Jean Peters


Actor
Jean Peters

About

Also Known As
Elizabeth Jean Peters
Birth Place
Canton, Ohio, USA
Born
October 15, 1926
Died
October 13, 2000
Cause of Death
Leukemia

Biography

One of many photogenic young women recruited by Hollywood during the 1940s, Jean Peters jumped right into lead roles her first time out via the Technicolor epic "Captain from Castile" (1947). Gifted with the sort of face that prompted studio executives to offer instant movie contracts, Peters was never very comfortable with the sort of beauty queen image Fox wanted and was essentially a ...

Photos & Videos

Viva Zapata! - Movie Posters
It Happens Every Spring - Movie Poster
Captain from Castile - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Stuart W Cramer III
Husband
Oilman. Married on May 29, 1954; divorced on December 9, 1955.
Howard Hughes
Husband
Businessman, film producer. First met in 1946; married on May 13, 1957; divorced in 1971; died in 1976.
Stanley Hough
Husband
Executive, producer. Married from August 1971 until his death in 1990; first met when he was an assistant director on "Captain From Castile".

Notes

"My life with Howard Hughes was and shall remain a matter on which I will have no comment." --Jean Peters to Newsweek, December 18, 1972.

Biography

One of many photogenic young women recruited by Hollywood during the 1940s, Jean Peters jumped right into lead roles her first time out via the Technicolor epic "Captain from Castile" (1947). Gifted with the sort of face that prompted studio executives to offer instant movie contracts, Peters was never very comfortable with the sort of beauty queen image Fox wanted and was essentially a tomboy off-screen. While Peters often expressed disdain for the parts Fox assigned, she was almost invariably able to fulfill their requirements and registered favorably in pictures as varied as the comedic "It Happens Every Spring" (1949), Elia Kazan's superb biopic "Viva Zapata!" (1952), the film noir classic "Pickup on South Street" (1953), and the picturesque romantic drama "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954). Ultimately, however, she decided to retire from acting in the mid-1950s at the young age of 29, despite having many more viable years as a leading lady. She eventually resurfaced after more than two decades out of the spotlight, but only appeared in a handful of television projects before retreating back into private life.

A native of Canton, OH, Elizabeth Jean Peters was born on Oct. 15, 1926. Peters' father died when she was 10 and she was largely raised by her mother on the family farm. A Methodist, Peters graduated from East Canton High School and began her post-secondary education at the University of Michigan, but ultimately finished up at Ohio State. Her goal was to become a teacher, but that all changed when a friend covertly entered her in the Miss Ohio State pageant. Peters was chosen for the honor and her new title included a contract with 20th Century Fox. Upon relocating to Los Angeles, Peters was given a screen test and made her film debut as the female lead in no less than the Tyrone Power period adventure "Captain from Castile" (1947). The lavish adventure was a box office disappointment in relation to its huge budget, but still offered a very well-publicized vehicle for a newcomer. In a 1948 issue of Photoplay, readers voted Peters the actress most likely to become a star. The lovely ingénue also attracted the attentions of notorious billionaire playboy Howard Hughes. The pair soon began dating and Hughes proposed the following year, but Peters declined, stating that she was too young for marriage.

Peters was not the usual contract player beauty of the time and regularly took issue with the sort of roles given to her. An unrepentant tomboy, she refused to adopt the sort of glamorous look in public that was de rigueur for leading ladies. In fact, Peters was most happy watching baseball games and was likely delighted when cast in "It Happens Every Spring" (1949), a pleasing comedy about a scientist (Ray Milland) whose new invention makes him an unbeatable major league pitcher. In another departure from the norm for most movie stars, Peters was never late for shooting and was affectionately known among the crews she worked with as "Punctual Pete." Pictures like "Love That Brute" (1950), "As Young as You Feel" (1950), and "Take Care of My Little Girl" (1951) offered her few challenges, but perhaps more so than any other actress on the Fox lot, Peters was a perfect choice to play female pirate captain "Anne of the Indies" (1951) and responded with a vivid and entertaining performance. Regardless, Peters continued to butt heads with the studio, which finally put her on suspension. A savior emerged in the form of director Elia Kazan, who decided that it was Peters he wanted to star opposite Marlon Brando in his historical biopic "Viva Zapata!" (1952). She did an admirable job as the famous Mexican revolutionary's love interest and Fox began to make regular use of Peters once again, notably in "Lure of the Wilderness" (1952), a Technicolor remake of the studio's 1941 production "Swamp Water."

