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Subject: Peggy Moran, 84; Horror Film Scream Queen

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Date Posted: October 31, 2002 6:09:17 EDT

Peggy Moran, once dubbed one of Hollywood's top "shrieking violets" for her work in the much-loved cult favorite "The Mummy's Hand" and other horror films of the early 1940s, has died. She was 84.

Moran, whose meteoric career included 39 films but ended abruptly with her marriage in 1942, died Friday in Camarillo. Her son, Peter Koster of Oakland, said she died of complications from injuries suffered in an automobile accident Aug. 26.

Among Moran's handful of other horror movies were "Horror Island" and, through footage from "The Mummy's Hand" the subsequent "The Mummy's Tomb."

There were many, many other films during the brunet beauty's six-month contract to Warner Bros. and three years with Universal in an era when a B picture could be churned out in a mere two or three weeks.

Among Moran's credits were Ernst Lubitch's 1939 "Ninotchka," starring a luminous Greta Garbo, the adventure film "Drums of the Congo" and westerns including "Rhythm of the Saddle," opposite Gene Autry, and "King of the Cowboys," opposite Roy Rogers.

Moran co-starred in comedies such as "One Night in the Tropics," which was Abbott and Costello's screen debut but was so bad in her opinion that she and fellow cast member Robert Cummings called it "One Night in the Flopics."

She was even less impressed with her most memorable picture, "The Mummy's Hand," calling it "probably the worst picture I ever made ... a lousy picture."

But it is cable television's fond replaying of that film, featuring Moran as Marta Solvani, who shrieks fetchingly when a mummy invades her tent during an Egyptian expedition, that rekindled the actress' fame and made her a latter-day object of fans' adulation. She was flown to conventions all over the country, and was invited last year to Universal's premier of its computer-enhanced "The Mummy Returns," starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz.

Born Marie Jeanette Moran in Clinton, Iowa -- and known as Peggy throughout her life -- the future actress was the daughter of ex-dancer Louise Scott and pinup artist Earl Moran, who divorced when she was 5. Her mother brought her to Hollywood, and at age 6 she encountered a psychic who looked at her and said, "Ah, an actress."

She took every drama class and acted in every play available at John Marshall High School, and after graduation was hired by studios.

But her busy career ended abruptly with a marriage proposal and a somewhat deceptive promise from Harry Koster, director of such classics as "Harvey," starring James Stewart, and "The Bishop's Wife," starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven.

"He asked me to give up my career," she told The Times in 2000, "but he promised he'd put me in every movie he made from then on."

He did -- sort of. Koster had a bust made of Moran's head, and the bust appeared in all of his films made after their marriage.

"It didn't matter," she told a fan Web site recently. "I had such a wonderful life with him, and I was always on the set. In Hollywood, we were known as the closest couple there was."

Widowed by Koster's death in 1988, she is survived by her son, Peter, and her stepson, Bob Koster of Camarillo.

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