“That Red-Headed Girl” – Peggy Shannon (1907 – 1941)

Posted in Rewind by - February 27, 2017
“That Red-Headed Girl” – Peggy Shannon (1907 – 1941)

Beautiful red-head Peggy Shannon showed a fair amount of talent and appeal in her 10 year movie career. But sadly her personal problems and a serious battle with the bottle, would bring a halt to that career, and ultimately her life.

Born Winona Sammon on January 10th 1907, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Peggy Shannon was discovered at 16 by producer Flo Ziegfeld who hired her as a chorus girl in The Ziegfeld Follies. After a stint on Broadway, Peggy signed a contract with Paramount in 1931, and was touted as the new Clara Bow. Her first movie was ‘The Secret Call’ (’31) with Richard Arlen, a tale of suicide and revenge that sounds better than it is. A silly soaper followed with the clichéd drama ‘Hotel Continental’ (’32), but was no match for that same years star studded ‘Grand Hotel’. After co-starring with Spencer Tracy in a couple of minor melodrama’s, Peggy starred in one of cinemas first post-apocalyptic pictures; ‘Deluge’ (’33). A pretty exciting feature, it told the story of a tidal wave that wipes out New York City leaving a few survivors to battle with nature and each other. Peggy played a headstrong young woman who, after unwillingly becoming involved in a love triangle, decides (in the films rather downbeat ending) to swim off into the ocean.

A mystery followed with ‘The Devil’s Mate’ (’33) playing a newspaper reporter teaming up with Preston Foster’s cop to help find a murderer. Another so-called love triangle came next, this time set in the tropics, in ‘Fury of the Jungle’ (’33), before another stint as a reporter in ‘Back Page’ (’34), a watchable newspaper drama with a delightful turn from Shannon as a small-town journalist battling a big-time criminal. Up next was a ‘bad-girl’ part, as a scheming social-climber in ‘Fighting Lady’ (’35), before playing the niece of a bank robber looking for hidden loot in the rather tepid ‘Ellis Island’ (’36).

It was around this time that Peggy developed a serious drinking problem and her contract with Paramount came to an end. A failed return to Broadway and her divorce from actor Alan Davies affected her personal life and dwindling career, and Shannon only found smaller roles in lesser B-pictures. These included ‘Fixer Dugan’ (’39) as a lion-tamer, and the crime drama ‘The House Across the Bay’ (’40) with George Raft and Joan Bennett. Shannon’s last film appearance came in the 1940 film, ‘Triple Justice’, a watchable western from RKO with George O’Brien and Virginia Vale.

Sadly, just ten years after signing her first movie contract, Shannon’s second husband Albert G. Roberts, found Peggy dead at the kitchen table on May 11th 1941, cigarette in mouth and empty glass in hand. She was only 34. It transpired that Peggy had suffered a fatal heart attack due to a severe liver ailment. In another tragic footnote, Peggy’s husband shot himself in the same chair that he found her in, just 3 weeks later.

A gifted actress of stage and screen, Peggy Shannon could have become bigger than some of her more well-known contemporaries, but her inner demons put paid to any long-term career plan she had much earlier hoped for.

Favourite Movie: Deluge
Favourite Performance: Back Page

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