AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Under the Gun
Director: Ted Tetzlaff (Dir)
Release Date:   Jan 1951
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Miami, FL: 26 Jan 1951
Production Date:   6 May--19 Jun 1950
Duration (in mins):   83-84
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Richard Conte (Bert Galvin)  
    Audrey Totter (Ruth Williams)  
    John McIntire ([Bill] Langley)  
    Sam Jaffe ([Sam] Gower)  
    Sheppard Strudwick (Milo Bragg)  
    Gregg Martell (Nero)  
    Phillip Pine (Gandy)  
    Don Randolph ([Arthur] Sherbourne)  
    Royal Dano ([Sam] Nugent)  
    Richard Taber (Five Shot)  
    Bob Greer (Stoner)  
    George Durney (Tom Dunning)  
    Roy G. Meischner (Claude)  
    Jean Heebner (Mrs. Porter)  
    Edward Deas (Andy, the cook)  
    Rufus W. Parker (Nate, the jailer)  
    Palmer English (Citizen Grimes)  
    Raymond C. Winstead (Judge)  
    R. L. Tilley (Court clerk)  
    Jocelyn Brown (Woman in auto)  
    French Eugene Corbin (First deputy sheriff)  
    Gene Sayre (Reporter courier man)  
    Gene Patton (Dispatch reporter)  
    Charlie Jenkins (Tap dancer)  
    Harry Talbert (Master of ceremonies)  
    Curry "Speed" Veal (Kern)  
    Richard O. Redding (Inmate calling role)  
    Harvey C. Lance (Inmate)  
    Max Joseph Proskauer (Inmate)  
    Guy A. Vickers (Boat attendant)  
    Andrew J. Silcox (Spectator at trial)  
    John Murray (Spectator at trial)  
    A. R. McCausland (Man in auto)  

Summary: At a Miami nightclub, gangster Bert Galvin watches Ruth Williams sing each night and eventually offers her a shot at stardom in New York, under his guidance. Although Ruth repeatedly refuses him, she gives in after Bert promises to keep their relationship strictly professional. As they leave Florida, they stop for dinner in the town of Rosewood, where they are spotted by Sheriff Bill Langley. The sheriff promptly informs Tom Dunning, whose brother was killed by Bert, that the gangster is eating at Claude's Restaurant. When Tom heads to the restaurant with a gun, Claude warns Bert, giving the gangster enough time to shoot Tom first. Bert is arrested and brought to jail, where Milo Bragg, a slick Southern lawyer, arrives to defend him. Although Langley and District Attorney Arthur Sherbourne try to protect Ruth, Bragg strong-arms her into testifying on Bert's behalf. At the trial, Claude lies that Bert acted purely in self-defense, and the bored court reporters assume the mobster will be acquitted, just as he was after killing Tom's brother. Ruth begins her testimony by repeating Claude's story, but after Sherbourne exhorts her to tell the truth under oath, she breaks down and names Bert as a murderer. Bert is sentenced to serve twenty years without parole in the Florida state prison labor camp. There, Bert's "trusty," Sam Nugent, an armed fellow inmate who watches over the prisoners, hates him immediately and punishes Bert's rebelliousness by putting him in solitary confinement. Days later, Bert arranges for his henchmen, Gandy and Nero, to await him in a speedboat under the bridge his group is building. Before he can jump, however, inmate Sam Gower warns him that Nugent will receive an automatic pardon for shooting anyone who runs and so will stop at nothing to prevent his escape. That night, Gower tells Bert that, since they are all "under the gun" of the trusty, he should serve his time placidly. Bert, however, continues to scheme for his release, and over the next few weeks lies to prisoner Five Shot, who dreams of escaping and getting rich, about a stack of money he has hidden in a New Orleans hotel room. Inflamed with his fantasies, Five Shot eventually tries to break free and is shot by Nugent, who immediately is granted a pardon. As Bert had predicted, no one else will volunteer to be a despised trusty, and he wins the position easily. When Langley discovers that Bert is now allowed to carry a rifle, he accuses the warden of having been paid off, but cannot demote Bert. Meanwhile, Bert promises a job to Sam when they are both released and offers to let him escape. Sam, however, realizes that Bert merely wants to earn his own pardon by shooting an escaping prisoner, and refuses to run. Two years later, Bragg visits Bert. The lawyer, who lost his license after the trial and is now an alcoholic, begs Bert for money, and Bert pays him to uncover information about Sam. Bragg soon sends a letter detailing Sam's crime, a murder, and his poverty-stricken, ill wife and children. Bert offers to send Sam's family $25,000 if Sam will run, and Sam, guilt-stricken over destroying his family, desperately agrees. On the appointed day, Sam jams Bert's gun and almost escapes, but is finally killed by Bert, whose pardon is granted within weeks. Langley immediately begins to investigate Sam's death. When the sheriff's secretary translates the shorthand notebook Sam left behind, Langley learns about the bargain. Meanwhile, Bert tracks down Ruth, who lives nearby, and forces her to accompany him, Gandy and Nero to New York. They quickly run into a roadblock, however, which Langley's men have erected, and Gandy hits the gas to escape. With Langley on their tail, the fugitives run out of gas and a gunfight breaks out. Bert grabs Ruth and races to a speedboat on a nearby river. Langley follows them to the other shore, where Bert, still dragging Ruth, runs into a swampy woods. When Bert climbs into a small rowboat, Ruth grabs his gun but cannot kill him. He rows off, but Langley soon spots him and shoots him down, reciting a quote about vengeance from Sam's notebook. 

