Guns, Girls and Gangsters
Cast & Crew
Edward L. Cahn
Mamie Van Doren
Lee Van Cleef
In Las Vegas, as part of a robbery plan that ex-convict Chuck Wheeler and his cellmate, Mike Bennett, concocted while in prison, Chuck observes how casinos disburse their cash receipts to a bank's armored car. To launder the heist's take, Chuck intends to hook up with racketeering boss Joe Darren, who is having an affair with Mike's wife, nightclub singer Vi Victor. Chuck then goes to a hill by a sparse stretch of desert highway and shoots out the passenger tire of Darren's passing limousine, which forces the car to skid into the lot of a lone gas station. Chuck visits Vi that night after her show, but she refuses to speak to Darren for him, until Chuck reveals that he knows of their relationship and threatens to tell Mike. Later, when Vi telephones Darren and mentions that Chuck was responsible for the tire incident, Darren agrees to see him. Chuck meets Darren at the trailer of Chuck's accomplice, petty criminal Lou Largo, and explains that the gas station in the desert is on the daily route that the armored truck takes to a Los Angeles bank. He admits to having shot out the tires of several cars at the same spot to determine how to get the armored truck to slide to a stop at the gas station. Chuck informs Darren that the heist, which they have planned for after the profitable New Year holiday, will be in excess of two million dollars, and Darren agrees to help. Later, Lou rigs Chuck's short-wave radio to pick up the police transmissions from brief distances. Lou and Chuck then follow the armored truck and tape-record the regular check-ins between the truck and police dispatch. While Darren convinces Vi to help with the robbery, Chuck continues to monitor the armored truck's daily trips, marking the time it passes the gas station. Chuck then sets Vi up at a motel across from the gas station, the Stage Coach Inn, run by husband and wife Steve and Ann Thomas, and over several days, Vi keeps a detailed log on traffic. Ann befriends Vi, who comes to envy the other woman's security and happy family life with Steve. When Chuck arrives at the inn a few days later and checks in under an assumed name, Vi reports the traffic movement and that every day two policemen stop by the inn for coffee just twenty minutes after the armored truck goes by. Vi and Chuck are startled when Darren shows up that evening with the news that Mike has escaped from prison. Vi admits that she sent Mike a letter informing him that she intended to divorce him and marry Darren. Darren is outraged, but Chuck insists that the operation proceed and offers to protect Vi if she will run away with him to Mexico after the robbery. A statewide manhunt begins for Mike, who gets to Lou's trailer and forces him to reveal Vi's whereabouts before knifing him to death. Meanwhile, Ann invites Vi and Chuck to the inn's New Year's Eve celebration and asks Vi to sing. Later that day, Vi follows Chuck to his hilltop perch and pleads with him not to hurt Ann and Steve during the robbery, then agrees to accompany him to Mexico. That night while Vi and Chuck are at the party, Mike finds Darren and demands he drive him to the inn, before shooting him. When Vi and Chuck return to her cabin later, they are startled to find Mike. Chuck is angered over Lou's murder and calls off the robbery, but Mike insists on taking Lou's place. The police arrive shortly thereafter to report the discovery of Darren's body, but only Ann and Steve are questioned. The morning of the robbery, Chuck situates himself on the hill as planned and shoots out the armored truck's tire, and the driver reports their stop to the police dispatch as the truck skids into the gas station. Meanwhile, Mike ties up Ann and Steve and dresses as a mechanic, then guides the truck into the garage, where he shoots the guards. Vi gets hysterical when Mike declares he is killing Ann and Steve and Chuck agrees with the idea. Mike knocks Vi out and Chuck takes the Thomases out to the back of the inn. With only moments before the police are to make their regular coffee stop, Mike and Chuck don the guards' uniforms, change the truck's tire and continue on the route using the recorded check-in tapes to radio police headquarters. At the dispatch center, however, the police note that the truck is using old codes, not the codes issued for the new year. They report that the last correct check-in was just before the tire blowout at the inn and order roadblocks set up along the route. When Chuck and Mike spot the roadblocks, they hastily turn back to the inn. A police squad meets them there, and in a blazing shootout, Chuck and Mike are killed. After Vi revives and weeps over Chuck, Ann and Steve appear to reveal that Chuck let them go. As the police prepare to arrest Vi, Ann and Steve assure her they will testify on her behalf.
Edward L. Cahn
Mamie Van Doren
Lee Van Cleef
W. Beal Wong
Jack R. Berne
Vou Lee Giokaris
Robert E. Kent
Robert E. Kent
Guns, Girls and Gangsters
Tagline for Guns, Girls and Gangsters
It's target Las Vegas in this fast-moving heist film from Edward Small's Imperial Pictures, the production company that helped propel director Anthony Mann to the big time with T-Men (1947) and, as Theme Pictures, helped produce one of Billy Wilder's best pictures, the courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution (1957). This 1959 crime caper may not have been in the same elevated league as some of Imperial's earlier films, but it provided a diverting 70 minutes of exactly what the title promised, with blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren at her most delectable as the cheating blonde.
