Charles Bronson and Susan Cabot in Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

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Roger Corman Directs Machine Gun Kelly

R. Wright Campbell wrote the screenplay for American International Pictures, Roger Corman produced/directed and Gerald Fried created the original music score.

Charles Bronson (1921-2003) was a compromise choice to play the role of George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Writer R. Wright Campbell had lobbied for his brother, William Campbell, while Roger Corman had slated Dick Miller for the part. In order to avoid further conflict, Corman decided to go with Bronson as a neutral alternative.

Other cast members include Susan Cabot (Florence “Flo” Becker), Morey Amsterdam (Michael Fandango), Richard Devon (Apple), Jack Lambert (Howard), Frank DeKova (Henry), Connie Gilchrist (“Ma” Becker), Wally Campo (Maize), Barboura Morris (Lynn Grayson), Lori Martin aka Dawn Menzer (Sherryl Vito), Michael Fox (Detective Clinton) and Mitzi McCall (Harriet).

Susan Cabot (1927-1986) was later found bludgeoned to death in her Encino, California, home on December 10, 1986. Her dwarf son, Timothy Scott Roman, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and received a three-year suspended sentence.

Machine Gun Kelly Filmed in Hollywood

Machine Gun Kelly was budgeted at a paltry $100,000. The movie was filmed in Hollywood and took eight days to complete.

Charles Bronson Stars as Machine Gun Kelly

Machine Gun Kelly charts the rise and fall of the Depression-era gangster whose favored weapon of choice – the Thompson submachine gun – leads to his colorful moniker. Kelly starts off as a small-time hood, but spurned on by his headline-hungry girlfriend soon rises to national prominence.

Like most gangster film biographies, Machine Gun Kelly is not history. It’s a blend of fact and mostly fiction, catering to the bloodlust in movie fans who harbor a fascination with 1930s mobsters. Craggy-faced Charles Bronson is adequate as Rat-a-Tat Kelly, with raven-haired Susan Cabot effectively playing his thrillseeking gun moll. Look for comedian Morey Amsterdam – wisecracking Buddy Sorrell of The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66) – who has his arm bitten off by a mountain lion.

There’s plenty of gunplay in this one, with Kelly filling a hapless guard with hot lead from his smoldering “violin” during a bank robbery. The outlaws later have a falling out, leading to more violence with Kelly wiping out several members of his own gang.

The movie’s climax comes when Kelly kidnaps the 9-year-old daughter of a steel magnate, demanding $100,000 for her safe return. Cornered by the law, Kelly elects not to shoot it out with his G-Men pursuers, but lays down his tommy gun and meekly surrenders instead.

Machine Gun Kelly Release, Reviews, Trivia, DVD

  • Machine Gun Kelly – bearing the colorful tagline “Without His Gun He Was Naked Yellow!” – was released in May 1958. It was often paired with another gangster movie, The Bonnie Parker Story (1958) starring Dorothy Provine.
  • “The real-life ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly was a clumsy, two-bit petty thief…The film version of Kelly’s life alters the facts considerably,” reports Hal Erickson of All Movie Guide.
  • “This was Bronson’s first film as a star at age 37; it would typecast him as a brooding, cold-blooded killer, a character he would exploit to the hilt in Death Wish and its idiotic sequels,” offers TV Guide.
  • The real Machine Gun Kelly never had a chance to see the 1958 movie. He died of a heart attack at Leavenworth on his 59th birthday, July 18, 1954.
  • Machine Gun Kelly DVD (DVD UK, 2004).
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