“The prison authorities and parole board were confident they had succeeded with Lester N. Gillis — soon to be better known as Baby Face Nelson.”
Famed Depression-era gangster “Baby Face Nelson” (Mickey Rooney) robs and kills while accompanied by his beautiful moll (Carolyn Jones).
- Carolyn Jones Films
- Don Siegel Films
- Elisha Cook Jr. Films
- Mickey Rooney Films
Baby Face Nelson received negative reviews upon its release, but has since been lauded by critics as a “vigorous crime thriller” with “anarchic energy”. On the whole, however, it remains a minor disappointment. While director Don Siegel handles the multiple action scenes well, they’re not particularly unique; and while Mickey Rooney does a fine job as Nelson, not nearly enough time is spent establishing the root of his character’s neuroses. In one nicely-done scene, Baby Face refrains from killing a bank manager simply because he’s just as short as him, offering an intriguing hint of the “little guy complex” which may have driven Nelson’s actions; unfortunately, this is never addressed again.
Carolyn Jones — Morticia on “The Addams Family” television show — emerges as the true find of the film: from the moment we see her pixie face on-screen (she reminds me of Bruce Willis’s lover — played by Maria de Medeiros — in Pulp Fiction), we realize how lucky Nelson was to have such a loyal and sexy moll by his side.
Unfortunately, she’s an entirely fictional character. For a better gangster biopic made in the 1950s but taking place in the 1930s, see Dorothy Provine in The Bonnie Parker Story (1958).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Carolyn Jones as Nelson’s loyal moll
- Mickey Rooney as the psychopathic Baby Face
No. While it’s listed as a cult film in the back of Peary’s book — and has quite a few followers clamoring for its release onto DVD — I think it’s ultimately only must-see viewing for fans of gangster flicks, Don Siegel, and/or Mickey Rooney.