Susan Peters Profile

Susan Peters
Susan Peters
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(Suzanne Carnahan)
3 July 21 is born in Spokane, Washington, the oldest child of Robert and Abby James Carnahan; they are of Irish and French descent. Her brother, Robert, Jr., is two years younger. Her mother is a grandniece of General Robert E. Lee and a granddaughter of the Civil War General J.T. Carnahan. Her father is a civil engineer. Shortly after her birth, the family moves to Portland, Oregon.
28 / 33 her father is killed in an auto accident, something she never recovers from. The family moves to Los Angeles to live with her French-born grandmother, Madame Maria Patteneaude, a well-known dermatologist. Her mother takes a job in a dress shop and later manages an apartment building.
35 growing up, she and her brother Bob spend as much time as possible outdoors. An excellent athlete, she excels at swimming and tennis. Rides horseback so well that by age 14, she starts earning money by breaking and showing other people’s horses.
30s attends the Laird Hall School for Girls, the LaRue School in Azusa, Flintridge Sacred Heart, and Hollywood High School
Late 30s holds part-time jobs during summer vacations as an elevator operator and package wrapper at Roos Brothers Department Store. She plans to become a doctor.
39 during her senior year at Hollywood High, she takes a drama course instead of a cooking class because she thinks it will be easier and more beneficial. Acting means money, something her family always seems to need. Performing in a school play, she is spotted by talent scout Lee Sholem. The next day, he takes her to see producer Sol Lesser regarding a role in Thorton Wilder’s Our Town; the role goes to Martha Scott.
signs with an agent
June 39 graduates from Hollywood High. Fellow classmates are Jason Robards, Jr., Sheila Ryan, Dorothy Morris, and Lois Ransom
39 writer Salka Viertel, a friend of the family and Greta Garbo’s confidante-advisor, introduces her to director George Cukor while they have lunch in the MGM commissary. Cukor is preparing for the Joan Crawford film Susan and God and asks her and Gloria DeHaven to read for minor roles in the film, for which they are chosen. Cukor sends her to study with dramatic coach Gertrude Vogler. Cukor tells her she will be all right as long as she does not talk through her nose. He feels her voice does not flow - it squeals.
Salka Viertel, a former actress with Max Reinhardt, arranges for her to attend the Max Reinhardt School of Dramatic Arts on a scholarship
is "rediscovered" by Warner Brothers talent scout Solly Baiano while she’s performing in a showcase production of Philip Barry’s Holiday
director Vincent Sherman tests her in scenes from So Red the Rose and the deathbed scene from Our Town
40 is put under contract by Warner Brothers. Jack L. Warner suggests she change her name to Sharon O’Keefe, a name she hates; she will remain Suzanne Carnahan a while longer. She gives herself three years to make good. If she doesn’t make it as an actress by then, she figures that at least she will have earned enough to pay for medical school.
41 tests for a role in One Foot in Heaven. She is mentioned by Jack Warner for a possible role in King’s Row; Betty Field is eventually cast.
many at Warners rave about her test for a role in Sergeant York, opposite Gary Cooper. She believes the part is hers until she reads in Louella Parson's column that the star-making role has been given to sixteen-year-old Joan Leslie.
Warner Brothers convinces her to change her name to Susan Peters
shares a Laurel Canyon house with two other Warner Brothers starlets, Ann Edmonds and Jean Ames
42 Warner Brothers does not renew her contract. They seem at a loss as to how to handle her career. She is discouraged and says that if nothing happens within the next six months, she will leave the acting business and enter pre-med school. Before the six months are up, gets a call from MGM. They want her for a role in Tish. During preproduction conferences in the office of director S. Sylvan Simoris, she meets actor Richard Quine, and a romance begins. MGM is very impressed with her performance in Tish and offers her a contract.
again acts with Quine in Dr. Gillespie’s New Assistant. During the filming, the two become engaged.
her performance as Kitty in Random Harvest, which stars Ronald Colman and Greer Garson, nabs her a supporting nomination for an Oscar. She is in good company - the other nominees are Gladys Cooper, Agnes Moorhead, Dame May Whitty, and Teresa Wright (the winner for Mrs. Miniver). She almost loses the part to Ann Richards because of Richards'; resemblance to Greer Garson - Kitty is supposed to remind Ronald Colman of his earlier love, Garson. Richards is assigned a role as one of Colman''s relatives.
2 July 43 is on the cover of Yank, the Army Weekly
11 July 43 marries Richard Quine, who is presently in the U.S. Coast Guard, at the Westwood Community Church in West Los Angeles. There is a huge gathering of friends, fans, and the press. She wears her great-grandmother’s wedding dress. Their close friend Cesar Romero, also in the Coast Guard, is best man. She wants to work two more years and then raise a family. They reside in Beverly Hills; she raises racing horses and continues her love of outdoor life.
44 is replaced by Donna Reed for the film Gentle Annie due to complications following a miscarriage. For a while, it is feared she will not pull through; she’s off the screen for nearly a year.
