show anymore throughout the movie. The theme of sexuality shows more than the western theme. Sexuality is presented throughout the movie as Laurie taking control and calling the shots. When it should be the other way around, by Bart telling Laurie what to do. Laurie has the upper hand over Bart because he is in love with Laurie and is willing to do anything for her. Laurie seems to tell Bart what to do throughout the film and he goes along with whatever she says. Her defiant spirit of wanting to do as she pleases soon has the both of them in trouble. Laurie is stuck on robbing banks and making him help her with each heist. Bart is uncomfortable with robbing banks, but doesn’t mind because its all for Laurie. After achieving enough money, Laurie still wants to pull another heist at the Meat Company. During the heist Bart is on the lookout in case anybody happens to notice what’s happening while Laurie is gathering the money. When usually it is shown that the men do the bigger part of the operation while the women usually keep look. This shows that Bart and Laurie have switched roles in society, Where Laurie is known as the Patriarch and Bart is the Matriarch.

Mise-en scene is one of the elements in Gun Crazy, which is the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play including the sounds used to help intensify parts the film. Mise-en-scene is shown in the setting by making the lights low in a creepy manner helping with the suspense throughout the film. In the ending scene of the film, fog begins to appear. Which makes viewers anticipate what will happen next or what is beneath the fog. Make up during this scenes shows that they are tired of running, their faces are covered with dirt and grime from the swamp. Also you can see that their hair is also filthy and full of mud. The ambient sounds, which is the relating to the immediate surroundings of something, makes the viewer feel like they are feeling the same pressures as the characters. Such as when Bart and Laurie were running through the water during the swamp scene. Toward the near end of the scene, there is rustling through the grass from what seems like is all around them. The sounds grow louder and slowly the fog fades away, about to show Bart and Laurie’s fate.

Cinematography is the art of making motion pictures. Cinematography is an important part of the filmmaking industry. It gives visuals that supports the story and gives viewers the experience to live through the movie. The equipment doesn’t so much play as big of a role, it’s more of how the equipment is being used in a sense. The cinematographer is responsible for all the visual elements of a film. They make every choice related to lighting and camera motion, basically anything that viewers can see in a shot. The 1950s was the most stimulating decade of film criticism. Films in the 1950s had multiple varieties and helped with the introduction of television. They used techniques in presenting their films through widescreen methods. The decade was equally proficient with character and realistic films.

Back in the 1950s when the movie Gun Crazy came out people viewed it as one of the most successful B movies in the 1950s. They found it as a twist of Bonnie and Clyde which had more action and guns. It was a love story of a man who loved guns and wanted to keep the love of a woman without second thoughts. Today’s reviews of Gun Crazy is basically the same as back in the 50s. People find the movie to be a disturbing, touching, and romantic film. The film brings the world of cinematic crime menacingly close to most viewers’ real-world aversions. There are different perspectives of how the movie Gun Crazy was portrayed. There are some reviews from then, back in 1950 and now that show different articles on Gun Crazy.

“ After a slow beginning, it generates considerable excitement in telling a story of a young man, fascinated by guns, who turns criminal to keep the love of a girl with no scruples.” – Variety

“It’s not a pleasant story, nor is the telling, but John Dall builds some sympathy as the male. Opposite him is Peggy Cummins, a sideshow Annie Oakley without morals. She is not too convincing.” – Variety

“One of the most distinguished works of art to emerge from the B movie swamp, Joseph H. Lewis’s 1949 film is a proto-Bonnie and Clyde tale of an outlaw couple on the run.” – Chicago Reader

“Otherwise, Gun Crazy, his 1949 “pre-Bonnie & Clyde” would be an hour and a half of two lovers on the lam stroking their own Phallic symbols.” – Slant Magazine

“ The extended hearing sequence shows, through flashbacks, that Bart might have displayed poor judgment in trying to steal the gun, and he might have a strong fixation on his growing collection of firearms, but he is psychologically incapable of doing harm to other living creatures. – Slant Magazine

“ “Gun Crazy” is altogether different from the blood-spattered pop-culture happening that Arthur Penn would ultimately make from the script. It’s a strangely inward, muted depiction of a pair of criminals who take little pleasure in their crimes. Bart Tare and Annie Laurie Starr are sharpshooters who meet at a carnival. Bart is sketched out with psychological depth; his backstory—as an orphan for whom guns play a symbolic role that diverges from his aversion to violence—takes the first ten minutes of the film. Annie Laurie, who eggs him on to a life of crime to satisfy her material cravings, remains opaque throughout the film, to him, to viewers, and to herself.” – The New Yorker

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Cultural Contexts and Film Elements in "Gun Crazy". (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved from

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