Saturday, September 07, 2013

Noir City - Peggie Castle

Peggie Castle, portrait of a dame

Ed here: Jake Hinkson's piece is one of the finest takes on an actresses' life I've ever read. Peggie Castle has always fascinated me. As Jake says there was more to her than simple beauty, a complex, even dark side that informed her work as an actress--the few times Hwood gave her a chance.

You can get Noir City from The Film Noir Foundation. It's always a must-read.

The Girl They Loved to Kill the many deaths of Peggie Castle Jake Hinkson

In Hollywood’s Golden Age, beauty was turned into a commodity, one found in abundance and renewed with each out-of-town bus. Thousands of lovely young women cycled through the system, had their physical attributes capital ized upon, and wound up back on the street with little more than the handful of cash it would take to get back home. Of these unlucky multitudes, few lived long enough to see themselves become a new kind of star: the rediscovered film noir icon, the object of scholarly study and geek adoration.

All scholarship and trivia aside, however, film noir is, in large part, a cult devoted to rescuing forgotten women from the obscurity that once seemed to be their final destiny. Because noir preserves these women primarily as symbols of sex, their onscreen legacy is lit with an especially erotic flame. This is certainly true of Peggie Castle, who came into the business as an 18-year old starlet, achieved moderate success as a femme fatale, and then found herself out of work by the age of 35. As a result, the images we have of her comprise a largely sexualized picture of a woman in her early twenties. What makes her legacy problematic, and fascinating, is the frequency with which this pretty picture is darkened by images of punishment and violence. Even in the fragile immortality granted by film, Peggie goes on dying, martyred again and again in misogynist fantasies of eroticized sadism.
You may not remember her. Most people don’t. She was never really a star, not even in the insular world of film noir, where she was usually cast as an easily dispos- able sex object. In her most famous scene, she was shot to death while doing a striptease. It was that kind of career.

Though a lot of actresses played the doomed bad girl, Peggie Castle seemed to embody the ethos somehow. Something about her seemed dangerous—which is another way of saying, perhaps, that something about her threatened men. With her low, smoky voice and skeptical green eyes, she wasn’t hot, she was cool. She never seemed to lose con- trol. Her sensuality always seemed to be hers to do with as she pleased, a tool to get what she wanted. If this was her innate quality as an actor, then she was made to suffer for it in film after film.

That cool quality seemed to reflect the real woman as well. Well-educated and ambitious, she had a caustic wit about most things, and she evinced few romantic illusions about the business she’d chosen for herself. “The difference between an old fashioned kiss and a movie kiss,” she said once, “is about 1500 feet of film.”

She lived a disconnected life from the beginning. Born Peggy (with a Y) Thomas Blair on December 22, 1927 in Appalachia, Virginia, she was the daughter of an industrial efficiency expert named Doyle Blair and his wife Elizabeth “Betty” Guntner. Doyle’s job kept the Blairs on the road with their only child. “The harder an efficiency expert works the sooner he’s out of a job,” she would later observe. “I attended 22 different schools while traveling from city to city with my I’ve got a ‘home town’ story for dozens of reporters.”

for the rest of this story and many other fine ones go here:

Summer 2013
10            Two-Bit Crimes how comics became “Adult entertainment” Steve Kronenberg
27            A Bird in the Hand the comics claim a classic
Steve Kronenberg
29            Louis Faurer overlooked master of “new York noir” Don Malcolm
32            Julius Knipl ben Katchor's lost-and-found, Pulp-Surrealist new York Don Malcolm
37            Noir Without Words Wordless novels, the Great depression, and the Passion of dark Journeys Don Malcolm
42            The Girl They Loved to Kill the many deaths of Peggie castle Jake Hinkson
54            Dying by the Numbers Force of Evil and the death of enterprise Studios John McElwee
*clicking title jumps to article 3                  noircitY i Summer2013 i
5            Letter from the Publisher 7            This Just In...
the latest news from the film noir foundation
108            I Wake Up Screening Stoker and The Place Beyond the Pines
Kelly Vance
110            Now on DVD Side Effects
Anastasia Lin
111            Book Reviews 114            Keenan’s Korner on Crime Fiction
Fiction and Mixology courtesy of Vince Keenan
116            Real Life Noir True life images from vintage crime blotters of the past
Cover and TOC image © 2013 by William M. Gaines, Agent, Inc.
61            Dark Roots christopher nolan and noir
Jason Ney
73            The Edge of Sleaze b-noir, exploitation, and the 1960s Don L. Stradley
86            Noir in the Sixties the mainstream trickles out
Don Malcolm
95            All the World's a Ring boxing noir on Stage
Dan Akira Nishimura
97            Form and Function documenting the noir metropolis via the Southern california edison Archive Dan Akira Nishimura
70            Avatar of Future Noir An interview with Warren hammond Jason Ney
99            Laurie Pincus A child's Garden of noir
Dan Akira Nishimura
102            Mark Osteen Gives it Up! An interview with the Author of Nightmare Alley Anne M. Hockens
Museum of Film Noir
Carl Steward


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