Thursday, November 29, 2012

Susan Peters in Sign of the Ram (1948)

Born in the troublesome sign of the title, a wheelchair-bound Cornish writer (Susan Peters) will do anything to keep her husband and children for herself, including ruining her daughter's new romance and driving her son's fiancée to suicide. For no obvious reasons, she then ends it all by wheeling off a cliff to certain death. Columbia Pictures presented "The return to the screen of Miss Susan Peters" in Sign of the Ram but sadly failed to give the star-crossed starlet much to do or say. On top of a turgid screenplay, Peters and the rest of the cast had to assume fake English accents in order to make belieable the drama's Cornish setting. It was not, alas, a memorable screen swan song for Miss Peters who probably deserved better.

Dark-haired Susan Peters (1921-1952)earned a 1942 Academy Award nomination for playing Greer Garson's daughter in the World War I soaper Random Harvest and was voted a "Star of Tomorrow" the following year. A graduate of Max Reinhardt's School of Dramatic Art, the former Suzanne Carnahan also scored as Mary Astor's daughter in Young Ideas (1943) but MGM’s careful buildup of her came to a tragic end when she was permanently paralyzed on a 1945 New Year's duck hunting trip with her husband, Richard Quine. She reportedly went to retrieve a rifle when it accidentally discharged. The bullet lodged in her spine and Peters was paralyzed from the waist down. Although her services were retained for several years due to her husband's status as a rising young director, the studio was eventually forced to let her go. To the rescue came Columbia Pictures, who recognized the public’s interest in her plight and cast her as a crippled wife desperately using her handicap to hold on to a husband in The Sign of the Ram (1948). In real life, or so the story goes, Peters actually divorced Quine in order not to become a burden. Hollywood found no further use for the handicapped actress but she continued to perform on stage and even starred in a local Philadelphia television series as a wheelchair-bound attorney. But the effects of the accident lingered, and according to at least one romantic writer, Hollywood's foremost hard-luck girl lost the will to live less than a year later.

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