At the cinema museum: Peggy Cummins in Conversation
British actress Peggy Cummins made her film debut in Hollywood aged 15, and is perhaps best known for her starring role as a trigger happy femme fatale in cult noir Gun Crazy. For this event she is in conversation with BFI Fiction Editor Jo Botting.
Born in 1925, Peggy Cummins lived most of her early life in Dublin. Spotted at a Dublin tram stop by actor Peter Brock, she was introduced to Dublin’s Gate Theatre Company, and by the age of 12 had appeared to great acclaim on the London stage in the title role of Alice in Wonderland and in the title role of Junior Miss at the Saville Theatre.
Peggy Cummins made her film debut during the war aged only 15 in Dr O’Dowd (1940) directed by Herbert Mason. Her first major film was English Without Tears (1944) with Michael Wilding and Lilli Palmer, directed by Harold French.
In 1945, Darryl F Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century Fox, brought Peggy to Hollywood to play the title role in Forever Amber, only to be replaced by Linda Darnell because she was “too young”. However, she went on to make six films in Hollywood, including the now cult noir classic Gun Crazy (1949) with John Dall, and co-written by black-listed writer Dalton Trumbo, about the crime spree of a gun-toting couple. While in Hollywood she briefly dated Howard Hughes and the future American president John F Kennedy.
After filming That Dangerous Age, a.k.a. If This Be Sin (1949), in Italy with Myrna Loy and Roger Livesey, she returned to London to work in British film and starred in Who Goes There! and the Ealing comedy Meet Mr Lucifer. In 1957 she starred in the Jacques Tourneur directed cult horror film Night of the Demon with Dana Andrews, based on M R James’s spine chiller The Casting of the Runes, and in Hell Drivers with Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan, Herbert Lom and Sean Connery. Her last film was In the Doghouse (1961) with Leslie Phillips and Hattie Jacques.
Saturday, 2 Apr 2011
The Cinema Museum
The Master’s House
2 Dugard Way
Nearest Tube: Elephant & Castle, Kennington