Fay Wray (1907-2004)

Fay Wray
Fay Wray
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Fay Wray had a acting career which lasted almost 6 decades. She attained stardom and became known as the 'scream queen' for her roles in horror movies and she won lasting pop-culture fame for her appearance as the beautiful object of desire of the mighty gorilla, 'King Kong'.

She was born Vina Fay Wray in Alberta, Canada, in September, 1907. Her family were Mormons and they moved to the United States for work, first to Salt Lake City, Arizona and then to Los Angeles, where where Fay attended Hollywood High School.

She got her first movie experience aged 16 as an extra in a number of silent movies such as 'Gasoline Love' in 1923 and then a bigger role in 'The Coast Patrol' in 1925. She was given a contract by Universal Studios and appeared in several low budget westerns opposite Buck Jones until in 1926 when she was given a major promotional boost by The Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers, known as 'Wampas'. she was selected as one of the thirteen "WAMPAS Baby Stars", along with Janet Gaynor and Mary Astor, as most likely to succeed in the movies. The following year she began to prove them right when she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures.

In 1928 she played the lead in Erich von Stroheim's 'The Wedding March' and as Silents gave way to Talkies she continued to appear in leading roles in Paramount movies, such as 'Thunderbolt' in 1929, 'Dirigible' and 'Three Rogues' in 1931 and 'Stowaway' in 1932, often as the girl fought over by two males.

She was able to give a piercing scream at will and she found herself playing in a succession of horror films:lovely in two-strip technicolor in 'Doctor Z' in 1932 and 'Mystery of the Wax Museum' in 1933, shrilly imperilled in 'The Vampire Bat' in 1933, and as the 'prize' sought by mad Leslie Banks in 'The Most Dangerous Game' in 1932.

Her most famous and memorable film role came in 1933 when she was asked by director Merian C. Cooper to play the role of Ann Darrow, the blonde captive of King Kong in the film and although she was a brunette in almost all her movies she wore a blonde wig over her naturally dark hair for the role. Wray was paid $10,000 dollars to play Ann Darrow. The film was a box-office success, and is believed to have saved RKO from bankruptcy.

Although 'King Kong' made her internationally famous Fay was not able to use it as a springboard to further success. She made 11 films in 1934 alone but none were really memorable and she was not able to make the jump to first-tier Hollywood stardom. She ventured into Britain for the interesting 'The Clairvoyant' in 1934 and the amusing 'Bulldog Jack' in 1935 but roles became fewer and fewer and from the late 1930's onward she only occasionally showed up in the cinema. She worked steadily, however, in television shows such as 'The Pride of the Family' in 1953, and 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' in the late 1950's. She continued to appear in films until 1958 and television into the 1960s before ending her acting career in the made-for TV movie 'Gideon's Trumpet' in 1980.

Wray had three husbands - John Monk Saunders and Robert Riskin both of whom were writers, and Dr. Sanford Rothenberg, a neurosurgeon. She had three children.

Wray became friends with director Peter Jackson during his remake of 'King Kong' in 2005 but she died, of natural causes, on September 15, 2004, before the movie was released. She was 96.

Two days after her death, the lights on New York's Empire State Building - she used to say that a very good friend of hers died there - were dimmed for 15 minutes in her honor.

Fay Wray Academy Awards

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Fay Wray Filmography

Gasoline Love
Just a Good Guy
The Coast Patrol
What Price Goofy?
Isn't Life Terrible? (uncredited)
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) (unconfirmed) (uncredited)
Should Sailors Marry?(uncredited)
Thundering Landlords
Chasing the Chaser
Madame Sans Jane
No Father to Guide Him(uncredited)
Unfriendly Enemies
Your Own Back Yard
A Lover's Oath (uncredited)
Moonlight and Noses
One Wild Time
Don Key (Son of Burro)
The Man in the Saddle
Don't Shoot
The Wild Horse Stampede
The Saddle Tramp
The Show Cowpuncher
Lazy Lightning
Loco Luck
A One Man Game
Spurs and Saddles
The Honeymoon
The Legion of the Condemned
Street of Sin
The First Kiss
The Wedding March
The Four Feathers
Pointed Heels
Behind the Make-Up
Paramount on Parade
The Texan
The Border Legion
Galas de la Paramount
The Sea God
Captain Thunder
The Conquering Horde
Three Rogues
The Finger Points
The Lawyer's Secret
The Unholy Garden
Doctor X
The Most Dangerous Game
The Vampire Bat
Mystery of the Wax Museum
King Kong
Below the Sea
Ann Carver's Profession
The Woman I Stole
Shanghai Madness
The Big Brain
One Sunday Afternoon
The Bowery
Master of Men
The Clairvoyant
Madame Spy
The Countess of Monte Cristo
Once to Every Woman
Viva Villa!
Black Moon
The Affairs of Cellini
The Richest Girl in the World
Cheating Cheaters
Woman in the Dark
Mills of the Gods