Sneaky little pop gun
I was talking the other day about the Derringer.
In Enter the Lone Ranger (Apex/ABC), the 1947 pilot TV film, Butch Cavendish, the bad guy, pulls one on our hero when cornered. Typical.
In Silverado (Columbia, 1985), Slick, the slimy gambler in fancy frock coat, pulls one.
Maybe he was quoting the cheating gambler in Rio Bravo (Warner Bros, 1959) who also has one. Chance and Colorado take it away from him.
Another gambler who uses what the heavy in the movie, Neville Brand, calls "the tinhorn's little popgun" is Frank Faylen in the 1954 B Western, The Lone Gun. The Derringer actually plays an important part in the plot. Excellent.
Talking of bars, in Denver and Rio Grande (Paramount, 1952) the barman subdues a whole saloon fight with one! He seems to think it's a scatter gun.
Horrible Gene Hackman, cruel boss of the town, pulls one on Russell Crowe in The Quick And The Dead (Columbia Tristar, 1995).
In The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1937), the saloon owner Oakhurst pulls a derringer from his sleeve and gets the drop on the bandit Sonoma. Sonoma is unimpressed: “Measly little pop gun!” he complains. “Not so measly at close range,” Oakhurst quips.
In Jesse James at Bay (Republic, 1941), a Roy Rogers picture, TWO characters try to get the drop on Roy with Derringers. Great. A two-derringer picture, that's really something.
In Wagon Trail, a Harry Carey Sr. movie of 1935, the villain Collins uses a Derringer (typical) and the popgun plays an important part in the last scene.
Then of course the classic baddie Hedley Lamarr shoots a man with a nickel-plated Derringer for chewing gum while standing in line (fair enough) in the glorious Blazing Saddles (Warner Bros, 1974).
And of course John Wilkes Booth used one:
It did for Abe
Wild Bill Hickok carried two Williamson .41 Derringers in special pockets. Sadly, they didn't save him on August 2nd 1876 in Nuttall & Mann's No. 10 in Deadwood.
They were definitely ladies' guns.
Then there was Belle Starr in The Long Riders. They were small and almost jewel-like, ornamental anyway, maybe with a pearl handle. But they could sting, at close range anyway. And the kind of girls who had them were the ones you, ahem, tended to be at close range with.
A Derringer does an awful lot of damage from under the table in Rio Lobo:
Yup, the ladies liked them alright.
In the great TV Deadwood, obviously Cy Tolliver would have one, being a sneaky gambler and slimy saloon owner. Various saloon gals have them too.
Colonel Mortimer would have to have one in For a Few Dollars More:
Derringers play a key part in Django Unchained, I am happy to say. Good for Mr. Tarantino.
It wasn’t all the bad guys, though. Marshal Randolph Scott deals with the evil gunny Dingo Brion with a Derringer fired from underneath the barber's sheet in A Lawless Street. Paladin carried one as a back-up in Have Gun, Will Travel. And arms salesman-turned-sheriff Kenneth More demonstrated a spring-powered one in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (Fox, 1958). In fact Fractured Jaw might be the best Derringer movie ever. If you haven't seen it yet, remedy that now.
And there was James West's similar sleeve Derringer in The Wild, Wild West. He also had one hidden in a boot heel.
On p 140 of Louis L'Amour's novel Showdown at Yellow Butte, the heroine has a .22 seven-shot Derringer in her skirt pocket and shoots the evil gunslinger Dornie Shaw with it, through the material of the skirt, hitting him in the ear. A seven-shot! I never imagined such a thing but discovered that it did indeed exist.