Sunday, January 7, 2018

Godspeed Peggy Cummins

Peggy Cummins, the Irish actress best known for starring in the classic film noir Gun Crazy (1950) and the cult horror film Night of the Demon (1957), died on December 29 2017 at the age of 92.

Peggy Cummins was born Augusta Margaret Diane Fuller on December 18 1925 in Prestatyn, Denbighshire. Her parents had been visiting there and their return to Ireland had been delayed by a storm. Her great grandfather was architect and novelist James Franklin Fuller. Peggy Cummins grew up in Dublin and began acting in radio plays and on stage while still a teenager. She made her film debut in 1940 in Dr. O'Dowd. She appeared in the films Salute John Citizen (1942), Old Mother Riley Detective (1943), Welcome, Mr. Washington (1944), and English Without Tears (1944).

Miss Cummins was appearing on stage in London in Junior Miss when Darryl F. Zanuck took notice of her. He cast her as Amber St. Clair in his planned adaptation of Kathleen Winsor's best-selling novel Forever Amber. She beat out 200 other actresses for the part. Unfortunately, it was not long after filming began in 1946 that Darryl F. Zanuck decided that she was not, in Miss Cummins' words, "sexy enough" for the role. The part was recast with Linda Darnell in the role. Peggy Cummins then made her debut at 20th Century Fox in the film The Late George Apley (1947). She made three more films for Fox: Moss Rose (1947), Escape (1948), and Green Grass of Wyoming (1948). She then returned to Britain where she appeared in That Dangerous Age (1949). She came back to the United States to star in Gun Crazy (1950). It would be last film she made in the United States. Back in the United Kingdom, she appeared in My Daughter Joy the same year.

In the Fifties Peggy Cummins appeared in the films Who Goes There! (1952), Street Corner (1953), Always a Bride (1953), Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953), The Love Lottery (1954), To Dorothy a Son (1954), The March Hare (1956), Carry On Admiral (1957), Hell Drivers (1957), Night of the Demon (1957), The Captain's Table (1959), Your Money or Your Wife (1960), and Dentist in the Chair (1960).

In the Sixties Peggy Cummins would make one last film, In the Doghouse in 1962. She made two guest appearances on television, on the shows The Human Jungle and Summer Comedy Hour.

Peggy Cummins was an enormous talent as an actress. Proof of this can be see in her performance in Gun Crazy. Not only did she play one half of a homicidal couple of robbers (Annie Laurie Starr), but she plays an American as well. So well did she play the role that I rather suspect most viewers unfamiliar with Miss Cummins probably had no idea that she was was Irish upon first watching Gun Crazy. Indeed, the part of Annie Laurie Starr was quite unlike anything she had played before, particularly in the United Kingdom where she usually played "nice girl" roles. Although best known for playing a film noir femme fatale, Peggy Cummins could play a wide variety of roles, and could do comedy as easily as she could drama. Indeed, she made several comedies in the United Kingdom in the Fifties. Given her talent, I have to suspect Darryl F. Zanuck was wrong. She could have easily played Amber St. Clair.

Indeed, it is a mark of Peggy Cummins's talent as an actress that in real life she was nothing at all like Annie Laurie Starr. Those who met her always said the same thing. Quite simply, she was a very nice lady. Miss Cummins was very personable and friendly, and charmed nearly everyone she met. In the end, she was still the sweet Irish girl she had always been, although one with incredible talent.

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