Windsor, Marie


Windsor, Marie
(1922–2001)
   Marie Windsor was born Emily Marie Bertleson on December 11, 1922, in Marysvale, Utah. She attended Brigham Young University and trained as an actress with character actress Maria Ouspenskaya. After years of stage and radio experience, she broke into films, where she began getting featured roles in 1947 with Song of the Thin Man, a FILM NOIR starring William Powell as the private eye from Dashiell Hammett’s novel. She appeared in the classic noir Narrow Margin (1952). Windsor, who appears in JAN HARLAN’s 2001 documentary STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES, recalled that Stanley Kubrick viewed Narrow Margin when he was casting for Sherry, the femme fatale in THE KILLING (1956), and said to his coproducer JAMES B. HARRIS, “That’s my Sherry. ”
   Windsor told Peter Bogdanovich that she remembered Kubrick as unlike any other director she had worked with. “He always wore those tan pants that laborers wear; I never saw him out of them. ” He was a gentle, quiet man, who never yelled at the crew. “When he had some idea for me to do or change something, he would wiggle his finger and we would go away from the action and he would tell me what he wanted,” she said. “He didn’t direct you in front of the crew. ” In Harlan’s documentary she adds,“He was a kid with tremendous confidence. ”
   In the movie, Johnny Clay (STERLING HAYDEN) plans a robbery at a racetrack, and Sherry’s husband, George Peatty (ELISHA COOK JR. ) is in on it. George, a milquetoast, comes home from his job at the track as a betting-window teller to find Sherry sprawled on the couch reading a magazine. Windsor told Bogdanovich that Kubrick, always a stickler for realistic detail, said to her when rehearsing this scene,“I want you to move your eyes when you’re reading. ” In this scene, Kubrick gives us a thumbnail sketch of their unhappy marriage in just a few lines of dialogue. Trying to lure his wife’s attention away from the pulp magazine she is reading, George opens with, “I saw something sweet on the way home tonight. ”“Was it a candy bar, George?” she asks without looking up (and moving her eyes as she reads). Undaunted, George goes on, “It was a couple sitting in front of me on the train. They called each other papa and mama. ” “Is that what you want us to do, George?” she asks in a voice dripping with condescension. “Forget it, Sherry. What’s for dinner?” he replies. “Steak. If you can’t smell it cooking, it’s because it’s still down at the supermarket. ”
   Their conversation, comments MARIO FALSETTO, concerns the lack of love and money in their marriage and the obvious disappointments of their life together. As Sherry continues her put-downs and pouting, George hints that everything will change after the planned robbery and mentions a meeting later that evening with Johnny and the group. The only possible weakness in the film is the implausibility of Sherry’s marrying George in the first place: He obviously cannot satisfy her lust for sex (she cheats on him repeatedly) or for money. But the two performers breathe a great deal of credibility into their handling of these scenes, particularly Marie Windsor. She is made up to look slightly tarnished, complete with garish blonde hair and a gaudy frock, in order to suggest the stereotypical slut. In other words, Kubrick wanted her to look as tawdry as the Peattys’ shabby apartment.
   Later that evening Sherry tells her lover Val (VINCE EDWARDS), a cheap gangster, what she has picked up from George about the racetrack caper. Falsetto points out the "disparity between the youthful,muscular Val and the older Sherry. " Little wonder that she is as submissive to Val as George is to her. George attends the meeting at which Johnny, the mastermind, lays out the plans for the robbery. Sherry unexpectedly interrupts these deliberations when she is heard snooping around in the corridor outside the apartment. George weakly whimpers that she must have found the address while going through his pockets, since she is a very jealous wife. This incident shakes the whole group’s sense of security about the venture, but Johnny is able to reconfirm their confidence that the plan has not been damaged by Sherry’s interference.
   The group eventually disperses, and Marvin, one of the conspirators, goes out onto the street to smoke a cigarette. As he leaves the building, he passes a parked car, and Kubrick’s camera moves in to show Val, Sherry’s boyfriend, and one of his henchmen casing the place.
   Back home, George presses Sherry to find out if Johnny tried anything with her, and she denies it. Given Johnny’s scorn for Sherry, she is probably telling the truth for once. George nonetheless is thinking of pulling out of the whole deal because of the harsh way in which Clay treated them both. But Sherry, getting into bed and pulling George toward her in a fatuous embrace, gets him to agree to stick with the gang for their cut of the swag. Sherry, of course, spills the beans about the robbery to Val, who throws a wrench in the works. The heist goes off as planned, but when the gang meets later to divide the swag, Sherry’s boyfriend and his goons come in and attempt to steal it away from them. Everyone is killed, except Johnny, who shows up later, and George, who limps home to murder the unfaithful Sherry, for blabbing and cheating on him. Barry Gifford notes, “Marie Windsor is, as always, the big-breasted blonde who falls for the wrong guy”—in this case,Val. Even Johnny could not have predicted that Sherry’s liaison with Val would result in a massacre after the heist.
   When the mortally wounded George lurches into the apartment, Sherry is packing a suitcase—unaware that she is not going away with Val and the loot, because he has been killed in the shootout. George stumbles into their bedroom leaking blood. As she spies the gun in George’s hand, she instantly realizes that the jig is up; desperately, hopelessly, she endeavors to reason with her vengeful husband. To no avail. “Why did ya do it, Sherry? I never loved anyone but you,” George mumbles painfully, as he pumps bullets into her; it is the logical consummation of their wretched marriage. As Sherry crumples to the floor, a look of dismay and consternation steals across her face: Sherry learns—too late—that the worm has finally turned.
   Asked if she was aware that she was working in the genre of film noir, she responded, “As far as I know, nobody put a name to it at that time. As for The Killing, “I just thought it was interesting photography and it was a job. ”
   Windsor continued to make noir films like John Farrow’s Unholy Wife (1957), opposite Rod Steiger, and westerns like Cahill, U. S. Marshall (1973) with John Wayne. Her last film was Commando Squad (1987). Although she appeared in only a few scenes in The Killing, the part of Sherry Peatty proved the most significant role of her career. In this regard, Marie Windsor exemplifies the fact that the size of a part does not matter, if one is under the direction of an expert like Stanley Kubrick. Her riveting portrayal of Sherry Peatty won her a place in film history as the quintessential femme fatale.
   References
   ■ Bogdanovich, Peter, “What They Say about Stanley Kubrick. ” New York Times Magazine, July 4, 1999, pp. 18–25, 40, 47–48;
   ■ Falsetto, Mario, Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis (Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 1994), pp. 30–33;
   ■ Gifford, Barry, Out of the Past:Adventures in Film Noir (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), pp. 99–100.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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