Friday, August 8, 2014

"King Kong" Actress Fay Wray 2004 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Fay Wray (born Vina Fay Wray; September 15, 1907 – August 8, 2004) was a Canadian-American actress. Through an acting career that spanned 57 years, Wray attained international stardom as an actress in horror film roles, leading to many considering her as the first "scream queen."

After appearing in minor film roles, Wray gained media attention being selected as one of the "WAMPAS Baby Stars." This led to Wray being signed to Paramount Pictures as a teenager. There she made more than a dozen films. After leaving Paramount, she signed deals with various film companies, being cast in her first horror film roles. For RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., she starred in the film with which she is most identified, King Kong (1933). After the success of King Kong, Wray appeared in more minor film roles and on television, leading up to her final role in 1980.

Life and career

Early life

Wray was born on a ranch near Cardston, Alberta, Canada to Elvina Marguerite Jones, who was from Salt Lake City, and Joseph Heber Wray, who was from Kingston upon Hull, England.[1] She was one of six children.[2] Her family returned to the United States a few years after she was born; they moved to Salt Lake City in 1912[3] and moved to Lark, Utah in 1914. In 1919, they moved to Salt Lake City again, before moving to Hollywood, California, where Fay attended Hollywood High School.

Early acting career

In 1923, Wray appeared in her first film at the age of 16, landing a role in a short historical film sponsored by a local newspaper.[4] In the 1920s, Wray landed a major role in the silent films such as The Coast Patrol (1925),[5] as well as uncredited bit parts at the Hal Roach Studios.

In 1926, American film association the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers selected Wray as one of the "WAMPAS Baby Stars," a group of women who they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom. She was currently under contract to Universal Studios, mostly co-starring in low budget westerns opposite Buck Jones.

The following year in 1927, Wray was signed to a contract with Paramount Pictures In 1928, director Erich von Stroheim cast Wray as the main female lead in his film The Wedding March, released under Paramount. The film's high budget and production values sent Hollywood in a buzz for its high budget and production values. It was a financial failure, but it gave Wray her first lead role. Wray stayed with Paramount to make more than a dozen more films, staying there to make the transition from silent films to "talkie" films.[6]

Horror films and King Kong

After leaving Paramount, Wray signed to various film companies. It was under these deals that Wray was cast in various horror films, including Doctor X. However, her greatest known films were produced under her deal with RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., where she made some of her most memorable films. Her first film under RKO was The Most Dangerous Game (1932), co-starring Joel McCrea.

The Most Dangerous Game was followed by Wray's most memorable film, King Kong. According to Wray, Jean Harlow had been RKO's original choice, but because MGM put Harlow under exclusive contract during the pre-production phase of the film, she became unavailable[7] and Wray was approached by director Merian C. Cooper to play the role of Ann Darrow, the blonde captive of King Kong. Wray was paid $10,000 dollars to play the role.[8] Wray wore a blonde wig over her naturally dark hair. The film was a commercial success. Wray was reportedly proud that the film saved RKO from bankruptcy.[9] Wray's role would become the one with which she would be most associated. For her appearances in various horror films, many have considered Wray the first "scream queen."

Later career

She continued to star in various films, but by the early 1940s, her appearances grew sporadic. She retired from acting in 1942, after her second marriage.[10] However, due to financial problems she had to continue acting.[8] Over the next three decades, Wray appeared in minor film roles and also frequently on television, before ending her acting career in the made-for TV movie Gideon's Trumpet (1980).

In 1988, her autobiography, On the Other Hand, was published. In her later years, Wray continued to make public appearances. She was a special guest at the 70th Academy Awards, where the show's host, Billy Crystal, introduced her as the "Beauty who charmed the Beast". She was the only 1920s Hollywood actress in attendance that evening. In January 2003, a 95-year old Wray appeared at the 2003 Palm Beach International Film Festival to celebrate the Rick McKay documentary film Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There, where she was also honored with a "Legend in Film" award.[11] In her later years, she also visited the Empire State Building frequently, once visiting in 1991 as a guest of honor at the building's 60th anniversary,[11] and also in May 2004,[12] which was among her last public appearances. Her final public appearance was at an after-party at the Sardi's restaurant in New York City, following the premiere of the documentary film Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There.[13]


In 2004, Wray was approached by director Peter Jackson to appear in a small cameo for the 2005 remake of King Kong. She met with Naomi Watts, who was to play the role of Ann Darrow, whom Wray originally played. Before filming of the remake commenced, however, Wray died in her sleep of natural causes on August 8, 2004, in her Manhattan apartment. Her friend Rick McKay, said that "she just kind of drifted off quietly as if she was going to sleep... she just kind of gave out."[14] She was 96 years old, only 38 days shy of her 97th birthday. Wray was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

Two days after her death, the lights of the Empire State Building were extinguished for 15 minutes in her memory.[15]


Wray was honored with a "Legend in Film" award at the 2003 Palm Beach International Film Festival.[11] For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Wray was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6349 Hollywood Blvd. She received a star posthumously on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto on June 5, 2005. A small park near Lee's Creek on Main Street in Cardston, Alberta, her birthplace, was named "Fay Wray Park" in her honor. The small sign at the edge of the park on Main Street has a silhouette of King Kong on it, remembering her role in the film King Kong. A large oil portrait of Wray by Alberta artist Neil Boyle is on display in the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod, Alberta. In May 2006, Wray became one of the first four entertainers to ever be honored by Canada Post by being featured on a postage stamp.

