Susan Peters

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Susan Peters
Susan Peters.jpg
from the trailer for the film Random Harvest (1942).
Birth name Suzanne Carnahan
Born Jul 3, 1921
Spokane, WA USA Flag of USA.png
Died Oct 23, 1952 - age 30
Visalia, CA USA Flag of USA.png

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Susan Peters (July 3, 1921 - October 23, 1952) was an Academy Award-nominated American film actress whose promising career was cut tragically short.

Peters was born Suzanne Carnahan in Spokane, Washington. First contracted by Warner Brothers, which was unable to utilize her talents, she subsequently began working for MGM Studios after completing high school. Her first job was to read with potential actors in their screen tests. Before long she had impressed studio executives with her own talent, and they began casting her in films.

Promising Hollywood career

For the first two years she used her given name and played small, often uncredited parts in films such as Meet John Doe (1941), before adopting her stage name. But her beguiling acting in a supporting role in the MGM programmer, Tish, resulted in a studio contract. Her first substantial role, in Random Harvest (1942), earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination for a highly effective, nuanced performance that showed a wide emotional range. (Many believe that her acting in the film actually eclipsed the fine performances of the two leads, Ronald Colman and Greer Garson.)

Further impressed, MGM began to groom her for starring roles, casting her in several lesser productions that allowed her to learn her craft. A starring role in Song of Russia (1943) earned her critical acclaim but the film was not a commercial success. However, in 1944, she was one of ten actors who were elevated from "featured player" status to the studio's official "star" category; the others included Esther Williams, Laraine Day, Kathryn Grayson, Van Johnson, Margaret O'Brien, Ginny Simms, Robert Walker, Gene Kelly, and George Murphy. An official portrait taken of MGM's contracted players during this period prominently features Peters sharing the front row with the head of the studio himself, Louis B. Mayer, and alongside such illustrious actors as James Stewart, Mickey Rooney, Margaret Sullavan, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, and Greer Garson -- such was the faith that the studio had of her talent and potential at the time.

Personal tragedy

Married to the actor Richard Quine, she was with him on a hunting vacation in early 1945, when a rifle accidentally discharged, causing a bullet to be lodged in her spine. The accident left her permanently paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheel chair, however she attempted to continue her acting career.

In a rare magnanimous gesture, MGM not only did not terminate her contract but also continued to pay her salary -- but unable to find suitable projects, Peters subsequently left the studio. (In the early 1930s Mayer also treated the highly talented and popular comedic and dramatic actress, Marie Dressler, who was ailing from cancer, with laudable sensitivity and compassion.) An unsympathetic role in Columbia's The Sign of the Ram (1948) failed to win an audience, and a starring role as a wheelchair bound lawyer in the television series Miss Susan (1951) was also unsuccessful.

She toured in stage productions of The Glass Menagerie and The Barretts of Wimpole Street, and her performances were highly regarded, but her disability made her a difficult actress to cast.

Her career faltered, and as her marriage ended, Peters suffered from depression. Her health continued to deteriorate until her death, aged 31, in Visalia, California, from kidney disease and pneumonia, complicated by anorexia nervosa.

Susan Peters has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures, at 1601 Vine St.

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