Ex-con Chuck Wheeler (Gerald Mohr) has hatched a plan with cellmate Mike Bennett (Lee Van Cleef) to rob the Vegas casinos, but he needs the help of big-time racketeer Joe Darren (Grant Richards). When he learns that Darren is involved with Bennett's sultry wife (Mamie Van Doren), Wheeler blackmails her into getting Darren in on the deal. All three have a part to play in the carefully timed heist, but just as Wheeler starts falling for the blonde beauty, her husband escapes from prison determined to reclaim his wife and his place in the plan.
Agent turned producer Small started making films in 1929 with Song of Love (1929), which marked the screen debut of Eve Arden under her birth name, Eunice Quedens. He released A films like The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), The Corsican Brothers (1941) and Brewster's Millions (1945) through United Artists, but after the war turned increasingly to low-budget pictures. He maintained a number of production companies, which may have disguised the number of films he turned out quickly and cheaply. In fact, Guns, Girls and Gangsters was originally announced for a different one of his companies, Vogue Pictures, a title used by both Small and associate Robert E. Kent.
The story for Guns, Girls and Gangsters came from Paul Gangelin, a veteran of low-budget horror films and Westerns, and Jerry Sackheim, who had been working primarily on television series like Science Fiction Theatre and My Friend Flicka. Small then turned scripting and producing chores over to Kent. For director, they turned to another Small favorite, Edward L. Cahn, a specialist in low-budget production. His films for Small included the sci-fi cult favorite It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), often cited as an unofficial inspiration for Alien (1979), and Invisible Invaders (1959), an alien invasion film with similarities to Night of the Living Dead (1968).
To play gangster Chuck Wheeler, Kent and Small turned to Mohr, a veteran of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre and a popular radio actor, best known for playing Philip Marlowe and providing the introductions for both the radio and television versions of The Lone Ranger. Lee Van Cleef, one of the screen's most beloved villains, was cast as Wheeler's nemesis, the hot-tempered, quick-on-the-trigger escaped convict. From his film debut in a silent but well-remembered role in High Noon (1952), Van Cleef was typecast as bad guys, though he would always say "Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me." He would not achieve any level of true stardom, however, until Sergio Leone cast him opposite Clint Eastwood in For a Few Dollars More (1965).
For today's fans, however, the film's major draw is leading lady Mamie Van Doren, who, with fellow blonde bombshells Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, was referred to as one of "The Three Ms" in the 1950s. The Howard Hughes discovery had been signed to a starring contract at Universal in 1953, but despite her beauty and talent, she did not rise at the box office until Warner Bros. cast her in the women's prison drama Untamed Youth (1957). When the Legion of Decency condemned the film, it took off at the box office, and Van Doren had arrived. At the time Small announced her for the female lead in Guns, Girls and Gangsters, he also said her husband, band leader Ray Anthony, would play a small role, but they never worked out the details.
Three years after its release, Guns, Girls and Gangsters was in the news again when Art Estrada sued Small for plagiarism. He claimed that he and co-writer Steve Masino had submitted a script called "Blueprint for Crime" to Small, who rejected it. After they sold their script to another producer, Guns, Girls and Gangsters appeared with a similar plot, leading their producer to cancel the deal. Estrada asked $150,000 in damages but eventually settled out of court for $10,000.
Producer: Robert E. Kent
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Screenplay: Robert E. Kent (screenplay); Paul Gangelin, Jerry Sackheim (story)
Cinematography: Kenneth Peach
Art Direction: William Glasgow
Music: Buddy Bregman
Film Editing: Fred Feitshans
Cast: Mamie Van Doren (Vi Victor), Gerald Mohr (Chuck Wheeler), Lee Van Cleef (Mike Bennett), Grant Richards (Joe Darren), Elaine Edwards (Ann Thomas), John Baer (Steve Thomas), Paul Fix (Lou Largo), Carlo Fiore (Tom Abbott)
by Frank Miller
Guns, Girls and Gangsters
A March 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item announced the production of Guns, Girls and Gangsters starring Mamie Van Doren for Vogue Pictures and lists Orville Hampton as the screenwriter. Hampton's contribution, if any, to the final script has not been determined. Vogue was another company owned by executive producer Edward Small and it is likely that a decision was made to produce the film under his Imperial Pictures banner instead of Vogue.
According to a Daily Variety news item, band leader Ray Anthony, who was married to Van Doren at the time, was set for a role in the film. A July 1962 Daily Variety item notes that in 1960, Edward Small Productions and United Artists were sued for plagiarism by Art Estrada. The $150,000 suit claimed that a story, "Blueprint for Crime," written by Estrada and Steve Masino was offered to and rejected by Small, then sold to producer Al Gannaway. When Small's similarly themed Guns, Girls and Gangsters was released, Gannaway canceled his production. The case was settled out of court in July 1962 for $10,000.