This week’s Fun Fact:
While Susan Peters may not be a well-known film actor in today’s world, she seems to occupy an interesting space when considering the history of disability and film. Peters was one of the rising film stars of the 1940s, making a name for herself at MGM and receiving the Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work in Random Harvest (1942) (Miller). On January 1, 1945, while on a hunting trip with her husband, she reached for her rifle and “it accidentally discharged, sending a bullet through her stomach to lodge in her spine,” paralyzing her from the waist down and causing her to use a wheelchair for the remainder of her life (“Actress”). At first glance, a person may think that this incident would have ended her film career entirely. However, producer Irving Cummings and his son “joined forces with the Orsatti Agency to produce a comeback film for her” (Miller). This film was John Sturges’ The Sign of the Ram, (1948) an adaptation of Margaret Ferguson’s 1945 novel of the same name. The film “offered the perfect vehicle with its tale of a wheelchair-bound poet living in a remote mansion on the British coast,” with Peters playing a bitter character who “[manipulates] those around her to keep herself the center of attention” (Miller). When this film was presented as a part of Turner Classic Movies’ “The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film” series in 2012, curator Lawrence Carter-Long seemed to comment on the efforts by those in power and their desire to promote Peters, saying, “’It shows you what Hollywood can do if it wants to’” (“TCM’s”). The film was not a success and proved to be her last film role, but has gained a following in the years since its release (Miller). Interestingly, it has never been released on video or DVD (Miller).
– Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member
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“Actress Susan Peters Dies, Losing Brave 7-Year Fight.” Toledo Blade, 24 October 1952, p. 1.
jid=bQAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3847,3889046. Accessed 28 June 2017.
Miller, Frank. “The Sign of the Ram.” tcm, http://www.tcm.com/this-
28 June 2017.