Personal life

Wray was married three times - to the writers John Monk Saunders and Robert Riskin and to the neurosurgeon Dr. Sanford Rothenberg (January 28, 1919 - January 4, 1991).[16]

She had three children: Susan Saunders, Victoria Riskin, and Robert Riskin Jr. She became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1935.

Wray was of the Mormon faith. Her grandfather Daniel Webster Jones was a Mormon pioneer. [17][18]


Blind Husbands (1919)
Gasoline Love (1923) (short subject)
Thundering Landlords (1925) (short subject)
No Father to Guide Him (1925) (short subject)
The Coast Patrol (1925)
Sure-Mike (1925) (short subject)
What Price Goofy (1925) (short subject)
Isn't Life Terrible? (1925) (short subject)
Chasing the Chaser (1925) (short subject)
Madame Sans Jane (1925) (short subject)
Unfriendly Enemies (1925) (short subject)
Your Own Back Yard (1925) (short subject)
Moonlight and Noses (1925) (short subject)
Should Sailors Marry? (1925) (short subject)
WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1926 (1926) (short subject)
One Wild Time (1926) (short subject)
Don Key (A Son of a Burro) (1926) (short subject)
The Man in the Saddle (1926)
Don't Shoot (1926) (short subject)
The Wild Horse Stampede (1926)
The Saddle Tramp (1926) (short subject)
The Show Cowpuncher (1926) (short subject)
Lazy Lightning (1926)
Loco Luck (1927)
A One Man Game (1927)
Spurs and Saddles (1927)
A Trip Through the Paramount Studio (1927) (short subject)
The Honeymoon (1928) (unreleased)
The Legion of the Condemned (1928)
Street of Sin (1928)
The First Kiss (1928)
The Wedding March (1928)
Thunderbolt (1929)
The Four Feathers (1929)
Pointed Heels (1929)
Behind the Make-Up (1930)
Paramount on Parade (1930)
The Texan (1930)
The Border Legion (1930)
The Sea God (1930)
Captain Thunder (1930)
The Conquering Horde (1931)
Three Rogues (1931)
The Slippery Pearls (1931) (short subject)
Dirigible (1931)
The Finger Points (1931)
The Lawyer's Secret (1931)
The Unholy Garden (1931)
Hollywood on Parade (1932) (short subject)
Stowaway (1932)
Doctor X (1932)
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Vampire Bat (1933)
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
King Kong (1933)
Below the Sea (1933)
Ann Carver's Profession (1933)
The Woman I Stole (1933)
Shanghai Madness (1933)
The Big Brain (1933)
One Sunday Afternoon (1933)
The Bowery (1933)
Master of Men (1933)
The Clairvoyant (1934)
Madame Spy (1934)
The Countess of Monte Cristo (1934)
Once to Every Woman (1934)
Viva Villa! (1934)
The Affairs of Cellini (1934)
Black Moon (1934)
The Richest Girl in the World (1934)
Cheating Cheaters (1934)
Woman in the Dark (1934)
Come Out of the Pantry (1935)
Mills of the Gods (1935)
Bulldog Jack (1935)
White Lies (1935)
When Knights Were Bold (1936)
Roaming Lady (1936)
They Met in a Taxi (1936)
It Happened in Hollywood (1937)
Murder in Greenwich Village (1937)
The Jury's Secret (1938)
Smashing the Spy Ring (1939)
Navy Secrets (1939)
Wildcat Bus (1940)
Melody for Three (1941)
Adam Had Four Sons (1941)
Not a Ladies' Man (1942)
Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953)
Small Town Girl (1953)
Hell on Frisco Bay (1955)
The Cobweb (1955)
Queen Bee (1955)
Rock, Pretty Baby (1956)
Crime of Passion (1957)
Tammy and the Bachelor (1957)
Summer Love (1958)
Dragstrip Riot (1958)
Murder by Death (1976) (Archival Sound)
Gideons Trumpet (1980)
Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's (1997) (documentary)
Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (2003) (documentary)

Television appearances

Wray appeared in three episodes of CBS's courtroom drama Perry Mason, the first of which was "The Case Of The Prodigal Parent"[19] (Episode 1-36) aired June 7, 1958.

In 1959, she played Tula Marsh in the episode "The Second Happiest Day" of the CBS anthology Playhouse 90. In 1960, she appeared as Clara in the episode "Who Killed Cock Robin?" of the ABC detective series 77 Sunset Strip. And in 1963, she played as Mrs. Brubaker in the episode "You're So Smart, Why Can't You Be Good?" episode of the NBC medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour.


1.^ Ancestry of Fay Wray
2.^ [1]
3.^ The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 January 2009, "Utah-Hollywood connection runs deep", p. B2
4.^ SL Tribune, 26 Jan. 2009
5.^ - The Coast Patrol (1925)
6.^ - Fay Wray
7.^ Parish, James Robert; Gregory W. Mank and Don E. Stanke (1978). The Hollywood Beauties. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers. p. 203. ISBN 0-87000-412-3.
11.^ - Fay Wray - Biography
13.^ - Photos of Fay Wray
14.^ BBC News report of Wray's death
15.^ [2]
16.^ Social Security Death Index
19.^ As of December 2009, "The Case Of The Prodigal Parent" is viewable for free in the US linked from its IMDB page

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