Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Peggy Cummins Twin Bill

American viewers probably know Peggy Cummins best from the film noir classic Gun Crazy (1950), Curse of the Demon (1958), and The Late George Apley (1947). However, despite appearing in only 26 films, the enchanting actress was a steady presence in British cinema in the 1950s. I recentlycaught two comedies from that decade which paired her with Terence Morgan.

Always a Bride (1953). Peggy Cummins as a con artist? In this amusing comedy, she plays a daughter who reluctantly teams with her grifter father. One of their scams involves checking into a luxury hotel as newlyweds--with the groom (her father) allegedly stealing his young wife's fortune and abandoning her. She then "steals" from the hotel guests who willingly donate money to help out the destitute "bride." Problems arise when Clare (Cummins) falls in love with one of her fraud victims, an earnest treasury employee named Terence Wench (Terence Morgan). When a guilt-ridden Clare disappears, Terence pursues her--while Clare's father teams up with old cronies for one last big sting.

Terence Morgan.
Running a tight 82 minutes, Always a Bride capitalizes on its versatile cast. Peggy Cummins and Terence Morgan make an appealing couple; his offbeat charm reminds me very much of Michael Wilding's police detective in Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950). Cummins, meanwhile, taps into her vulnerable side in a role that's the direct opposite of her bad girl in Gun Crazy. While they provide the film's romance, Ronald Squire has a grand time as Clare's rascally father. Assisted by a bevy of old pros, he makes Always a Bride fun to watch as his grand money-making scheme spirals out of control. (By the way, look fast for Sebastian Cabot as a taxi driver.) If you enjoy Ealing's 1950s comedies, be sure to check out Always a Bride, which is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The March Hare (1956). This disappointing reteaming of Peggy Cummins and Terence Morgan gets off to a decent start when Morgan's character, a young Irish baronet, loses his estate betting on his race horse. His aunt (Martita Hunt from Brides of Dracula) buys him a promising colt and hires Lazy Mangan (Cyril Cusack) to raise and train it. I don't know about you, but I'd be wary about employing someone called "Lazy" and who is well known for his propensity to spend hours at the pub. Meanwhile, a wealthy American rents the estate and his lovely daughter (Cummins) catches the baronet's eye.

Cyril Cusack as Lazy Mangan.
The biggest problem with The March Hare is that there's too little of Peggy Cummins and too much of Cyril Cusack. The latter chews up several pastures of scenery--at least I think he does. It's actually hard to understand most of his line readings given his heavy accent and the character's perpetual drunken state.

Although its running time is only three minutes longer than Always a Bride, The March Hare is quite a slog. And if you're wondering what the title means, I'll save you the effort of watching: It's the name of the horse. Really.


  1. I'll definitely have to check out "Alway a Bride". As if Peggy wasn't enough of a draw, your comparing Mr. Morgan to Mr. Wilding in "Stage Fright" sealed the deal.

  2. I've only ever seen Peggy Cummings in Gun Crazy, so I'm keen to check out Always a Bride. I'm a sucker for money-making-schemes-gone-wrong kind of movies.

  3. I totally agree with your assessment of both films. I do so enjoy seeing Peggy Cummins grace the screen, even if today it's only on my television. "Always a Bride" is a fun little gem.