Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Farewell to Peggy Cummins

Sad news, which I first saw rumored on social media yesterday, was confirmed today: Actress Peggy Cummins died in London on December 29th.

Cummins, who was born December 18, 1925, had turned 92 just a few days previously.

If Cummins had only made GUN CRAZY (1950), that would be sufficient for her to be remembered in the annals of movie history. Her feral performance as sharpshooting bank robber Annie Laurie Starr is one of the great performances in all of film noir, and her ad libbed bank robbery scene is surely one of the great moments. Cummins had famously been let go from FOREVER AMBER (1947) for not being "sexy" enough, but she certainly had the last laugh when it came to cinema immortality.

I had the pleasure of seeing Cummins in person in 2012, when Eddie Muller interviewed her at the TCM Classic Film Festival. (That was, I might add, my very first screening at a TCM Festival!) Coincidentally a scene in the movie was filmed on Las Palmas Avenue right next to the theater, and having her back in Hollywood to discuss the film was magical. She was an absolutely delightful woman. You can read more about the interview here.

I wasn't quite sure what I thought of GUN CRAZY the first time I saw it, as I tend not to like downer films about criminals, but the movie has grown on me more and more with each successive viewing. It's just so very well done you can't help being caught up in it and admiring the work of Cummins and John Dall in the leads.

A moment during the famous bank robbery scene:

Cummins also had a smaller role in the memorable HELL DRIVERS (1957), amidst a great cast which included Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Sean Connery, David McCallum, and Patrick McGoohan.

Other notable films included MOSS ROSE (1947), GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING (1948), and CURSE OF THE DEMON (1957).

Eddie Muller, who wrote an entire book on GUN CRAZY and who had spent time with Peggy in London just a few weeks ago, has posted a tribute on Facebook.

He also wrote a touching Tweet: "NOW, IMMORTAL. Farewell, Peggy."

Obituaries have been published by the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, The Guardian, and the Associated Press (via the L.A. Times).

Cummins is survived by her two children.

I'm so grateful I had the chance to see her interviewed in person; it's a special memory. Farewell to a wonderful lady.


Blogger John G. said...

Peggy Cummins was one of my absolute favorite actresses. I've managed to track down most of her work, and without fail she made everything that she appeared in better.

Rest in peace, Ms. Cummins, and thank you.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for sharing that, John. I look forward to seeing more of her work. I have MOSS ROSE and IF THIS BE SIN (THAT DANGEROUS AGE) in my stack, plus an old Fox Movie Channel recording of GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING.

Best wishes,

5:36 PM  
Blogger John G. said...

IF THIS BE SIN is a good movie, though sadly the cheapo DVD with the yellow cover available at Amazon and Deep Discount is best viewed on something like a portable DVD player. Being a Peggy Cummins fan means often having to watch her work on lousy quality DVDs.

MOSS ROSE and GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING are better represented on DVD, though. Enjoy!

6:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good to know about IF THIS BE SIN, John! That's the DVD version I have so I'll plan to make use of my portable player. :) Glad to know the other films look better!!

Best wishes,

6:17 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

'Not sexy enough'!? Ha! What did they know? Peggy Cummins was a delight. My most recent viewing of her was watching "HELL DRIVERS" (for the umpteenth time) and she was just super in it, of course. Thank you, Peggy!

11:23 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I've known of Peggy Cummins since I was a kid, thanks to CURSE OF THE DEMON. She is fine in that great horror film, but it's a pretty standard leading lady role. I later enjoyed her very much in, of course, GUN CRAZY.

But, oddly perhaps, the movie which really made me sit up and notice her was a minor little British comedy titled ALWAYS A BRIDE. In that one she plays a sweet con artist and is the very living, breathing definition of "adorable."

10:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry and Rick!

I really enjoyed HELL DRIVERS when it made the festival rounds here a couple years ago.

Rick, I believe I acquired a copy of ALWAYS A BRIDE, will check. Thanks for the tip!

Best wishes,

10:38 AM  
Blogger John G. said...

Nice to see a shout-out for ALWAYS A BRIDE. One of my three favorite Peggy Cummins movies. Not a cinematic masterpiece, mind you, but she never looked cuter and gave an outstanding performance. FYI, even considering the deteriorating dollar-to-pound exchange rate, the DVD is available inexpensively on Amazon UK in a fine-looking print. And it's all-region.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Rick and John, thanks for the tip. I discovered the copy I'd found of ALWAYS A BRIDE was having playback problems so I just ordered the Amazon UK DVD. It's been a while since I ordered from them! (Have an all-region player.)

Looking forward to checking it out --
Best wishes,

1:26 PM  
Blogger John G. said...

Ah, Laura, had I known you were heading right over to Amazon UK (and had an all-region player), I'd have also suggested the likewise-inexpensive Network R2 DVD of 1952's WHO GOES THERE! co-starring Valerie Hobson. Another minor gem with lots of Peggy goodness...

BTW, along with GUN CRAZY and ALWAYS A BRIDE, the 1948 remake of ESCAPE with Rex Harrison rounds out my three favorite Peggy Cummins movies. I think there's a problem with the print because there's never been a legit DVD of this title.

I started out with a copy from--not sure if it's OK to slam vendors here, so let's just call them Not Loving the Traffic (heh!) that had about the worst DVD picture quality I've ever seen (and I've seen some doozies!). Undeterred, I kept buying copies from eBay, eBay UK, and other sites until I found a pretty decent print from a UK public-domain outfit called Old Rare Films. Highly recommended if you're a Peggy Cummins fan...

2:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, John! I've put WHO GOES THERE! on my list as a future possibility. :) Love finding good British films to order -- a number of interesting but unfamiliar titles came up in my Amazon UK recommendations after today's purchase. (Anybody seen THE WEAK AND WICKED with Glynis Johns and Diana Dors?!) I may have to order some more later this month...

ESCAPE is a new-to-me title, thanks for putting it on my radar as well. (I know just the dealer you mean, and in the past I got some *great* prints and some *awful* prints there LOL. I admire your dedication sticking with it until you found a good one!)

Best wishes,

7:48 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Coincidentally, I have a new DVD of "THE WEAK AND THE WICKED" under my Christmas tree this year! Haven't watched yet but these Network releases are generally beautiful prints so I'm looking forward to it (not a first viewing of this film, I should add).

11:24 PM  

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