1 January 45 with Richard Quine, his cousin Tom Quine and his wife Mary Lou, she embarks on a duck-hunting trip to the Cuyamaca Mountains near San Diego. She reaches to the ground for her 22-caliber rifle, and it accidentally discharges. The bullet lodges in her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. She is rushed to Mercy Hospital, some 65 miles away; an emergency operation is performed. Never a quitter, she tells herself she will come through the accident and will walk again. Lana Turner tells Louella Parson’s readers that she and Turhan Bey had planned to go on the hunting trip, but Bey was taken ill.
45 MGM pays all of her hospital bills and keeps her on a $100 weekly salary for an indefinite period; her career is stymied since future roles will be limited
expresses an interest in doing the story of pop singer Connee Boswell and the life of Nellie Revell, a newspaper woman who continued her career even when bedridden, but both projects fall through
4 December 45 goes to pieces when her mother dies of a heart attack at age 52
17 April 46 she and Richard Quine adopt a baby boy, Timothy Richard Quine
46 radio offers begin pouring in. She’s scared of facing the audience in a wheelchair; her hand shakes so that she can barely hold her script. She still thinks she will walk again and scoffs at the doctors who tell her otherwise. She surprises them by taking a few steps.
feels she does pretty well running the house from a wheelchair; there is usually a phone within her reach. Her car is specially equipped so that she can drive it using hand controls
the producer-director team of Joe Pasternack and Henry Koster want her for The Unfinished Dance, a story about a famous ballerina who suffers a spinal injury. She rejects the idea, and the role goes to Karin Booth. She does not want to trade on her handicap by playing crippled girls; she breaks her MGM contract.
Late 46 or Early 47 Susan and Richard Quine make their first public appearance since the accident with Lucille Ball at the opening of Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra at Ciro’s. Lucy and Desi encourage her to return to work
46 asks Richard Quine for a divorce. No one is able to talk her out of it. She feels they could probably live together for eight years, but the marriage is not going well. She thinks they should end it while both are young enough to make new lives and before their son is old enough to be hurt by the separation. Quine fears people will think he walked out on Susan, he tells Louella Parsons. He makes it clear the divorce is strictly her idea.
July 47 actor Charles Bickford brings to her attention a novel he has just read, Sign of the Ram, by Margaret Ferguson. The leading character is a paralyzed woman who wrecks her family by domination and murder. She discusses the novel with her agent, Frank Orsatti, who in turn interests producer-director Irving Cummings. A deal is set with Columbia Studios. Columbia players such as Glenn Ford, Evelyn Keyes, Larry Parks, Cornel Wilde, Ginger Rogers and co-stars Alexander Knox and Peggy Ann Garner greet her on her first day on the set. She knows people will come to see how she looks in a wheelchair, but if they leave thinking she’s an actress, she’ll be satisfied. The production is grueling on her. She has to have her husband or her aunt, Mary Carnahan, a trained nurse, with her throughout filming.
September 48 the Quines divorce
49? opens at Hollywood’s Ivar Theatre in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. She says she would never have had the guts to go on stage if she had not been paralyzed. She receives a spontaneous standing ovation, led by Richard Quine; it takes her by surprise.
49? takes the play on tour of the East Coast summer theaters, including Cape Cod
50 stars in the romantic comedy The Barretts of Wimpole Street in Princeton, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. She receives good reviews. Her brother Bob and his wife accompany her. The show is very taxing, and plans for a Broadway revival are cancelled.
would like to do more stage work, but she is not pleased with the melodramatic offers she receives
March 51 signs with NBC-TV to star in a 15-minute, Philadelphia-based daytime soap opera, "Miss Susan," playing a lawyer confined to a wheelchair who works out the problems of those about her
December 51 suffers a relapse, some say due to the Philadelphia winter weather. She is forced to abandon the series and enter a sanitarium.
End 51 or early 52 she and Army Colonel Robert Clark announce plans to marry, but the plans are called off. She worries about her failing health and broken engagement.
52 goes to her brother’s cattle ranch in Lemon Grove, California, and becomes reclusive
enters an Exeter, California, hospital for a delicate skin graft. She has lost a lot of weight and is very weak.
August 52 feels better for a while and makes plans to return to the stage in another tour of The Barretts of Wimpole Street; however, she fails to gain weight and often complains of exhaustion. She continues to deteriorate, becoming physically frail and psychologically shattered, and develops anorexia nervosa.
23 September 52 tells her physician, Dr. Manchester, "I’m getting awfully tired. I think it would be better if I did die."
23 October 52 is brought to the hospital in a "terminal stage of illness." The primary cause of death is listed as chronic kidney ailment and bronchial pneumonia. Dr. Manchester says, "I felt she had lost the will to live."
October 52 is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Glendale, Whispering Pines, near the Finding of Moses statue/pond
65 Richard Quine marries recording artist Fran Jeffries
10 June 89 Richard Quine commits suicide with a gun
Movie Stars of the Forties by David Ragan, Fallen Angels by Kirk Crivello,
Recommended Books:
Fallen Angels by Kirk Crivello