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Walter Matthau and his newlywed wife, co-star Carol Grace, were so broke by the time this film was made (mainly due to Matthau's gambling debts) that the couple had to pawn most of their wedding gifts just to afford to pay rent. They were so desperate financially that Matthau accepted the role of director and star for only $2,500. He later commented to the effect that it was the worst movie ever made, then adding, "Let me put it this way. It was the worst film I ever made. It was a poor script by a hack writer and a famous cardiovascular surgeon who produced the film with his brother who was a textile manufacturer from Philadelphia." He said the film "premiered at Loew's in Newark, and was so bad it never crossed the Hudson." See more »
If you like low budget movies... Intimate Portrait
I do like low budget movies, they often have an intimacy that is hard to maintain in larger productions with more people involved. Mistakes and goofs can be accepted as additional content or message, they can even lend the movie its own personal charm. This is certainly the case in Gangster Story definitely a low budget affair. I have the impression that for Walter Matthau this was a very personal affair. The basic theme is the relationship between him and the female lead who happens to be his wife in real life. Matthau plays a funnyman with a dark streak and a tendency for self destruction, Carol Grace a demure librarian with a will who starts a love affair with the gangster Matthau plays. The great achievement of the movie lies in the fact that it successfully shows that two people from entirely different backgrounds who meet by chance are attracted to each other. From the beginning there is a palpable erotic tension between the two. Difficult to say how this is communicated to the audience, there is not much kissing going on or any nudity. But then one has to remember that despite of the grainy black and white, the clipped dialog and the not very inspired direction that one is watching two top performers in a character driven movie. The story is not very original but tight and minimalistic. Thanks to the good acting performances it works quite well nonetheless.
I like to think that Matthau and Grace tried to analyse their own characters and their relationship in real life by means of making Gangster Story, I also like to think that Matthau at that time dabbled in directing the way John Cassavetes did. It might be just as well that he didn't pursue this part of movie making. The only thing I do regret is that Carol Grace cannot be seen in more movies. Her only other part was, according to IMDb, in Mikey an Nicky, where she played alongside John Cassavetes and Peter Falk in a performance that was equally memorable.
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