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November 4, 1939: Future Duluth film star wins a date with future “Uncle Fester” TV star

On this day in Duluth in 1939, Duluth’s Peggy Knudsen, then a student at Villa Sancta Scholastica (now the College of St. Scholastica) won a local contest sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and the Orpheum Theatre, and the prize was a date with film star Jackie Coogan. Coogan—who would portray TV’s “Uncle Fester” of “The Addams Family” in the 1960s—was in town to perform his Broadway comedy “What a Life” at the Orpheum. The contest also included the chance to win a date with Coogan’s co-star, Cyrilla Dorne (“one of the prettiest young actresses on the stage”) for a lucky young man. Contestants were asked to submit a 250-word essay answering “why you would like a date with an actor or actress.” Contestants also had to be between the age of 17 and 22. Tom Nelson, a brokerage house clerk, won an evening with Dorne. At the time, Knudsen was an aspiring actress who had just had a featured role in the play Susan and God, produced at Scholastica. Six years after her date with Coogan, Warner Brothers signed Knudsen to a movie contract. Her first movie was in a small role in A Stolen Life (1946), starring Glenn Ford and Bette Davis, in which Davis played twin sisters. Knudsen made four more movies that year, including The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall portraying Mona Mars, wife of gangster Eddie Mars. It’s a small but important role, including a memorable scene with both Bogart and Bacall. You can read much more about Knudsen here.

Peggy Knudsen during her Hollywood years in the 1940s. The Duluth native starred along Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep.(Image: Public Domain)