Jean Peters

Elizabeth Jean Peters (October 15, 1926 – October 13, 2000) was an American film actress. She is known as a star of 20th Century Fox in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and as the second wife of Howard Hughes. Although possibly best remembered for her siren role in Pickup on South Street (1953), Peters was known for her resistance to being turned into a sex symbol. She preferred to play unglamorous, down-to-earth women.[1]

American actress
Jean Peters

Peters in the 1950s
Elizabeth Jean Peters

(1926-10-15)October 15, 1926

Died October 13, 2000(2000-10-13) (aged 73)

Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, U.S.
Alma mater Ohio State University
University of Michigan
Occupation Actress
Years active 1947–1988
Stuart W. Cramer III

(m. 1954; div. 1955)

(m. 1957; div. 1971)

(m. 1971; died 1990)

Late in her career, and after her retirement, Peters occasionally played roles in TV productions, appearing in four between 1973 and 1988.

. . . Jean Peters . . .

Elizabeth Jean Peters was born on October 15, 1926, in East Canton, Ohio, the daughter of Elizabeth (née Diesel) and Gerald Peters, a laundry manager. Raised on a small farm in East Canton, Peters attended East Canton High School. She was raised as a Methodist.[2] She went to college at the University of Michigan and later Ohio State University, where she studied to become a teacher and majored in literature.

While studying for a teaching degree at Ohio State, she entered and won the Miss Ohio State Pageant in the fall of 1945, besting eleven other finalists. She was awarded the grand prize of a screen test with 20th Century-Fox.[3]

As her agent, Robinson accompanied her to Hollywood, and helped her secure a seven-year contract with Fox. She dropped out of college to become an actress, a decision she later regretted.[3] (In the late 1940s, Peters returned to college, in between filming, to complete her work and obtain a degree.[4])

It was announced that in her first film I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now (1947), she would play an “ugly duckling”, supported by “artificial freckles and horn-rimmed glasses”.[5] She eventually withdrew from the film. Peters was tested in 1946 for a farm girl role in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948), but the producer and director decided she was not suitable.[6]

Peters was selected to replace Linda Darnell as the female lead in Captain from Castile (1947) opposite Tyrone Power, when Darnell was reassigned to save the production of Forever Amber. Although she had not yet made her screen debut, Peters was highly publicized. She received star treatment during the filming.[7]Captain from Castile was a hit. Leonard Maltin wrote that afterwards, Peters spent the new decade playing “sexy spitfires, often in period dramas and Westerns.”[8]

She was offered a similar role in the westernYellow Sky (1948), but she refused the part, explaining it was “too sexy”.[8] As a result, the studio, frustrated by her stubbornness, put her on her first suspension.[8]

For her second film, Deep Waters (1948), which Peters filmed in late 1947, she was reunited with her director from Captain from Castile, Henry King. On this, she commented: “It’s really a break for me, because he knows where he’s going and what he wants, and I naturally have great confidence in him.”[3] The film was not nearly as successful as Captain from Castile, but Peters was again noticed. She was named among the best five ‘finds’ of the year, among Barbara Bel Geddes, Valli, Richard Widmark and Wanda Hendrix.[9]

She was next assigned to co-star next to Clifton Webb in Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949), but Shirley Temple later replaced her.[10]

In early 1949 Peters signed on to play Ray Milland‘s love interest in It Happens Every Spring (1949). For the role, she offered to bleach her hair, but the studio overruled this.[8] Although the film became a success, most of the publicity was for Milland’s performance.

Peters next starred alongside Paul Douglas in the period film Love That Brute (1950), for which she had to wear a dress so snug she was unable to sit.[11] The film was originally titled Turned Up Toes, and Peters was cast in the film in June 1949, shortly after the release of It Happens Every Spring. To prepare for a singing and dancing scene, Peters took a few lessons with Betty Grable‘s dance instructor.[12]

By 1950, Peters was almost forgotten by the public, although she had been playing lead roles since 1947. In late 1950, she was cast in a secondary role as a college girl in Take Care of My Little Girl (1951), a Jeanne Crain vehicle.[13] A Long Beach newspaper reported that Peters gained her role by impressing Jean Negulesco with her sewing.[14] She once became famous for playing a simple country girl, but as she grew up, the studio did not find her any more suitable roles.[15]

. . . Jean Peters . . .

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. . . Jean Peters . . .

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