The Canadian born actress was brought to Hollywood in her teens to try to make it in the movie industry. She started out like so many as an extra then got roles as the heroine in Westerns while under contract at Universal during the silent era. In 1926 she was selected as one of the WAMPAS stars along with Janet Gaynor and Mary Astor. (You can read more about the WAMPAS babies in my Mary Carlisle post).
with Gary Cooper in "The Texan"
While at Universal she appeared in Erich von Stroheims film "The Wedding March" 1928 then in "Thunderbolt" 1929 with Richard Arlen then with co-star William Powell in "Pointed Heels" that same year. She appeared in a couple more films then moved over to Paramount studios where she starred opposite Gary Cooper and Jack Holt in a few not so memorable roles before appearing in horror films like "Doctor X" 1933 with Lionel Atwill and "The Vampire Bat" 1933 again with Lionel Atwill and Melvyn Douglas and then paired up with Atwill one more time that year in " Mystery at the Wax Museum". I have to say that I've seen Lionel Atwill in a few horror films and he plays the villain, boogeyman quite convincingly. He gives Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price a run for their money.
with the handsome Gary Cooper in "The Texan" 1930
with Gary Cooper in "The Legion of the Condemn'd" 1928
In 1933 Fay was approached to appear along side her tall, dark and handsome leading man and the role she would be known for the rest of her life. "King Kong" earning her the nickname "The Queen of Scream" and lifelong notoriety. More interesting facts about her experience during and after "King Kong" a bit later.
wearing a blonde wig in "King Kong" 1933
playing Ann Darrow along side her giant co-star
Unfortunately for Fay "King Kong" was considered just another horror film back then but it did allow her to get a lot of film offers and she worked steadily throughout the 1930's and the 1940's notably starring in "Viva Villa" 1934 opposite Wallace Beery and then "Not a Ladies Man" 1934 with Paul Kelly. In the late 1940's she landed roles in several B movies. She had married screenwriter John Monk Saunders in 1928 and their marriage ended in 1937 at the same time her career was peaking. They had one daughter together. In 1942 she remarried to Robert Riskin who worked in production at her studio she then slowed down on acting. They had one daughter, Victoria in 1948 and remained married until Mr. Riskin's death in 1955. After her film in 1942 she didn't appear in another film until "Treasure of the Golden Condor" 1953 starring Cornel Wilde.(Anne Bancroft also co-starred in the film). Faye spent her years off enjoying her family.
click on photos and autograph's from my collection for a larger view
Fay remained retired after the 1950's and remarried for the third time in 1971 to Dr. Sanford Rothenburg a brain surgeon. They remained married until his death in 1991. Fay died of natural causes in 2004 but not before being approached by the talented director Peter Jackson and interviewed about her role in the original "King Kong". (more on her King Kong memories to follow). Fay was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood CA. Her grave site can be viewed HERE. She appeared in over 100 films in her career from the 1920's to the mid 1950's and became one of America's most recognized screen icons.
with Phillips Holmes and William Powell in "Pointed Heels" 1929
with Joel McCrea in "The Most Dangerous Game" 1932
Interesting Fay Wray Facts:
She saved RKO studios from bankruptcy with "King Kong"
She was the guest of honor in 1991 for the birthday of the Empire State Building in New York City.
Two days after her death in 2004 the lights on the Empire State Building were dimmed for 15 minutes in her memory.
She turned down the role playing the older Rose in "Titanic" which then went to Gloria Stuart.
She is referenced twice in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" 1975.
For the remake of King Kong in 2005 Peter Jackson wanted her to say the closing line of the film. Sadly she passed away before filming was completed so actor Jack Black said the line.
She spent time with and became a friend of Peter Jackson's who was a major fan. They met and spent a lot of time together while he was in development of the remake of King Kong along with the actress Naomi Watts who Fay approved to play Ann Darrow.
She described King Kong as her little man.
Gothic Medal Band Type O Negative wrote a song about her titled "Fay Wray Come Out And Play".
She drove a car well in to her nineties and still arose before daylight and spent her evenings writing.
I hope you enjoyed todays post on one of our movie icons,
Please enjoy the trailer for the original "King Kong" 1933