Russ Tamblyn Remembers Gun Crazy

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Russ Tamblyn (credited as Rusty then) was fourteen years old when he played the younger version of the gun-obsessed Bart Tare in Gun Crazy.

“It was my favorite movie for years. Peggy Cummins just knocked me out.”

While he didn’t share any scenes with the principal cast, the one person he did work with – director Joseph H. Lewis – changed his career.

“It was great to work with Joe Lewis. They called him ‘Wagon Wheel Joe’ because he did all those B movies, shooting through a wagon wheel.”

Interestingly, Tamblyn got cast based solely on his look.

Lewis said, “I saw that little boy waiting outside my office one day, and there were a dozen other little boys I was going to see for the part. Then I got hold of my secretary and I said, ‘Who's that little boy with the big black eyes?’ She said, ‘I don't know.’ I said, ‘Send him in. That's our boy.’ And I never saw the other kids.”

That boy was, of course, Tamblyn.

“He gave me enough little tidbits to pull it off. Joe was the first director to really give me direction,” Russ said of the man who became his mentor.

In fact, Lewis also secured Tamblyn’s appearance in another movie, Retreat, Hell!, and even showed that film to Dore Schary, which resulted in an MGM contract for the actor.

At MGM, Tamblyn found great success in musicals including West Side Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (read about that here) and The Haunting (read about that here).