Production Company: Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Co., Inc.  
Director: Ted Tetzlaff (Dir)
  John Sherwood (Asst dir)
  Gene Busch (Dial dir)
Producer: Ralph Dietrich (Prod)
Writer: George Zuckerman (Scr)
  Daniel B. Ullman (Based on a story by)
Photography: Henry Freulich (Dir of photog)
  John Herrmann (Addl photog)
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun (Art dir)
  Edward Ilou (Art dir)
Film Editor: Virgil Vogel (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  A. Roland Fields (Set dec)
Costumes: Orry Kelly (Gowns)
Music: Joseph Gershenson (Mus dir)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Jack A. Bolger Jr. (Sd)
Special Effects: David S. Horsley (Spec photog)
Make Up: Joan St. Oegger (Hairstylist)
  Bud Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: Lew Leary (Unit mgr)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "I Cried for You," words and music by Arthur Freed, Gus Arnheim and Abe Lyman.
Composer: Gus Arnheim
  Arthur Freed
  Abe Lyman

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 13/12/1950 dd/mm/yyyy LP698

PCA NO: 14709
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Gangster
  Prison
 
Subjects (Major): Duplicity
  Gangsters
  Imprisonment
  Murder
  Prison escapes
  Revenge
  Sheriffs
 
Subjects (Minor): Boats
  Brothers
  Florida
  Labor camps
  Lawyers
  Letters
  Parole
  Prison wardens
  Shootings
  Singers
  Swamps
  Trials
  Witnesses
  Wounds and injuries

Note: In Sep 1949, the LAT reported that Universal-International had bought Daniel B. Ullman's original story "Under the Gun," which concerned a man being hunted by a prison trusty in the South. According to news items in Jan 1950, after a similar true-life occurrence in which a Southern trusty named C. B. Grammer shot two men alleged to have murdered three black children, Universal re-activated Ullman's shelved story and began immediate work on the production. An Apr 1950 HR news item noted that the picture would soon begin shooting in New Orleans, but later announced that filming took place in various Florida locations, including Jacksonville and Miami. In Feb 1952, LAT stated that Max Joseph Proskauer, who was cast in Under the Gun because "he looked like a convict," actually had been a fugitive at the time that he was hired, and had recently been arrested again for armed robbery. Although a May 1950 HR item adds Henri Letondal to the cast, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   15 Dec 1950.   
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jan 1950.   
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 50   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 50   p. 11, 13.
Hollywood Reporter   9 May 50   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jun 50   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 50   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 1950.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jan 51   p. 2.
Los Angeles Examiner   4 May 1950.   
Los Angeles Times   23 Sep 1949.   
Los Angeles Times   16 Jan 1950.   
Los Angeles Times   13 Feb 1952.   
New York Times   23 Feb 51   p. 33.
Variety   20 Dec 1950.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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