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Fay Wray Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (34) | Personal Quotes (27) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada
Died in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA  (natural causes)
Birth NameVina Fay Wray
Nicknames The Queen of Scream
The Queen of the Bs
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Canadian-born Fay Wray was brought up in Los Angeles and entered films at an early age. She was barely in her teens when she started working as an extra. She began her career as a heroine in westerns at Universal during the silent era. In 1926 the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers selected 13 young starlets it deemed most likely to succeed in pictures. Fay was chosen as one of these starlets, along with Janet Gaynor and Mary Astor. Fame would indeed come to Fay when she played another heroine in Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March (1928). She continued playing leads in a number of films, such as the good-bad girl in Thunderbolt (1929). By the early 1930s she was at Paramount working with Gary Cooper and Jack Holt in a number of average films, such as Master of Men (1933). She also appeared in such horror films as Doctor X (1932) and The Vampire Bat (1933). In 1933 Fay was approached by producer Merian C. Cooper, who told her that he had a part for her in a picture in which she would be working with a tall, dark leading man. What he didn't tell her was that her "tall, dark leading man" was a giant gorilla, and the picture turned out to be the classic King Kong (1933). Perhaps no one in the history of pictures could scream more dramatically than Fay, and she really put on a show in "Kong". Her character provided a combination of sex appeal, vulnerability and lung capacity as she was stalked by the giant beast all the way to the top of the Empire State Building. That was as far as Fay would rise, however, as this was, after all, just another horror movie. After "Kong", she began a slow decline that put her into low-budget action films by the mid '30s. In 1939 her 11-year marriage to screenwriter John Monk Saunders ended in divorce, and her career was almost finished. In 1942 she remarried and retired from the screen, forever to be remembered as the "beauty who killed the beast" in "King Kong". However, in 1953 she made a comeback, playing mature character roles, and also appeared on television as Catherine, Natalie Wood's mother, in The Pride of the Family (1953). She continued to appear in films until 1958 and television into the 1960s.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

She was born Vina Fay Wray near Cardston, Alberta, Canada, on September 15, 1907. Fay was from a large family that included five siblings. She moved to Arizona when she was still small in order for her father to find better work than what was offered in Alberta. After moving again to California, her parents divorced, which put the rest of the family in hard times. Being in entertainment-rich Los Angeles, there was ample opportunity to take advantage of the chances that might come her way in the entertainment industry. At the age of 16, Fay played her first role in a motion picture, albeit a small one. The film was Gasoline Love (1923) in 1923. The film was not a hit, nor was it a launching vehicle for her career. It would be two more years before she ever got another chance. When it did come, it was another lackluster film called The Coast Patrol (1925). The only thing it did for Fay was give her a slightly more prominent role than the film two years earlier. Four more films followed in 1926, and her career finally left the ground. She was noticed to the extent that the Western Association of Motion Pictures chose her as one of thirteen starlets most likely to succeed in film. After three films in 1927, the following year established Fay as an actress to be reckoned with. She played the lead, Mitzi Schrammell, in the hit The Wedding March (1928). She had made the successful transition into the "talkie" era when most performers' services were no longer needed because of the sound of their voices on film. In 1933, Fay appeared in eleven films, including The Big Brain (1933), The Vampire Bat (1933), and Ann Carver's Profession (1933). But it was another film that placed her in a role that is remembered to this day. That year she played Ann Darrow in the classic _King Kong_. After that, Fay came by more and better roles, but she is best remembered for that one performance. The movie wound up being named one of the 100 greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute in 1998. She continued her pace in films, making eleven films again in 1934, including Once to Every Woman (1934), Viva Villa! (1934), and Alias Bulldog Drummond (1935). But her career was now beginning the proverbial backward slide. Movie roles were becoming fewer and fewer with new stars on the horizon. Now it was Fay's services which were being curtailed. Her 11-year marriage to John Monk Saunders ended in a painful divorce. After Not a Ladies' Man (1942), Fay was not in another film until Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953). The films she appeared in during the latter '50s were not much to write home about, and several were some of the weakest ever projected. Her last performance before the cameras was a made-for-television movie called Gideon's Trumpet (1980). Fay Wray died of an natural causes on August 8, 2004. She was an excellent actress who never was given a chance to live up to her potential, especially after being cast in a number of horror films in the '30s. Given the right role, Fay could have had her star up alongside the great actresses of the day. No matter. She remains a bright star from cinema's golden era.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (3)

Dr Sanford (Sandy) Rothenberg (6 August 1971 - 18 January 1991) (his death)
Robert Riskin (23 August 1942 - 20 September 1955) (his death) (2 children)
John Monk Saunders (15 June 1928 - 12 December 1939) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (34)

