Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

“George isn’t afraid of any man living.”

With help from his girlfriend Flo (Susan Cabot), bootlegger-turned-thief “Machine Gun” Kelly (Charles Bronson) robs banks and becomes America’s Public Enemy Number One, while alienating his former partner (Morey Amsterdam). When Kelly and Flo turn to kidnapping a young girl (Lori Martin) and her nurse (Barboura Morris), their longevity as outlaws becomes even more precarious.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Biopics
  • Charles Bronson Films
  • Gangsters
  • Kidnapping
  • Roger Corman Films

Prior to his breakthrough cinematic success in The Magnificant Seven (1960), one of Charles Bronson’s major movie roles was in this mostly-fictional “biopic” of American gangster George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, whose switch from bank robberies to kidnapping precipitated his downfall:

The film opens with a carefully choreographed get-away after a heist, as we’re introduced to pivotal role played by Kelly’s girlfriend “Flo” (based on his wife, Kathryn Kelly):

While Kelly may be a mean, psychopathic bastard who doesn’t hesitate to shoot his guns, throw a punch, or have an accomplice mauled by a lion:

… Flo is equally devious and duplicitous, and Cabot seems to enjoy her role:

Presumably for dramatic interest, the kidnapping that ended Kelly and Flo’s careers was shifted from that of an oil tycoon to his daughter (and her conveniently sexy nurse):

This is actually too bad, given the real-life drama inherent in what went down; click here to watch a brief video, if you’re curious.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • The creative opening credits
  • Some memorable lines of dialogue: “When rabbits roar, it’s a bad time.”

Must See?
No, though Corman or Bronson fans will want to check it out.


One thought on “Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

  1. First viewing (10/3/20). Skip it.

    Surprisingly lackluster ‘bio-pic’; standard, old-school style, not exactly outright terrible but often sluggish and occasionally boring. The writing is sometimes a little weird / pointless.

    Amsterdam’s role is supposed to be ‘daring’ for being an early representation of a gay character; there’s a slight hint of his being on the ‘swish’ side but his role is under-developed. The film becomes more of a chore to get through as it goes along.

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