Day 14 of Noirvember: Sherry Peatty in The Killing (1956)

Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on a dame who’s not very nice, and that’s putting it mildly: Sherry Peatty in The Killing (1956).

Sherry Peatty. My Favorite Femme.


Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), recently released from prison, marshals a motley crew of men to carry out an intricately designed racetrack heist. The men aren’t criminals by nature; they each have their own reason for breaking the law – one is a bartender caring for his invalid wife, one is a beat cop with a sizable gambling debt, and one – George Peatty (Elisha Cook, Jr.) – is a mousy cashier with a sexy wife by the name of Sherry (Marie Windsor) – who wants and expects more than he’s able to give. Despite the elaborate nature of the plan and the attention to every detail, things don’t exactly turn out as intended. For anyone.


We first meet Sherry when her husband, George, arrives home from work. She’s lounging on a sofa in a dressing gown reading a magazine when he enters and greets her, giving her a kiss, inquiring after her health, and sharing that he hasn’t been feeling well. During the entire conversation, Sherry doesn’t once look up from her magazine, even when George hands her the cocktail she tells him to fix. Every word she says to him is either a direct insult or drips with sarcasm so heavy it practically needs its own resting place. Sherry is brimming with so much snark that even George asks the question that we’re all wondering: “Why did you marry me, anyway?”


She’s one of my very favorite femmes in all of film noir. She’s a smart-ass, with a complete lack of respect or regard for her husband, a shameless gold digger, and an adulteress. She’s also shrewd and fearless and can think on her feet, no matter what’s thrown at her. The bottom line is that she’s an absolute joy to watch, from start to unfortunate finish.


“I seem to recall you made a memorable statement, too, something about hitting it rich and having an apartment on Park Avenue and a different car for every day of the week. Not that I really care about such things, understand – not when I have a big, handsome intelligent brute like you.”


Marie Windsor was born Emily Marie Bertelson on December 11, 1922, in Marysvale, Utah. She was drawn to acting at a young age; her earliest performances were in the form of shows she staged herself on the porch of her Utah home. The future actress studied drama for two years at Brigham Young University; during this period, she also entered several beauty contests, winning the titles of “Miss Covered Wagon Days” and “Miss D. & R.G. Railroad.” Her prize for the latter contest was 99 silver dollars, which she used to buy luggage and move to Hollywood. Once in California, Emily was accepted as a student at the Maria Ouspenskaya School of Drama, and helped pay for her room and board at the Hollywood Studio Club by working as a Mocambo nightclub cigarette girl. This job led to her big break; one night, she met producer Arthur Hornblow, who arranged for an audition and a short time later, with her name now changed to Marie Windsor, she made her big screen debut as “Miss Carrot” in All American Co-ed (1941), starring Frances Langford. Near the end of the decade, Windsor starred with John Garfield in her first noir, Force of Evil (1948). The actress viewed The Killing as one of her favorite films. (Note: All of the movies I’m covering during Noirvember this year can be found on YouTube – except this one, which appears to have been removed. Hiss, boo.)

Join me in the shadows tomorrow for Day 15 (it’s half over already??) of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 14, 2021.

10 Responses to “Day 14 of Noirvember: Sherry Peatty in The Killing (1956)”

  1. How did Sherry get with George? Whatever brought them together has to be quite the story!

  2. I really enjoyed this caper movie. Everyone in it was great and it carried such an authenticity for me, at times, I felt like I was watching a docudrama. I am also blown away that Marie went to the Ouspenskaya School of Drama. Now, there was a formidable woman!

    • It’s one of my favorite films of all time — I can’t see it enough times. Funny you mentioned Ouspenskaya being formidable — Marie Windsor was quoted as saying that she was a “strange little creature who wore silver Indian rings and bracelets that jingled all the time, especially when she was giving a critique.” I love that image!

  3. This is one of my favorite caper movies; everyone is terrific. I didn’t know Maria Ouspenskaya had a dramatic school. Now, that was a formidable woman and only stamps Marie Windsor with the seal of approval.

    • It’s one of my favorites, too! Windsor said that Maria Ouspenskaya seemed to like her a lot, but she was “always working on me to deliver more inner energy.” Whatever that was, I guess Marie figured it out!

  4. She was so good in The Killing! Happy you highlighted her.

    Coincidentally, I visited her grave when I was traveling through Marysvale for work. I attached a picture.

    Anyway, thanks for your wonderful newsletter!

    -Elliot ________________________________

  5. I want to be Sherry when I grow up. You know, if I stop the movie before a certain point.

    I recorded The Killing off of a local channel a few weeks back as I suddenly realized that on the bad side of the parenting ledger, I have yet to make my daughter watch it.

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