Nationality: American. Born: Vina Fay Wray near Cardston, Alberta, Canada, 15 September 1907; became U.S. citizen, 1935. Education: Attended Hollywood High School. Family: Married 1) the writer John Monk Saunders, 1928 (divorced 1939), daughter: Susan; 2) the writer Robert Riskin, 1942 (died 1955), daughter: Vicki, son: Robert Jr.; 3) Sanford Rothenberg, 1971. Career: 1923—film debut in short Gasoline Love ; 1928—in von Stroheim's The Wedding March ; 1931—stage debut in Saunders's play Nikki on Broadway ; 1935–36—made several films in England; later stage work includes roles in The Night of January 16th and The Petrified Forest , 1938, in her own and Sinclair Lewis's play Angela Is Twenty-Two in Detroit and Chicago, 1939, Golden Wings on Broadway , 1941, and Mr. Big , 1941; 1953–55—in TV series The Pride of the Family . Address: 2160 Century Park East no. 1901, Los Angeles, CA 90067, U.S.A.
Gasoline Love (short)
The Coast Patrol (Barsky) (as Beth Slocum); A Cinch for the Gander
The Man in the Saddle (Reynolds or Smith) (as Pauline Stewart); The Wild Horse Stampede (Rogell) (as Jessie Hayden); Lazy Lightning (Wyler) (as Lila Rogers)
Loco Luck (Smith) (as Molly Vernon); A One Man Game (Laemmle) (as Roberts); Spurs and Saddles (Smith) (as Mildred Orth)
Legion of the Condemned (Wellman) (as Christine Charteris); Street of Sin (Stiller) (as Elizabeth); The First Kiss (Lee) (as Anna Lee); The Wedding March (von Stroheim) (as Mitzi Schrammell)
The Four Feathers (Cooper, Schoedsack, and Mendes) (as Ethne Eustace); Thunderbolt (von Sternberg) (as Ritzy); Pointed Heels (Sutherland) (as Laura Nixon)
Behind the Makeup (Milton) (as Marie); "Dream Girl" technicolor segment of Paramount on Parade ; The Texan (Cromwell) (as Consuelo); The Border Legion (Brower and Knopf) (as Joan Randall); The Sea God (Abbott) (as Daisy)
The Finger Points (Dillon) (as Marcia Collins); Not Exactly Gentlemen ; The Conquering Horde (Sloman) (as Taisie Lockhart); Three Rogues (Stoloff) (as Lee Carleton); Dirigible (Capra) (as Helen); Captain Thunder (Crosland) (as Ynez Dominguez); The Honeymoon (von Stroheim) (as Mitzi Schrammell); The Lawyer's Secret (Gasnier and Marcin) (as Kay Roberts); The Unholy Garden (Fitzmaurice) (as Camille)
Stowaway (Whitman); Doctor X (Curtiz) (as Joan Xavier); The Most Dangerous Game (Schoedsack and Pichel) (as Eve Trowbridge)
The Vampire Bat (Strayer) (as Ruth Bertin); Mystery of the Wax Museum (Curtiz) (as Charlotte Duncan); King Kong (Cooper and Schoedsack) (as Ann Darrow); Below the Sea (Rogell) (as Diane Templeton); Ann Carver's Profession (Buzzell) (title role); The Woman I Stole (Cummings) (as Vida Carew); The Big Brain (Archainbaud) (as Cynthia Glennon); One Sunday Afternoon (Roberts) (as Virginia Brush); Shanghai Madness (Blystone) (as Wildeth Christie); The Bowery (Walsh) (as Lucy Calhoun); Master of Men (Hillyer) (as Kay Walling)
Madame Spy (Freund) (as Maria); Once to Every Woman (Hillyer) (as Mary Fanshawe); Cheating Cheaters (Thorpe) (as Nan Brockton); Woman in the Dark (Rosen); White Lies (Bulgakov); The Countess of Monte Cristo (Freund) (as Janet Kreuger); Viva Villa! (Conway) (as Teresa); Black Moon (Neill) (as Gail); The Affairs of Cellini (La Cava) (as Angela); The Richest Girl in the World (Seiter) (as Sylvia Vernon)
The Clairvoyant ( The Evil Mind ) (Elvey) (as Renee); Come Out of the Pantry (Raymond) (as Hilda Beach-Howard); Alias Bulldog Drummond ( Bulldog Jack ) (Forde) (as Ann Manders); Mills of the Gods (Neill)
