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Susan Peters — Remembering the Short Life and Tragic Death of the '40s Hollywood Star

Laura Beatham
Jan 18, 2021
02:40 A.M.
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Susan Peters was a Hollywood Movie star from the 1940s; her career had just started to take off when she died tragically at the age of 31.


Susan Peters had just started to see success within the Hollywood movie scene. However, her life was cut short after a tragic accident left her wheelchair-bound.

She was born Susan Carnahanon on July 3, 1921, in Spokane, Washington. Her father had been killed in a car accident in 1928, and so the remaining family, her mom and two siblings, relocated to Los Angeles to live with her grandmother.

Susan Peters waring a beret in 1940s. | Photo: Getty Images


After finishing high school at Hollywood High School, she went to study at the Max Reinhart's School of Dramatic Arts. She was spotted and signed by Warner Bros. after a casting agent watched her performance in a showcase.

During the first two years of her career, she got almost no speaking roles and was usually cast as an extra. She has been quoted saying that the "failure" had been a good thing. Part of her quote reads:

"The best thing that ever happened to me was being a failure during my first two years on the screen. That gave me a sense of proportion and balance."

A poster of Humphrey Bogarts "The Big Shot" when it was titled "La Caid." | Photo: Getty Images


However, her apparent failure in Hollywood did not last long as she was soon cast in the Humphrey Bogart 1942 film "The Big Shot." She was cast as the second female lead.

Shortly after, her contract was dropped by Warner Bros. and picked up by MGM. MGM adopted a new stage name for her, and so she became "Susan Peters."

Unfortunately, tragedy would strike the young actress on New Year's Day, 1945.

A poster of "Song of Russia," where she co-starred with Robert Taylor. | Photo: Getty Images


She would co-star with her future husband, Richard Quine, in the film "Tish." The couple then appeared in the 1942 film "Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant." The following year, they were married.

Her career would continue to blossom as she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the profoundly moving film "Randon Harvest." Carla Valderrama, author of "This Was Hollywood," described her performance as:

"When you see her films today, you’re just blown away by her performance. She comes across as so modern and natural. You can’t help but keep your eyes on her."

Susan Peters and her husband, Richard Quine. | Photo: Getty Images


She would go on to produce amazing performances in films such as "Assignment in Brittany," "Young Ideas," and "Song of Russia" from the years 1942-1944,

Unfortunately, tragedy would strike the young actress on New Year's Day, 1945. The married couple had been out duck hunting, which led to a shooting accident that left the actress paralyzed from the waist down.

Susan Peters writing from a Hospital cart in her home. | Photo: Getty Images


Her career was never the same as she turned down many scripts for films as she did not want to play the "girl in the wheelchair." She turned to the stage and played Laura in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," among other roles.

Later at age 31, she would pass away from kidney failure and starvation. Her doctor had said she had given up the will to live as she had stopped eating and drinking toward the end of her life.