PEGGY CUMMINS, born Augusta Fuller, died in London on December 29th, 2017 aged 92.
Although born in Wales, Peggy was Irish and spent her early childhood in Dublin.
Moving to London , she was spotted in a West End play and signed by Twentieth Century Fox in 1945 when she was 20.
Peggy did have some film experience, having appeared in 5 British films from 1940 to 1944.
Peggy’s first film was to be FOREVER AMBER . Filming started in March 1946 but by May, the production was shut down . DARRYL ZANUCK decided Peggy was too inexperienced .
In later interviews, Peggy said,
” I had three directors on ‘Amber’. First there was JOHN DAHL – hired then fired. Then HOWARD HAWKS who said he would do the picture with me. Finally it was OTTO PREMINGER.It was a merry-go-round. Not only were the directors replaced ,but also several actors.”
(RICHARD GREENE replaced VINCENT PRICE and GEORGE SANDERS replaced REGINALD GARDINER.And SARA ALLGOOD replaced ETHEL GRIFFIES.)
A young LINDA DARNELL became Amber.
Peggy was then cast as RONALD COLMAN’s daughter in THE LATE GEORGE APLEY (1947) and she also starred in MOSS ROSE the same year.
Peggy was back in the Uk for ESCAPE in 1948, with Rex Harrison.
In fact, counting GUN CRAZY for which she is best known , Peggy’s Hollywood career only amounted to three films.
She was in GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING (1948), then two films made in London, THAT DANGEROUS AGE (1949, with MYRNA LOY) and OPERATION X ( aka My Daughter Joy), with EDWARD G. ROBINSON.
In 1950, Peggy married Derek Dunnett and moved back to England. They were together until Derek’s death in 2001.
RICHARD GREENE costarred in two of Peggy’s films, That Dangerous Age and Operation X.
I didn’t know Myrna Loy had made a film in England. She and ROGER LIVESEY play Peggy’s parents in this romantic drama.
Also known as :
In recent years Peggy had discovered new fans of her last Hollywood film, GUN CRAZY. She was invited to film festivals in the UK and the States.
Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation has written a book about Gun Crazy and he most recently visited Peggy in London in November,2017.
Peggy’s interview with Eddie Muller at the TCM Festival in 2012 can be seen on You Tube. She also appeared at the San Francisco Noir Festival in 2013. Her delight in this new interest in Gun Crazy was clear.
Gun Crazy was written by blacklisted DALTON TRUMBO and produced by the King Brothers. How sweet, wholesome Peggy got cast as the travelling carnival sharp-shooter, is a mystery, but ,as Peggy said,
“It was a part I felt I could play – don’t ask me why.”
“I always wanted to play all the Bette Davis parts.”
Peggy also commented : “John Dall was a very good actor – he died too young. And Joseph Lewis was a very good director.”
“We were on location in a small town, Montrose, east of Los Angeles”.
Most discussed scene in Gun Crazy is the bank robbery sequence which was filmed in one take lasting 4 minutes. A great tracking shot filmed from the back seat of the car.
As Peggy described it,
” I was driving. Behind me was the camera, the crew, the sound – they were breathing down my neck.”
“Joe told me, ‘You’ll both be in the car. You’ll be driving,Peggy. Cameraman Joseph Harlan and sound man Tom Lambert will be behind you.”
” For that scene, Joe left it up to John and me, and we managed it in a single take.”
When Joseph Lewis died in 2000, his daughter wrote to Peggy saying that he had great affection for Peggy and that he told audiences that Peggy made the picture .
The book ( GUN CRAZY, THE ORIGIN OF AMERICAN OUTLAW CINEMA) is only available from eddiemuller.com.
Peggy’s films in the UK after 1950 were mainly comedies like The Love Lottery, Meet Mr. Lucifer, To Dorothy A Son (aka Cash on Delivery ), costarring Shelley Winters).
But she did two dramas which are well respected, both in 1957 – HELL DRIVERS ( with Stanley Baker) and NIGHT OF THE DEMON.
The latter brought DANA ANDREWS over from the USA, plus director JACQUES TOURNEUR. Dana playing a scientist out to prove that NIALL MACGINNIS’s black magic ability to summon a demon from hell is phoney.
Peggy plays a teacher whose uncle may have been a victim of the Demon. She described her character Joanna as pretty strong and inquisitive.
Director Jacques Tourneur of CAT PEOPLE fame, did not want to show the demon but he was overruled by his producers .
In 2013, Peggy introduced Night of the Demon in the British Museum courtyard, a location which features prominently in the film.
The trajectory of her career is interesting. Contracted to one of the big Hollywood studios, they didn’t seem to know how to develop her talent, and basically they gave up after a few films.
One could presume Peggy had the standard 7 year contract at Fox, and therefore, did she break her contract before the 7 years were up, or did they just let her go.
There are quite a few of Peggy’s films I hope to catch up with.