Beautiful Fay Wray was born on September 15, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada and film fans are awfully happy that she was!
As I’ve said many times on the old Hollywood blog and Twitter, one of my favorite things about watching old movies and classic television is that you often pick up new favorites over the years – your old favorites… often ones you’ve had from the start… stay right in your heart, but new favorites come to join them.
As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier!
Over the past few years, as I’ve seen more of her films, the beautiful and very talented Fay Wray has assumed her position alongside my lifelong favorite actresses Maureen O’Hara, Lucille Ball, Ann Sheridan, Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck.. as well as favorites I’ve picked up over the years that have also joined them such as Ann Dvorak, Tallulah Bankhead, Claudette Colbert, etc.
This is one of the reasons I always recommend watching “new to you” stars and films – you just never know who’s spell you’re going to fall under next and that’s deliciously fun. In fact, I recently had an actress join my ranks of favorites that I thought I didn’t like… Doris Day.
You just never know. Until you know!
Until mere months ago, Fay Wray was an actress I was only familiar with on the basis of one film – King Kong. While I have always considered her, unquestionably, one of the most beautiful of all actresses, I had simply not had the chance to see more of her work. SADLY, her other films are hardly ever shown on television and some can be hard to find anywhere. However, after watching (many times a week!) King Kong with my 4 year old grandbaby (with plenty of editing done by MiMi and her remote control), I became very stricken with Fay Wray’s unique screen presence, ethereal beauty, and natural talent. So I made it a point to search out other films.
Suffice to say, she is now FIRMLY in my top 10 favorite actresses and one that I now “collect” (an honor for the upper favorites, mind you!).
Many film historians and movie fans will argue that starring in King Kong “stifled” Fay Wray’s career… that starring in a blockbuster, iconic, larger than life movie locked her so firmly into one role that it cost her other roles. I just can’t get on board with this type of thinking, and I’ll tell you why. Given that I spend so many of my waking (and non-waking) hours in old Hollywood, many of my thoughts spend their time on old film lots, movie theaters, movie sets, and in old Hollywood magazines.
Something I find myself OFTEN mulling over is this: WHY ARE SOME STARS MORE REMEMBERED THAN OTHER STARS? Why, say, do people who don’t even watch old films know who Katharine Hepburn is but couldn’t pick out Ann Dvorak from a lineup with other actresses…. let alone name one of her wonderful films.
Why is Cary Grant a household name, yet even a lot of people who call themselves old Hollywood fans couldn’t name 3 Sterling Hayden films?
Sterling Hayden and Ann Dvorak were extraordinary stars with so much talent and MANY fine performances. Yes, Katharine and Cary most absolutely were, as well… but you get the idea. Why are some remembered (the ultimate reward for any star, in my estimation… being REMEMBERED, after all, lasts much longer than the glow from an Oscar) and others forgotten (one of the saddest words in the entire English language)?
When you frame one’s legacy in this way, guess what…. Fay Wray is wonderfully remembered and celebrated! Her name is associated with a film that gave (and GIVES) all of us so much entertainment and joy. She is remembered, loved, and celebrated… which is why I simply cannot call her role in King Kong anything less than a blessing.
If you aren’t familiar with other Fay Wray films and performances, I hope you will seek out her movies. She was wonderfully versatile and as at home with comedy as she was drama. Her screen presence is stunning (she lights up the screen and has chemistry with everyone she comes in contact with!) and her filmography is deliciously entertaining.
The beautiful promotional photos shown here are for the 1934 film Viva Villa! (directed by Jack Conway). The movie stars Fay Wray, Wallace Beery, Leo Carrillo, and Donald Cook. You can find Viva Villa! on dvd (Amazon link). It’s very much worth adding to your collection!