09 January 2018

Peggy Cummins (1925-2017)

On 29 December, blonde and beautiful Irish actress Peggy Cummins passed away. She was unforgettable in the Film Noir classic Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950) as the trigger-happy femme fatale who robs banks with her lover. Cummins was 92.

Peggy Cummins
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. W 579. Photo: London Films.

Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1949)
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 563. Photo: publicity still for Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950).

Peggy Cummins
British Collector's Card.

Good Reviews

Peggy Cummins was born Augusta Margaret Diane Fuller in Prestatyn, Wales in 1925. Her Irish parents happened to be in Wales at the time of her birth and a storm kept them from returning to their home in Dublin.

Peggy lived most of her early life in Dublin where she was educated and later in London. Her mother was the actress Margaret Cummins who played the small but effective role of Anna the maid in Smart Woman (1948) and played Emily in the Margaret Ferguson film The Sign of the Ram.

In 1938 actor Peter Brock noticed Peggy Cummins at a Dublin tram stop and introduced her to Dublin's Gate Theatre Company.

She then appeared on the London stage in the title role of Alice in Wonderland and in the title role of Junior Miss at age 12 at the Saville Theatre.

Cummins made her film debut at 13 in the British drama Dr. O'Dowd (Herbert Mason, 1940). The film was received positively by critics, and especially Peggy got good reviews.

Her first major film was English Without Tears/Her Man Gilbey (Harold French, 1944) with Michael Wilding and Lilli Palmer. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “a gentle satire of the temporary relaxation of class barriers in wartime England.’

According to Erickson, playing a precocious teenager, Peggy ‘stole’ Welcome, Mr. Washington (Leslie Hiscott, 1944), a sometimes amusing, sometimes poignant dramatisation of what happened when American troops ‘invaded’ England during WW II.

Peggy Cummins
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 673. Photo: Rank Film.

Peggy Cummins
Italian postcard by Bromostampa, Torino.

A Psychopathic Bonnie Parker-Type

Amidst a shower of publicity, Peggy Cummins was brought to Hollywood in 1945. Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox, wanted her to play Amber in Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber (Otto Preminger, 1947).

However, she was soon replaced by Linda Darnell because she was "too young." As a compensation she went on to make six films in Hollywood.

In Hollywood, Cummins had several suitors. She briefly dated both Howard Hughes, and the future American president John F. Kennedy.

Meanwhile, she starred with Victor Mature in the Film Noir Moss Rose (Gregory Ratoff, 1947), and with Rex Harrison in the thriller Escape (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1948).

The highlight was her part as a psychopathic Bonnie Parker-type criminal in Gun Crazy/Deadly Is the Female (1950) directed by B-movie specialist Joseph H. Lewis. The script about a couple of star-crossed lovers (Cummins and John Dall) shooting their way across the modern west was co-written by MacKinlay Kantor and the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, who was ‘fronted’ by his friend Millard Kaufman. The stylish and gritty Gun Crazy was made for a measly $400,000 in 30 days.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “The definitive Joseph H. Lewis-directed melodrama, Gun Crazy is the "Bonnie and Clyde" story retooled for the disillusioned post-war generation. John Dall plays a timorous, emotionally disturbed World War II veteran who has had a lifelong fixation with guns. He meets a kindred spirit in carnival sharpshooter Peggy Cummins, who is equally disturbed - but a lot smarter, and hence a lot more dangerous.

Beyond their physical attraction to one another, both Dall and Cummins are obsessed with firearms. They embark on a crime spree, with Cummins as the brains and Dall as the trigger man. As sociopathic a duo as are likely to be found in a 1940s film, Dall and Cummins are also perversely fascinating. As they dance their last dance before dying in a hail of police bullets, the audience is half hoping that somehow they'll escape the Inevitable.”

Richard Greene, Peggy Cummins
Dutch postcard. Photo: London Films. Publicity still for That Dangerous Age (Gregory Ratoff, 1949) with Richard Greene.

Peggy Cummins
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Charlottenburg, no. V 167. Photo: Rank Film. Publicity still for Hell Drivers (Cy Endfield, 1957).

A Frightening, Fast-paced, And Unrelenting Chiller

During a brief stay in Italy in 1948, Peggy Cummins filmed That Dangerous Age/If This Be Sin (Gregory Ratoff, 1949) with Myrna Loy and Roger Livesey.

She returned to London in 1950 to marry and work in British films. In 1952 she starred in the comedy Who Goes There! (Anthony Kimmins, 1952) with Nigel Patrick, and a year later she appeared in the Ealing comedy Meet Mr. Lucifer (Anthony Pelissier, 1953) with Stanley Holloway.

She later starred in the horror film Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957) with Dana Andrews as an American psychologist investigating a satanic cult.

Patrick Legare at AllMovie: “a frightening, fast-paced, and unrelenting chiller that only gets better with passing years and repeated viewings. Directed by Jacques Tourneur from the M.R. James story Casting the Runes, Curse stars Dana Andrews as a psychologist out to disprove the black magic of co-star Niall MacGinnis. Peggy Cummings also stars as the daughter of a scientist killed by the title creature during the shocking opening. Tourneur was a master at scaring an audience by the power of suggestion, and Curse accomplished this with one exception: the director didn't care for the studio's decision to show the demon in the beginning.”

In the thriller Hell Drivers (Cy Endfield, 1957), her co-stars were Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan and Herbert Lom.

Cummins's last film was In the Doghouse (Darcy Conyers, 1961) alongside Leslie Phillips. After her film career had ended, she lived in retirement in Hampshire, England.

During the 1970s, Cummins was very active in a national charity, Stars Organisation for Spastics, raising money and chairing the management committee of a holiday centre for children with disabilities in Sussex.

Peggy Cummins was married to London businessman Derek Dunnett from 1950 until his death in 2000. Peggy died on 29 December 2017, aged 92, in London, England.

Peggy Cummins (1925-2017)
British card. Photo: E.N.A.

Scene from Gun Crazy/Deadly Is the Female (1949). Source: GnGInfiniteVideoList (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Patrick Legare (AllMovie), Michael Adams (Movieline), Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Another Kennedy girl eh? He certainly had good taste.