Referenced in the 1998 song "Are You Jimmy Ray?" by Jimmy Ray.
On The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998). Billy Crystal introduced a clip of her in King Kong (1933) and then came offstage and stood next to Miss Wray in the audience, and introduced her as the "Beauty who charmed the Beast, the Legendary Fay Wray". Miss Wray was completely caught off guard, appearing to have not even noticed that Crystal had moved near her when the lights were turned down for the clip from "King Kong", then rose from her seat to rapturous applause and waved. Normally, the audience would have given her a standing ovation, but sensing her discombobulation at being caught off-guard on live, worldwide television, they did not. (In retrospect, given Miss Wray's advanced age, perhaps the producers should have let her know their plans in advance.) Crystal gently teased her that she was on This Is Your Life (1952) and thanked her for being a part of the evening. Miss Wray smiled with gratitude.
She had a daughter, Susan Riskin, by her first marriage to writer John Monk Saunders and two children, Robert Riskin Jr. and Victoria Riskin, by her second marriage to the writer Robert Riskin.
She was "almost" a vegetarian and always stuck to her rule not to eat late at night. She woke up long before sunrise and spent a lot of time writing.
Best remembered as the girl held in the hand of RKO Radio Pictures' King Kong (1933).
She drove a car into her 90s.
In January 2003, a 95-year-old Fay Wray was awarded the "Legend in Film" Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival when she appeared there in person to celebrate Rick McKay's film Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (2003), which she also appeared in. In addition to her honor, McKay's film was honored with the Audience Award "Best Documentary" of the festival by unanimous vote. Adrien Brody and Robert Evans won awards in addition to Wray and McKay at the same festival.
She is regarded as Hollywood's first "scream queen". This was due to the 1932-1933 season when she made the early Technicolor thrillers Doctor X (1932) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) (both at Warner Brothers with Lionel Atwill). She also costarred in The Vampire Bat (1933) at Majestic (again with Atwill) and at RKO she made The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and, of course, King Kong (1933).
Despite leaving Canada at an early age, she often visited Cardston, Alberta, her hometown.
Her film King Kong (1933) saved its studio, RKO Radio Pictures, from bankruptcy.
On August 10, 2004, two days after her death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City (scene of the climax from her most popular film, King Kong (1933), were dimmed for 15 minutes in her memory.
Was guest of honor in 1991, at the 60th birthday of the Empire State Building in New York City.
Following her death, she was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. This cemetery is near downtown Hollywood just blocks from Hollywood and Vine Streets. The cemetery is behind the Paramount Studios, surrounded by many businesses, and is easy to miss for first-time travelers.
She is referenced twice in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). During the Floorshow, Frank says, 'Whatever happened to Fay Wray/that delicate, satin-draped frame/as it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry/cause I wanted to be dressed just the same'; and in the opening song: 'then something went wrong/for Fay Wray and King Kong/they got caught in a celluloid jam'.
Her brother, J. Vivian Wray, suffered from a mental disorder and was confined to a sanitarium. He escaped and apparently committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a streetcar in Stockton, California, on June 4, 1928.
On the main street of Cardston, Alberta, Canada, her birthplace, there is the "Fay Wray Fountain". Cardston is also home to the first Mormon Temple in Canada.
She spent time with and became friends with Peter Jackson, a major fan, while he was in the process of developing his remake of King Kong (1933). Before she passed on, Wray also met and became friendly with Naomi Watts, whom she also approved to play the part that Wray originated, 'Ann Darrow'.
For the remake of King Kong (2005), director Peter Jackson wanted Fay to say the closing line of the film. Since she died before it was done, the line went to Jack Black.
Pictured on one of four 51¢ Canadian commemorative postage stamps honoring "Canadians in Hollywood" issued 22 May 2006. Others honored in this set are John Candy, Lorne Greene and Mary Pickford.
Miss Wray was originally offered the role of the elderly Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic (1997), which she turned down.
Described King Kong as her "little man".
Only saw King Kong (1933) four times.
Sideline: playwright ("Angela Is Twenty-Two" and "The Meadowlark").
Third husband, Dr. Sanford Rothenberg, was a brain surgeon.
Gothic metal band Type O Negative wrote a song about her called "Fay Wray Come Out and Play".
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 584-587. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
According to her autobiography, she stated that after she became a naturalized citizen, she registered as a Republican and supported the party ever since.
She was a staunch Republican who gave much of her time and money towards various conservative political causes. She also attended several of the Republican National Conventions and was active in the campaigns of Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
She was offered a cameo role in King Kong (1976), a remake of her most famous film (King Kong (1933)), but turned down because she did not like the script.
She was nominated to be WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) Baby Star of 1926 along with such young actresses as Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Dolores Costello, Marceline Day, Dolores del Rio and Janet Gaynor.
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6349 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
She was posthumously awarded a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario on June 5, 2005.
Along with Ginger Rogers and actress Marie Blake (Blossom Rock), she was a bridesmaid in Jeanette MacDonald's 1937 wedding to Gene Raymond.

