“This spurious concoction is basically on a par with the most humdrum pulp fiction,” Howard Thompson, reviewing the film for The New York Times, wrote in 1950. He said the fresh-faced leads worked hard but were miscast.
“Just why two such clean-cut youngsters as Miss Cummins and Mr. Dall should be so cast is something for the Sphinx, but they certainly give it the works,” he continued. “Looking as fragile as a Dresden doll, Miss Cummins bites into her assignment like a shark.”
“Gun Crazy” was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, who made dozens of gritty B-movies that were little noticed when they were first released but that developed a cult following over time, especially among filmmakers like Peter Bogdanovich, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
“Gun Crazy,” with its sometimes documentary-style camerawork, came to be regarded as Mr. Lewis’s masterpiece. Cinephiles lauded a three-and-a-half-minute uninterrupted shot from the back seat of a car during a bank robbery, during which Ms. Cummins and Mr. Dall improvised much of their dialogue.
The film’s sometimes gleeful portrayal of sexualized crime and violence was echoed in later movies like Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) and Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” (1994).
Writing in The New York Times in 1991 before a screening of Mr. Lewis’s films at the Public Theater in Manhattan, the screenwriter and critic Jay Cocks and the director Martin Scorsese called “Gun Crazy” “a great movie that never set out to be one,” noting that it “caught the delirium of crime and matched it up with a special kind of sexual heat.”
“Dall’s character is a smiling sociopath with an abiding love for guns but no real violence in his heart,” they continued. “Cummins plays one of those pure noir incarnations of the id, evil in a tight skirt.”
Ms. Cummins’s career had less staying power than her most famous role. She returned to England in 1950 and appeared in several British films, notably Jacques Tourneur’s horror movie “Curse of the Demon” (1957), but the parts became infrequent and she stopped acting in the mid-1960s.
Ms. Cummins was born on…