Peggy is neither a Marilyn or a Jackie

 Posted by on January 7, 2009 at 12:17 pm  Characters
Jan 072009

Ken said she was Gertrude Stein, but he was being mean. Don said she was Irene Dunne, but he was being protective.

Gertrude Stein and Irene Dunne

Gertrude Stein and Irene Dunne

An interviewer called Elisabeth Moss “Hepburnesque” but I don’t see that.

Audrey Hepburnesque and Katharine Hepburnesque

Audrey Hepburnesque and Katharine Hepburnesque

At first I thought Peggy was Myrna Loy.

Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy

But now I’ve decided…

Theresa Wright.

She played "Peggy" in <b>The Best Years of Our Lives</b>.

She played Peggy in The Best Years of Our Lives.


  27 Responses to “Peggy is neither a Marilyn or a Jackie”

  1. Nice!

  2. Deb, yeah, it's one of those "coincidence–you be the judge" castings. MM seems to be full of them, don't it?

  3. Don may have been protective in naming Irene Dunne, but there may be more to it. The only other place I’ve heard Dunne mentioned in pop culture of late was in The Holiday, in which her defining characteristic is called “gumption.” Peggy certainly has gumption; it’s why Don respects, promotes and cares about her.

  4. Deb, yes! Teresa Wright also was “Charlie” in that great Hitchcock movie, “The Shadow of a Doubt, ” set in idyllic post-war Santa Rosa, CA, with Joseph Cotten playing the mysogynist-murderer Uncle Charlie (for whom the Teresa Wright character in the story is named). That film’s interesting because it explores what I call the “worm-in-the-apple “motif behind the picture-perfect surface which is also part of the MM storyline, and also because we have a heroine, who like Peggy, is certainly not androgynous, but whose version of femininity doesn’t necessarily toe the societal line. Both characters are working women in a man’s world and perhaps because of that circumstance, are grappling more intensely with their sense of self and what it means to be an authentic person, as well as a woman. Irene Dunn was definitely a great “lady” as well as having a wonderful gravitas, and I can see Peggy eventally growing into someone like her, but IMO, she’s still evolving and a little to youthful to fill those shoes just yet.

    • Yeah, she's great as Charlie, but the fact that she is famous for a character named "Peggy" really struck me, once I realized she was the right match for our Peggy.

  5. She has Bette Davis look. The only actress on the show that easily mirrors an actress of the past is January, IMO anyway.

  6. Shadow of a Doubt is one of the best Hitch’s. I think Teresa Wright is spot on.

  7. Yeah, that Vertigo thing baffles me, too. I find it hard to believe that MW went to film school — at USC, no less — and never saw Vertigo in one of his classes. That movie seems to be required viewing at every film program in the country. He must have been playing hooky the day they screened it…or he was high.

    The Teresa Wright comparison is spot on — she and Peggy have that same wide-eyed, blinding you with earnestness gaze. I think she played a similar character in Mrs. Miniver, too.

    • Yes she did, I was just thinking how Mrs. Miniver and TBYOOL bookend the war. She didn’t have much range as an actress; outside the blinding earnestness she didn’t go far, but she was awesome in that role.

  8. Irene Dunne was really good in My Favorite Wife. I just didn't see that she had enough darkness or quiet for Peggy there — admittedly, it's a comedy — which is why I agree with you on Wright, Deb. Nice match.

    I still think there's a bit of the Ingrid Bergman haunt to our girl Peggy, though. Something a little old-world, a quality of just missing the beat. It's what makes her beautiful to my eyes.

  9. I meant to add, that the four women pictured are neither Marilyn nor Jackie.

  10. Most women aren't either Jackie or Marilyn. There's more to life than just chocolate and vanilla. Anyone who knows people — not just women — knows that.

    With all of that said, I'm sorry to say that I am vanilla. Vanilla bean, but still: vanilla. 🙂

  11. Great pick. Theresa Wright is one of my favorite grown-up ingenue actresses. Her role in The Best Years of Our Lives showed real dimension, and she played wonderfully off actors like Joseph Cotton, Gary Cooper and Dana Andrews. (Jon Hamm actually has a little Dana Andrews in him, as well as Gregory Peck.)

    I still get a June Allyson vibe from Elisabeth, too.

  12. I had a slap-my-forehead, duh moment when I saw the name "Theresa Wright." That's a spot-on characterization both from "Best Years…" and <del datetime="2009-01-08T05:15:42+00:00">"Strangers on a Train,"</del> [corrected by Deborah: "Shadow of a Doubt"] two movies I love.

    What's great about both of them is that we see earnest and adorable Theresa go from being gullible and innocent to wise after a very hurtful situation. One, meeting and falling for a married guy who's unhappy and in a difficult situation; the other the betrayal of a beloved uncle.

    In each we see her change and mature from these experiences much as our Peggy has over the course of these last two seasons.