The year 1953 proved to be an especially busy one for Peters. She co-starred with rising Fox starlet Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten in the gripping thriller "Niagara" (1953) and graced a trio of film noir thrillers. She was reteamed with Cotten in "A Blueprint for Murder" (1953) and had the title part in "Vicki" (1953), a new take on the company's Betty Grable vehicle "I Wake Up Screaming" from 1941. Most notably, Peters had one of her best roles from that period in Sam Fuller's superbly crafted thriller "Pickup on South Street" (1953) as an inadvertent aid to Communist spies. Off-screen, she also journeyed with fellow performers to Korea and entertained American troops stationed there. Other roles were not always as perfect a fit. Although Peters was well-suited to outdoor adventures, she was rather miscast as the Native American wife of Burt Lancaster in the Western "Apache" (1954) and did not have much to do as the romantic interest for Robert Wagner in "Broken Lance" (1954). She also reportedly had little interest in the part she was assigned for "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954), but the lovely romance/Italian travelogue went on to be a major success. The inspirational biographical drama "A Man Called Peter" (1955) turned out to be her swan song. Weary of clashing with the studio, Peters decided to leave the business.

She had continued to see Howard Hughes on and off during the previous eight years, while he quite openly dated other actresses - including Terry Moore, who later claimed to have tied the knot with Hughes in Mexico in 1949 - but was fed up with his reluctance to marry her. Instead, Peters walked down the aisle with Texas oilman Stuart Cramer III only a few days after first meeting him on an airplane. Their time together proved almost equally short when they separated after little more than a month. Although the pair eventually reconciled, problems arose once again and they divorced after 18 months. Peters claimed mental cruelty as the cause, but there was much speculation that Hughes was the true catalyst. Whatever the case, the billionaire finally agreed to wed Peters at the beginning of 1957. In accordance with his wishes, she abandoned her acting career and largely disappeared from view. Peters never commented on her days with Hughes, but it was speculated that the marriage was far from conventional, due to his pronounced eccentricities and habit of having her followed at virtually all times by men in his employ.

Under the name Elizabeth Peters, she took Sociology classes at UCLA in the1960s, but left when news got out about her true identity. Her union with Hughes officially ended in 1971 and Peters received a settlement of $70,000 a year for life. Two months after the papers were signed, she wed veteran Fox producer and executive Stanley Hough and the couple remained together until his death in 1990. After a gap of almost two decades, Peters returned to the world of acting with a role in the made-for-TV production "Winesburg, Ohio" (PBS, 1973). She also joined fellow veterans Kirk Douglas and Anne Baxter in the miniseries "Arthur Hailey's The Moneychangers" (NBC, 1976) and appeared as Priscilla in the biblical drama "Peter and Paul" (CBS, 1981), which was produced and co-written by Hough. Her closing credit came in a 1988 episode of the hit Angela Lansbury series "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996). Peters eventually did obtain the teaching degree she had sought earlier in life and also spent part of her later years doing charity work. She died of leukemia on Oct. 13, 2000, two days before what would have been her 74th birthday.

By John Charles

Life Events

1946

Won the Miss Ohio State popularity contest and received a trip to Hollywood

1947

Feature acting debut, "Captain From Castile", opposite Tyrone Power

1951

Received top billing in "Anne of the Indies"

1952

Cast opposite Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan's "Viva Zapata!"

1953

Co-starred in Samuel Fuller's "Pickup on South Street"

1955

Won critical acclaim for her performance in "A Man Called Peter", in what was to be her final film

1957

Secretly married Howard Hughes

1971

Revealed divorce from Hughes

1973

Returned to acting in the public television production of Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio"

1976

Made rare network TV appearance in the NBC miniseries "Arthur Hailey's 'The Moneychangers'"

1981

Acted in the CBS TV-movie "Peter and Paul", produced by her husband Stan Hough

1984

Made guest appearance on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS)

Photo Collections

Viva Zapata! - Movie Posters
Here are a few original movie posters from the 20th Century-Fox film Viva Zapata! (1952), starring Marlon Brando and Jean Peters.
It Happens Every Spring - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Fox's It Happens Every Spring (1949), starring Ray Milland. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Captain from Castile - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release movie posters from Captain from Castile (1947), starring Tyrone Power and Jean Peters.
Pickup on South Street - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Pickup on South Street (1953), directed by Sam Fuller. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Pickup on South Street - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters from Pickup on South Street (1953), starring Richard Widmark and Jean Peters and directed by Sam Fuller.

