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Susan Peters (born Suzanne Carnahan; July 3, 1921 – October 23, 1952) was an American actress who appeared in over twenty films over the course of her decade-long career. Though she began her career in uncredited and ingénue roles, she would establish herself as a serious dramatic actress in the mid-1940s.
July 3, 1921
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
|Died||October 23, 1952 31) (aged|
Visalia, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, U.S.|
(m. 1943; div. 1948)
Born in Spokane, Washington, Peters was raised by her widowed mother in Portland, Oregon, and, later, Los Angeles. Upon graduating from high school, she studied acting with Austrian theater director Max Reinhardt, and signed a contract with Warner Bros. Pictures. She appeared in numerous bit parts before earning a minor supporting role in Santa Fe Trail (1940). She made her last film for Warner Bros. in 1942, the film noir The Big Shot opposite Humphrey Bogart and Richard Travis; after its release, Warner opted not to renew her contract.
In 1942, Peters appeared in a supporting role in Tish, which resulted in her signing a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The same year, she had a featured role in the Mervyn LeRoy-directed drama Random Harvest, which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and established her as a serious dramatic performer. Peters went on to appear as the lead in numerous films for MGM, including roles in the romantic comedy Young Ideas (1943), and several war films: Assignment in Brittany (1943), Song of Russia (1944), and Keep Your Powder Dry (1945).
On New Year's Day 1945, Peters's spinal cord was damaged from an accidental gunshot wound, leaving her permanently paraplegic. She returned to film, portraying a villain who used a wheelchair in The Sign of the Ram (1948). Peters then transitioned to theater, appearing as Laura Wingfield in a critically acclaimed 1949 production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, which was slightly altered to allow Peters to perform in a wheelchair. She followed this with a production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, in which she portrayed physically disabled poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. By 1952, however, Peters had had clinical depression for several years due to the dissolution of her marriage and her limited career options. In late 1952, she began starving herself, which combined with her paralysis led to chronic kidney infections and pneumonia. She died of ensuing health complications that year at age 31.