Review: The Gun Woman

Frank Borzage’s cinema is drawn to contrasts: of light and dark, of toughness and fragility.

The Gun Woman

If Texas Guinan is known at all today, it’s as a salty proprietor of Prohibition-era speakeasies greeting her customers with the catchphrase, “Hello, suckers!” But she did have a film career in the teens, and Frank Borzage’s The Gun Woman was one of her better vehicles. It begins, strangely, with a long Oscar Wilde quotation (“Each man kills the thing he loves…”) and proceeds to document the troubled romantic career of Guinan’s The Tigress, a ballsy saloon owner. Guinan suggests Stockard Channing on a really bad day: ill-tempered, rather frozen-faced, she is the center of the film, but she has no delicacy, and her harsh-faced bitterness seems to turn her director off. Borzage’s cinema is drawn to contrasts: of light and dark, of toughness and fragility. Guinan is too much of a “what you see is what you get” personality to really interest him, though he does send her off in high Johnny Guitar style as she rides away from her burning saloon in the end. The cynicism of her character doesn’t jibe at all with Borzage’s point of view, which leaves the film a curiosity but nothing more.

 Cast: Texas Guinan, Edward Joseph Brady, Francis J. Macdonald, Walter Perkins, Thornton Edwards  Director: Frank Borzage  Screenwriter: Alvin J. Neitz  Distributor: Triangle Distributing Corporation  Running Time: 60 min  Rating: -  Year: 1918

Dan Callahan

Dan Callahan’s books include The Camera Lies: Acting for Hitchcock , Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman, and Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave. He has written about film for Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Nylon, The Village Voice, and more.

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