Peggy Cummins, Gun Crazy's iconic femme fatale, dies aged 92
Irish actor Cummins never quite conquered Hollywood but she made her mark in the 1950 film noir classic, as well as cult horror Night of the Demon
Tue 2 Jan 2018
Irish actor Peggy Cummins, who left her mark as the brazen femme fatale in the film noir Gun Crazy, has died aged 92, having suffered a stroke. She died in a London hospital on 29 December, surrounded by family, her friend Dee Kirkwood told the Hollywood Reporter.
Cummins, who was born in Prestatyn, Wales, began acting as a child, having been spotted at a tram stop in Dublin by a theatre owner. She made her debut on the London stage aged 13. After a stint in British cinema, in 1945 she went to Hollywood, where Darryl F Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, cast her as the lead in Otto Preminger’s Forever Amber. “Fox made a big splash for me when I came over. I weighed 98 pounds and had an 18-inch waist,” she later said.
Her Hollywood career was short-lived, however. Zanuck deemed her too young and “not sexy enough” for Forever Amber and replaced her with Linda Darnell. Cummins would get her revenge with Gun Crazy, a lurid, pacy, bracingly modern low-budget thriller in which she played Annie Laurie Starr, an ambitious carnival sharp-shooter who falls in with a fellow gun obsessive (John Dall). They go together like “guns and ammunition”, he tells her, but it’s Cummins who calls the shots, pitching the lovers on a Bonnie and Clyde-style crime spree. “I’ve been kicked around all my life and from now on I’m gonna start kicking back,” Annie Laurie tells him.
Gun Crazy went on to inspire the French New Wave and 1970s Hollywood. French auteur François Truffaut reportedly screened the movie for the writers of the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde. (Cummins even wore a beret in Gun Crazy, two decades before Faye Dunaway.) Jean-Luc Godard’s debut Breathless is also indebted to Gun Crazy. Meanwhile, its ingenious off-camera heist scene – executed in a single, three-minute take, shot from the getaway car – looks to have influenced Edgar Wright’s recent Baby Driver.