Although she had a relatively short film career, Totter created memorable movie moments while under contract with MGM from 1944 to the early '50s. A former radio actress, she had a small part in "The Postman Always Rings Twice," the 1946 movie based on James M. Cain's pulp novel. She landed her breakthrough role in "Lady in the Lake," the 1947 film version of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe detective story that Robert Montgomery directed and starred in. She also appeared opposite Claude Rains in the 1947 thriller "The Unsuspected," acted with Robert Taylor in "High Wall" (1947), starred in Robert Wise's 1949 gritty boxing drama "The Set-Up" and snarled her way through "Tension" (1949).
"The bad girls were so much fun to play," Totter told the New York Times in 1999.