Personal Quotes (27)

At the premiere of King Kong (1933) I wasn't too impressed. I thought there was too much screaming... I didn't realize then that King Kong and I were going to be together for the rest of our lives, and longer...
[2004, on her trip to England in 1934] As soon as I got off the boat, a man met me and said, "Will you please come up to the BBC studios and scream for us?".
[2004] I have come to believe over the years that Kong is my friend.
[2004, on the remake (King Kong (2005))] I have no advice for them.
[2004, on King Kong (1933)] My scream was a product of pure imagination. I had to imagine what was happening to me, and I imagined that the nearest help was far away. When I first saw the picture, I thought the screams were overdone. But they were an important part of the picture and I was delighted with how it all looked. My scenes with King were exactly the way I imagined them.
[2004, on her trip to England in 1934] One day, I was walking through Hyde Park and I overheard a Cockney woman tell her child, "If y' don't behive, I'll 'ave Fay Wrye arter yer!". I couldn't believe it.
[2004] Right after The Wedding March (1928) everything happened at once. Sound was coming in, and color was being used for the first time. It was very exciting to be a part of it.
[on working with Lillian Gish in The Cobweb (1955)] She was a lovely actress and I admired her very much. She was a very delicate and elegant lady.
[2004, on The Wedding March (1928)] That film changed my life.
[2004, on The Wedding March (1928)] That movie meant a lot to me; my heart was right up in my throat.
[2004] That one single movie [King Kong (1933)] has reached millions of people of all ages, all over the world--and audiences are still fascinated by it today.
[2004, on her role of Ann Darrow in King Kong (1933)] They put me in a blonde wig for the role.
[2004, on Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and The Vampire Bat (1933)] Those horror pictures were the parts I was being offered at the time, and the scream came into play in almost all of them. People today call them classics; that amuses me a little, because I had so many reservations about them when I made them. I thought they were much too gruesome.
[2004] [Erich von Stroheim] never got treated correctly in Hollywood, but he made me feel very happy.
[2004, on King Kong (1933)] When my youngest daughter first saw the film, she said, "Kong wasn't trying to hurt you, he was just trying to protect you", which was right.
[2004, on King Kong (1933)] When we did it, I just thought how lucky I was to be in the movies, where something like this was possible.
[2004, referring to King Kong (1933)] He [Merian C. Cooper] called me into his office and showed me sketches of jungle scenes and told me, "You're going to have the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood." Naturally, I thought Clark Gable. But then he showed me this sketch of a giant ape up the side of the Empire State Building, and he said, "There's your leading man.".
[2004, on her favorite screen appearance, in The Wedding March (1928)] I still love that film, Erich von Stroheim was a wonderful human being, and he took a chance on me. I was only 19 when I did the screen test, but he saw something in me. After 75 years, it's still one of the happiest experiences of my life. And it was a nice part, wasn't it?
[2004] All my life I've written something, I've always cared much more about writing than I do about acting.
[2004, on the remake planned for King Kong (1933)] If they don't have it in their hearts, they shouldn't be doing it, but if they do, hey just need to feel their way through it, just like we did so long ago.
[2004] When I shot my scenes, Kong wasn't there at all. I had to use my imagination, which was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Acting is about the imagination, that's the great joy of it. But nothing quite like it had been done before, so I was a little nervous about how it would all come together.
I was known as the queen of the Bs. If only I'd been a little more selective.
Every time I'm in New York, I say a little prayer when passing the Empire State Building. A good friend of mine died up there.
[In a 1969 interview in The New York Times] When I'm in New York, I look at the Empire State Building and feel as though it belongs to me, or is it vice-versa?
[1993, on not being able to escape her role in King Kong (1933)] Recently, a six-year-old boy said to me, "I've been waiting to meet you for half my life.".
[on declining a role in Titanic (1997)] I think to have done Titanic would have been a torturous experience altogether.
[In a 1990 interview in "Films in Review"] King Kong is my friend. He's been my public relations man for years. It was an extraordinarily good role, but the richness of the role that I had in The Wedding March (1928) appealed to me more. and that's very understandable, I think, since there weren't many nuances in the King Kong (1933) role. That was a fantasy, and there was a broadness to it that seemed unreal.

Salary (1)

King Kong (1933) $10,000 .00

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