The house was packed for opening night of the 2013 Festival of Preservation at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater.
Fortunately I remembered that the opening night festival screening of CRY DANGER (1951) was a sellout in 2011, so I took the precaution of ordering our tickets in advance. It's a good thing I did, as tonight's screening of GUN CRAZY (1950) was also sold out.
I think I liked the movie even more than I had last spring at the TCM Classic Film Festival. I really enjoyed taking in all the details of the performances and the stunning set pieces, such as the ad libbed bank robbery sequence, filmed in a single take, or the getaway from the meat packing plant. I was very glad that Russ Tamblyn's appearance tonight led me to see it again so soon! It was also fun to share the movie with my 14-year-old son, the biggest noir fan in the family aside from myself. I think it made quite an impression.
Russ Tamblyn was on hand to watch the movie and then participate in a discussion afterwards. GUN CRAZY was one of his earliest films, made when he was 14, and while he didn't have extensive memories of his relatively brief role in the film, playing John Dall as a child, he did have some fun things to share.
He said that the opening sequence, stealing the gun in the rain, was the first time he'd ever worked with a rain machine, and it was freezing. He remembered periodically changing into a dry duplicate costume but then getting wet all over again!
He said it was the first time a director had really guided him in a performance. Director Joseph H. Lewis helped him use his sad memory of having killed a bird with a BB gun in the scene where he refuses to shoot the mountain lion. Tamblyn said Lewis was nicknamed "Wagon Wheel Lewis" because of his artsy shots through wagon wheels when he made "B" Westerns. He considered Lewis a mentor and said Lewis insisted on casting him in RETREAT, HELL! (1952), a film with Frank Lovejoy, even though the producers didn't want him. He said it was his work in the later Lewis film which landed his MGM contract.
Tamblyn also mentioned that he's writing his memoirs. He said he felt very fortunate to have worked with so many great people, and he said he was also realizing that he had worked with certain people more than he'd realized; for instance, he remembered well being directed by Anthony Mann in CIMARRON (1960) when he was an adult, but until he started working on his book he'd had no memory that Mann had also directed one of his very first films, REIGN OF TERROR (1949).
He discussed having a bit part in DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012). Apparently Quentin Tarantino is a fan of what Tamblyn says is one of his worst movies, SON OF A GUNFIGHTER (1965). In the end credits of DJANGO he's listed as "Son of a Gunfighter," and his daughter Amber, who also has a bit, is listed as "Daughter of Son of a Gunfighter." (Here's an interview with Amber about working with her dad on the film.)
The movie was preceded by the exquisitely restored jazz short JAMMIN' THE BLUES (1944). Terrific music and beautiful to watch.
I'm looking forward to returning to the festival on Monday to see Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation introduce two movies.
For those who may have missed the update to my preview of the festival, Kenneth Turan has written about the festival for the Los Angeles Times.