Videos

Movie Clip

Niagara (1953) - Won't You Kiss Me Honeymooners Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray (Casey Adams) and the whole gang at the cookout are wowed when Rose (Marilyn Monroe) appears in the famous pink dress, also singing, her husband skipping, early in Niagara, 1953.
Pickup On South Street (1953) - Come Back Right Away! Famous first scene in which Jean Peters and two FBI guys (Willis Bouchey, Jerry O'Sullivan) are among the straphangers, when pickpocket Richard Widmark appears, after which she calls Joey (Richard Kiley), in writer-director Samuel Fuller's Pickup On South Street, 1953.
Pickup On South Street (1953) - You Get Paid For It Frantic Candy (Jean Peters), trying to find her stolen wallet with the microfilm, visits first Lightning Louie (Victor Perry) then savvy Moe (Thelma Ritter) in Samuel Fuller's Pickup On South Street, 1953.
Pickup On South Street (1953) - A Girl Makes Mistakes Writer-director Sam Fuller is all business as pickpocket Skip (Richard Widmark) revives Candy (Jean Peters), having knocked her out when she arrived at his waterfront shack to retrieve her wallet, in Pickup On South Street, 1953.
Blueprint For Murder, A (1953) - Don't Touch My Feet! The opening from independent writer, producer and director Andrew L. Stone finds Joseph Cotten racing to the bedside of a niece, meeting Jean Peters as the stepmother, the widow of his late brother then, when the emergency subsides, with his nephew (Freddy Ridgeway), in A Blueprint For Murder, 1953, distributed by 20th Century-Fox.
Blueprint For Murder, A (1953) - It All Adds Up Delicate business as Jean Peters, as young stepmother Lynn Cameron, is grilled by police detectives (Jack Kruschen, Barney Phillips and Charles Tannen) who have reluctantly concluded she poisoned her stepdaughter, and her brother-in-law Cam (Joseph Cotten) dares not let on that he agrees, in Andrew L. Stone’s A Blueprint For Murder, 1953.
Niagara (1953) - Well Run Him Down To The Morgue A body fished from the falls, diabolical Rose (Marilyn Monroe) with detective Starkey (Denis O'Dea), expecting to I-D her husband, then hospitalized, friend Polly (Jean Peters) visiting, in Henry Hathaway's Niagara, 1953.
Viva Zapata! (1952) - They Have Five Legs Now fugitives, Zapata (Marlon Brando) and brother Eufemio (Anthony Quinn) accost Josefa (Jean Peters) in church, in Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata!, 1952, from John Steinbeck's original screenplay.
O. Henry's Full House (1952) - The Last Leaf From one of the best-known stories in the anthology, Jean Negulesco directing, sisters Susan (Jean Peters) and ailing Joanna (Anne Baxter) struggling to cope, the former then visiting their benevolent painter neighbor Behrman (Gregory Ratoff), in 20th Century-Fox’s O. Henry’s Full House, 1952.
Three Coins In The Fountain (1954) - Predatory Prince First scene for Clifton Webb as author Shadwell at a Rome social, then the three American heroines, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters and Maggie McNamara as "Maria," meeting Louis Jourdan, as suave prince "Dino," early in director Jean Negulesco's Three Coins In The Fountain, 1954.
Three Coins In The Fountain (1954) - Nothing Rushed In Rome American career gals in Rome, Maria (Maggie McNamara) has just joined Anita (Jean Peters) and "Miss" Frances (Dorothy McGuire), who introduce her to local economics and the Trevi fountain, early in director Jean Negulesco's wide-screen tourist melodrama Three Coins In The Fountain, 1954.
Apache (1954) - A Warrior's Peace Santos (Paul Guilfoyle) and Nalinle (Jean Peters) discover Massai (Burt Lancaster), escaped from his white captors and hiding in their tent, promoting a new idea, in Robert Aldrich's Apache, 1954.

Trailer

Family

Shirley Peters Cook
Sister
Born c. 1933; survived her.

Companions

Stuart W Cramer III
Husband
Oilman. Married on May 29, 1954; divorced on December 9, 1955.
Howard Hughes
Husband
Businessman, film producer. First met in 1946; married on May 13, 1957; divorced in 1971; died in 1976.
Stanley Hough
Husband
Executive, producer. Married from August 1971 until his death in 1990; first met when he was an assistant director on "Captain From Castile".

Bibliography

Notes

"My life with Howard Hughes was and shall remain a matter on which I will have no comment." --Jean Peters to Newsweek, December 18, 1972.