Peters had already established herself as one of the finest young actors in Hollywood when, at just 21, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards for her role in 1942’s acclaimed drama Random Harvest. Afterward, her studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer elevated her to the studio’s official “star” category, and she turned in a slew of fantastic performances in everything from comedies to war films.
On New Year’s Day in 1945, Peters and her husband were hunting ducks when she reached for a rifle that accidentally fired a bullet into her abdomen. She was raced to the hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery. She survived, but the gunshot left her permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
The years that followed were difficult for Peters. Her beloved mother died, she and her husband divorced, and she left MGM, unhappy with the roles she was offered. She had professional successes — notably playing Laura in a stage production of The Glass Menagerie — but she soon fell into a deep depression and stopped eating and drinking as much as she should. According to her doctor, this hastened her death from a kidney infection (a condition brought on by her paralysis) and pneumonia. She was just 31.