Beautiful Fay Wray is best remembered as the girl held in King Kong’s giant hand in the iconic movie from 1933. I love a lot of things about this wonderful actress, but one of the things I love the most is the fact that even though her career was often lost in the HUGE shadow of King Kong, she didn’t seem bitter in the least. From what I’ve read, she has only spoken favorably about the entire apeish experience. A lot of stars tend to resent being so incredibly associated with a particular role or movie but she seemed to be genuinely grateful to have been a part of such a colossally enjoyable and historically memorable movie.
Many of us who desperately love Old Hollywood are passionate about keeping the stars’ names alive and their faces and movies in front of new generations of fans. It honestly becomes almost an obsession with us, if I’m being honest! Fay Wray falls into an unfortunate category of Old Hollywood actors and actresses that make our job a bit more difficult.
When stars have, say, less than five movies that are really “well known” and celebrated, it is VERY rare to find their movies shown on television or readily available on dvds. It’s very challenging to introduce new legions of fans to an actor or actress if they can’t find their movies easily. This poses a huge challenge, too, for most stars from the silent movie era.. aside, of course, from Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Pickford.
I’ve found another challenge with these stars as well. When you hear even casual fans of old movies talk about their favorites (which we all do pretty much non-stop!), you’ll hear the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, James Stewart, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant… it seems that, frustratingly enough, the celebrated only become more celebrated. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m as guilty as anyone! Heck you’ll hear me talking 24/7 about the group I just named, in fact!
When actors and actresses – who often happen to be just as talented as the celebrated ones – don’t have films that are as readily available as the popular crowd’s films… sadly, they get lost in the shuffle.
I lose track of the number of times I feel myself getting frustrated about this very thing and have to get up and make a cup of tea to distract myself and the frustration! What compounds the frustration is the fact that while some of these stars we want to see celebrated more intensely simply made poor choices with the movies they agreed to star in…. often it wasn’t in their hands. Studios often depicted what movies they would star in and their star rose and fell, to a certain extent based upon these choices.
At any rate, I’ll step down off of the soap box now and allow you to get to know Fay Wray better. She was a very fascinating woman. I’m having a nightmare of a time finding more of her movies to buy and watch, but from the ones I’ve seen, she was off the charts talented and, obviously, beautiful. I can’t help thinking of the number of “favorite actress” lists she’d appear on if she’d had even three more widely shown movies.
- Fay Wray was born in Canada on September 15, 1907 but was raised in Los Angeles. She was barely in her teens when she began working in films as an extra.
- Two days after her death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were dimmed for 15 minutes in her memory. Beautiful tribute to her iconic scene at the end of King Kong, her most popular movie. I’ve read that when she died (August 8, 2004 at the age of 96), King Kong was showing in the hospital’s ER waiting room.
- Wray was originally offered the role of the elderly Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic (1997), but she turned the role down.
- King Kong (1933) saved its studio, RKO Radio Pictures, from bankruptcy.
- She became friends with producer Peter Jackson, who happened to be a big fan.
- She is credited as being Hollywood’s first “scream queen.” Not at all surprising, when you consider her thrillers during 1932-1933: Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Vampire Bat (1933), The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and, of course, King Kong (1933).
- Described King Kong as her “little man”.
- In January 2003, a 95-year-old Fay Wray was awarded the “Legend in Film” Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival.
- On the main street of Cardston, Alberta, Canada (her birthplace) there is the “Fay Wray Fountain” in her honor.
- She had a daughter, Susan, by her first marriage to writer John Monk Saunders and two children, Robert Jr. and Victoria, by her second marriage to writer Robert Riskin.
- She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.
- Pictured on one of four 51¢ Canadian commemorative postage stamps honoring “Canadians in Hollywood” issued 22 May 2006.
- Along with Ginger Rogers and actress Marie Blake, she was a bridesmaid in Jeanette MacDonald’s 1937 wedding to Gene Raymond.
- She gave much of her time and money towards various political causes. She was active in the campaigns of Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
- She was friends with: Laraine Day, Joel McCrea, Frances Dee, Dorothy Lamour, Fred MacMurray, June Haver, Gloria Stuart, Jean Arthur, Ginger Rogers, Walt Disney, Bruce Cabot, Cary Grant, Richard Barthelmess, Mae Clarke, Pat O’Brien, Irene Dunne, Bob Hope, Dolores Hope, Robert Cummings, Ann Sothern, Joseph Cotten, Patricia Medina, Robert Montgomery, Walter Pidgeon, Naomi Watts, Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan.
- My favorite Fay Wray fast fact…. She drove a car into her 90s!