When Knights Were Bold (Raymond) (as Lady Rowena); Roaming Lady (Rogell) (as Joyce); They Met in a Taxi (Green) (as Mary)
It Happened in Hollywood ( Once a Hero ) (Lachman) (as Gloria Gay); Murder in Greenwich Village (Rogell) (as Kay Cabot)
Smashing the Spy Ring (Cabanne) (as Eleanor Dunlap); The Jury's Secret (Sloman) (as Linda Ware)
Navy Secrets (Bretherton) (as Carol)
Wildcat Bus (Woodruff) (as daughter of bus-line owner)
Adam Had Four Sons (Ratoff) (as Molly); Melody for Three (Kenton) (as the mother)
Not a Ladies' Man (Landers)
This Is the Life (Feist) (+ sc)
Small Town Girl (Kardos) (as Mrs. Kimbell); Treasure of the Golden Condor (Daves) (as Marquise)
The Cobweb (Minnelli) (as Edna Devanel); Queen Bee (MacDougall) (as Sue McKinnon)
Hell on Frisco Bay (Tuttle) (as Kay Stanley); In Times Like These (Seiter)
Crime of Passion (Oswald) (as Alice Pope); Tammy and the Bachelor (Pevny) (as Mrs. Brent); Rock, Pretty Baby (Bartlett) (as Beth Daley)
Summer Love (Haas) (as Beth Daley); Dragstrip Riot ( The Reckless Age ) (Bradley)
Gideon's Trumpet (Collins—for TV) (as Edna Curtis)
Frank Capra's American Dream (Bowser—doc for TV) (as herself)
Universal Horror (Brownlow—doc for TV) (as herself)
On the Other Hand: A Life Story , New York, 1989.
Interview with Roy Kinnard, in Films in Review (New York), April 1990. "The Gorilla I Left Behind," in Premiere (Boulder), Winter 1994.
Parish, James Robert, and William T. Leonard, Hollywood Players: The Thirties , New York, 1976.
Kinnard, Roy, "Fay Wray," in Films in Review (New York), February 1987.
Harmetz, Aljean, "Kong and Wray: 60 Years of Love," in New York Times , 28 February 1993.
Aronson, Steven M.L., "Fay Wray. King Kong's Favorite Costar at Home in Los Angeles," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1994.
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If Fay Wray had made only one film in her career— King Kong —she would have earned her spot in the annals of screen history. When she co-starred as the classic damsel-in-distress opposite moviedom's most famous ape, she already was an established actress who had worked in major silent and sound Hollywood productions. Her sometimes stiff, sometimes exaggerated performance in King Kong has been misread by film enthusiasts who have not had the awareness of her earlier career.
Five years before King Kong , von Stroheim realized Wray's potential for expressive acting when he cast her in The Wedding March as Mitzi, an ill-fated commoner who becomes the love object of a prince. But The Wedding March was a Hollywood oddity, an extravagant art film and a commercial failure, so Wray was unable to sustain her career playing in similar films. Instead, she was destined to be cast as conventional leads, with the exception coming when her association with King Kong directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack led to her all-too-brief reign in horror films. She became the genre's first sex symbol in King Kong , as well as in Mystery of the Wax Museum , Dr. X , Vampire Bat , and others, with her wholesome good looks and innocent demeanor effectively presented in contrast to the "monsters."
Wray is remembered for these few horror films, and it is disappointing that she did not appear in additional ones. As she aged, she might have been an asset to the 1940s horror cycle and 1950s science-fiction films.
—Anthony Ambrogio, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg