Jean Peters at Fox: Anne of the Indies (1951) + A Man Called Peter (1955)

July 31, 2019 | By

Jean Peters may have preferred it otherwise, but the Fox contract player would always be tied to Howard Hughes, the billionaire industrialist, whom she remained married from 1957-1971 – the lengthy period when Hughes became a recluse, and whose final years were documented in the sad, tragic book Citizen Hughes (1985) by Michael Drosnin.

Peters never spoke of her time with Hughes – a stance of respect, and stern decision to allow her work to transcend the inevitable gossip, speculation, and fascination which (obviously) still endures. Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004) covers a wide spectrum of Hughes’ career as aviator, record breaker, designer, financier, and the beginnings of his ruinous tenure at RKO, but the film stops short of the 1950s when his last marriage also carried the retirement of Fox’s most promising and likable stars.


Jean Peters as feisty Catana in CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE (1947).


Historians can qualify whether Peters’ ascension within the studio was unusual or just rare, but making her debut in Captain from Castile (1947), what was Fox’s most expensive epic co-starring with its main matinee idol Tyrone Power, and surrounded by an impeccable cast of character actors certainly differs from the slow build-up that preceded Marilyn Monroe in bit parts; the two actresses would in fact appear in the noir thriller Niagara (1953).

Whereas Monroe was transformed into the ultimate blonde bombshell in cinema (at least of the 1950s), Peters had gone through a variety of genres, building up a pretty diverse C.V. of roles in musicals, dramas, bipoics, romances, film noir, westerns, and playing a swashbuckling pirate in an otherwise male-dominated genre, and one in which women were wenches, chattel, and gave up their independence to bare-chested studs.


Jean Peters as the titular anti-heroine ANNE OF THE INDIES (1951).


Anne of the Indies (1951) is a much smarter take on the pirate movie, and although the eponymous anti-heroine does fall for a lithe, smooth-talking scoundrel (Louis Jourdan), she doesn’t lose her mean streak when she’s attracted to him, distrusts him, buys into an agreement, and exacts cruel revenge for betrayal; even when she sacrifices others in a rather preposterous salute to heart and soul, she stands tall with her saber in the air, and a defiant ‘Up Yours’ smile to her challenger.

In Indies, there are shades of Geena Davis in the bloatwed, deeply flawed, but heroine-dominant Cutthroat Island (1995); you wonder if the writers of the latter film also used real life pirate Anne Bonny as their archetype, the inspiration for the Peters film, but where Cutthroat blew a record fortune on a massive budget of sets, boats, and pyrotechnics (the film helped kill indie studio Carolco), Indies was a smaller, more humble production.

Indies relies on solid archetypes, a very lean story of betrayal, and the charisma of Peters, who manages to carry the film as young woman raised to be a rebel, and eschews kindness and any interest in joining the civil world of the French or the British, whose ruling elite were comprised of selfish, conniving, manipulative upper-class shits.

Anne of the Indies isn’t a B picture, but this tight A- production deserves a proper Blu-ray release, and a commentary by a historian well-versed in the history of Fox, the machinations of the Hollywood production system, and Peters as a star who decided to retire for reasons never fully detailed.


Jean Peters as Catherine Marshall in A MAN CALLED PETER (1955).


Peters’ last film was A Man Called Peter (1955), a biopic on Peter Marshall, a Scottish-born preacher whose meteoric rise from town minster to chaplain of the U.S. Senate was documented by his widow Catherine in a best-selling book. Peters played the devoted wife to the crusading Presbyterian, but the filmmakers took great care in presenting the couple as a team; Peter is still the centerpiece and the melodrama is vintage 1950s, but the pair’s struggle to find meaning when tragedy strikes and transcend stiff odds is, well, pretty fair.

Richard Todd and Jean Peters formed a perfect screen couple, and while designed as an inspirational tale for the faithful, it’s the performances and Todd’s superb oration of Marshall’s speeches that manage to poke a small hole through present day cynicism.

It’s also a beautifully rendered production, and Twilight Time’s Blu-ray showcases the film’s Oscar-nominated Cinematography. It is, in every way, a visually perfect film.

Coming next: Robowar (1988) from Severin, and J. Lee Thompson’s The Chairman (1969), new on Blu from Twilight Time.

Thanks for reading,



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Tags: , , , ,


Comments are closed.