Kewpie-doll cutie whose centerfold figure, bee-stung lips, and high-pitched voice have made her one of the brightest comic players on stage and screen, while making her difficult to cast in "serious" dramatic roles. Peters achieved her first success in the off-Broadway show "Dames at Sea," a 1967 spoof of 1930s movie musicals, which capitalized on her physical attributes as well as her prodigious musical talents. She has subsequently done her best work on Broadway, in such Stephen Sondheim shows as "Sunday in the Park With George" and "Into the Woods" and Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl." She won a Tony in 1985 for her tour de force in "Song and Dance."
Always at her best in period vehicles, Peters made her film debut in Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies a 1973 flop about 1920s stunt flyers. Supporting parts in The Longest Yard (1974) and Vigilante Force (1976) followed; then Mel Brooks' Silent Movie (1976) offered her a juicy role as a comic femme fatale. Her film career since then has been spotty: W. C. Fields and Me (1976), The Jerk (1979), Heartbeeps (1981, as a female robot), Annie (1982), David (1988 telefilm), Pink Cadillac (1989, a costarring part with Clint Eastwood, but a distressingly stupid one), and Slaves of New York (also 1989, miscast as a hapless hat designer). Woody Allen gave her a key supporting role in Alice (1990), and she contributed a lively performance to the 19th-century romp Impromptu (1991). Her best showcase to date remains Pennies From Heaven (1981), in which she was heart-tuggingly convincing as a prim schoolteacher who falls for 1930s sheet-music salesman Steve Martin. The lavish musical numbers also gave her ample opportunity to show moviegoers why Broadway audiences have appreciated her for years. In 1976-77 she starred with Richard Crenna in the short-lived TV sitcom "All's Fair."