  13. Also, The Best Years of Our Lives was one of the more honest accounts (for its day) of the domestic aftermath of WWII, before the rosier view was substituted in the 50s.

    But Shadow of a Doubt does have that “worm-in-the-apple “motif SFCaramia. And that aspect was notable enough that the movie was one of the Hitch flicks in my high school film class.

    So Wright works on both levels. I don’t know that either movie was an influence on MW, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was familar with both (the crazy Vertigo exception notwithstanding).

  14. @ catherine #14:

    You mean "Shadow of a Doubt," right? "Strangers on a Train" starred Farley Granger and Robert Walker. Good movie, but different from the one with Joe Cotton and Teresa Wright.

    Peggy also gives me a bit of a Mia Farrow vibe. That is, a 1960s Farrow, not the one we know today. They both have a quirky-hipster-doofus-marches-to-her-own-beat thing that's hard to describe…except with a multiple hyphenate.

  15. Was reading the NY Times 2005 obit for Theresa Wright and wanted to share the following excerpt:

    “For all her allure as the fetching “girl next door,” Miss Wright fiercely fought not to be a glamour girl. She loathed pictures in bathing suits and interviews with fan magazines, and told Goldwyn as much. He assured her he was not of “the bathing suit school of Hollywood producers,” according to The Times in 1942, and promised to promote her more ethereal talents.

    ‘There would be no leg art, no whispered romances for the columnists, no orchid and ermine setting for her background,’ her contract stipulated, according to The Times. ”

    Isn’t that a great case of life imitating art–and vice-versa? It’s so Peggy-esque; seems like what our Peggy would demand if in fact she became a movice star.

    (Sadly, however, the obituary went on to say that Theresa paid a high price for her integrity, as Samuel Goldwyn terminated her contract in 1948 because she wasn’t publicizing her pics enough; she said the movies were to brazenly commercial.)

    I couldn’t get the link to work here, but it can easily be looked up on the Times website for the full obit–fascinating reading.

  16. D.Lipp: "the blinding earnestness."

    D.Draper: Heh.

  17. YES! Right on!

  18. Yes, one of my all time favorite movies. Especially when they see each other across the wedding scene. Yes, she is Peggy. But the one thing that may discount that is Our Peggy chose a career. This Peggy chose love.

  19. Yes, hullaballoo, you're right. Thanks for clearing that up!

  20. I feel the need to point out that the interviewer is only referring to Moss’s smile. I would guess, then, that he’s referring to Audrey. They do have similar smiles; they both beam.

    Does anyone else think the Irene Dunne comparison has a sort of maternal aspect to it? One of her most famous roles was as the lead in I Remember Mama, which I’ve never seen, but I’m going to take a wild guess that her character in that is very maternal. Also, someone mentioned My Favorite Wife, in which she has a few rather sweet scenes when she’s reunited with her children. I don’t know if this is what the writers were going for, but it intersects quite nicely with the maternal/parental aspect that Don’s positive relationships with women tend to have and with the ironically motherly role that Peggy has sort of begun to inhabit in her work life.

  21. What a fantastic comparison for Peggy – totally spot on. But I can't believe no one has mentioned Wright's role as Eleanor, Mrs. Lou Gehrig, in Pride of the Yankees. For the time it was another pretty independent female character – a woman who was a baseball fan and had no children, which was nearly a capital offense in the forties. She also showed amazing strength when Gehrig was making his famous final address and his wife was not supposed to know his illness was fatal. That shot of her standing alone in the corridor that led to the field was a stunningly heartbreaking moment. Very Peggy-like, IMHO (the strength, not the crying).

    Aside: I was at a business conference this weekend and got into a fantastic discussion of MM – particularly the rape of Joan and Peggy's "I had your baby and I gave it away confession." I've now decided, for better or for worse, that my estimation of a person' worth is in direct proportion to his/her love of MM.

  22. I don't exactly base my estimation of a person's worth on their love of MM, but I do put people into two distinct categories. Those who watch and love MM, and those who don't. It's one thing to have never seen the show, but those who have seen it and don't get it are obviously wired differently than I.

  23. I must semi-correct myself. I was just listening again to the TV Time Machine interview with MW (originally linked here at BoK), he calls TBYOOL one of his favorite movies.

  24. Though I love Theresa Wright (especially in the amazing Shadow of a Doubt), I have to say that I think Don got it right. There was not just sweetness and innocence in Irene Dunne, there was also confidence, talent, and ambition, along with a good dose of subtle sexuality. Retaining all those traits and still managing to be non-threatening is a balancing act that Dunne perfected, and that Peggy will have to learn.

  25. […] Gregory Peck and Grace Kelly have signed to star as Don and Betty Draper in a movie called Mad Men. Theresa Wright is in negotiations to play Peggy Olson. Hitchcock is […]

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