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They Gave Him a Gun (1937)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 7 May 1937 (USA)
Jimmy is drafted and ends up in Fred's troop on his way to Europe. Jimmy becomes vicious with his gun, wins a medal, and weds Fred's nurse girlfriend, Rose. Back home years later, Rose ... See full summary »


W.S. Van Dyke (as W.S. Van Dyke II)


William J. Cowen (book) (as William Joyce Cowen), Cyril Hume | 2 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Spencer Tracy ... Fred P. Willis
Gladys George ... Rose Duffy
Franchot Tone ... James 'Jimmy' Davis
Edgar Dearing ... Sgt. Meadowlark
Mary Treen ... Saxe (as Mary Lou Treen)
Cliff Edwards ... Laro
Charles Trowbridge ... Judge


Jimmy is drafted and ends up in Fred's troop on his way to Europe. Jimmy becomes vicious with his gun, wins a medal, and weds Fred's nurse girlfriend, Rose. Back home years later, Rose discovers Jimmy is a gangster, has him arrested, and finds a job in Fred's circus as Jimmy escapes, determined to kill Fred. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

7 May 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

On lui donna un fusil See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial USA telecast in Seattle Friday 16 November 1956 on KING (Channel 5), followed by Phiadelphia Friday 23 November 1956 on WFIL (Channel 6), and by New York City Friday 21 December 1956 on WCBS (Channel 2); in Chicago it first aired 8 May 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2) and in Minneapolis 23 May 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9); its San Francisco television premiere took place 4 January 1958 on KGO (Channel 7) and in Altoona PA 26 March 1958 on WFBG (Channel 10); its earliest documented telecast in Los Angeles presently stands at 28 February 1961 on KTTV (Channel 11). See more »


(at around 33 mins) As Saxe hands Rose a list of casualties with Fred on it, in the very next scene the list magically has disappeared from her hands. See more »


Fred P. Willis: Jimmy, how did you ever get in this racket?
James 'Jimmy' Davis: [Cynical] What did you want me to be, a fifteen buck a week bookkeep?
Fred P. Willis: Well, this is sure a clean way of making a living.
James 'Jimmy' Davis: [laughs] You're forgetting they got medals for us in 1918.
Fred P. Willis: Yeah, and a kiss from a French general but this isn't the same.
James 'Jimmy' Davis: Yeah, that's a fact. Some of those German boys I wiped out were good guys. Around here, they're nothing but a bunch of hopped up monkeys.
See more »


A Love Song of Long Ago
Music by Sigmund Romberg
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Sung softly as background music
See more »

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User Reviews

anti-war transformation
8 April 2019 | by SnoopyStyleSee all my reviews

It's WWI. Reluctant Army recruit Fred P. Willis (Spencer Tracy) befriends Jimmy Davis who is an even worst recruit. Jimmy faints in a simple training exercise for fear of killing a person. Once in the war, he takes out a machine gun position and gets horribly wounded. His blood lust has grown so much that he kills a surrendering enemy. He falls for nurse Rose who actually likes Fred. With Fred presumed killed, Jimmy and Rose get married. Fred escapes from German prison just in time to be Jimmy's best man. After the war, Fred is a lowly circus worker and he finds Jimmy had turned into a gangster.

With WWII looming, an anti-war movie like this would become an endangered species. Spencer Tracy is fine but this should be Jimmy's movie. It's a movie about Jimmy. By making Fred the lead, there is a distance to Jimmy's transformation. That's part of the reason why it seems so abrupt instead of many smaller transformations. It's not so character growth as much as character jumps. From the fainting guy to the cold blooded killer, Jimmy needs the screen time to do the work. That's not to say that Franchot Tone is capable of leading a big movie. Quite simply, Jimmy's descend into violence doesn't feel correct. Without that, this becomes a melodramatic love triangle. Spencer Tracy is perfectly capable of leading the triangle. It's not the greatest. It's fine to watch this for his fans.

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