‘King Kong’ Star Fay Wray Dies at 96 in New York
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fay Wray, the shrieking blond beauty who earned fame as the frightened girl stalked by King Kong up the Empire State Building, died at age 96, a spokesman said on Monday.
Spokesman Greg Mitchell of the Writers Guild of America West in Los Angeles said Canadian-born Wray died on Sunday in New York. Born Vina Fay Wray in Cardston, Alberta, on Sept. 15, 1907, she was one of six children. Her family moved to the United States when she was 3.
Having appeared in about 100 films, she was best known for her role in the movie “King Kong” in 1933 and she also starred as a Mexican aristocrat in “Viva Villa!”
Wray was barely in her teens when she began her silver-screen career as a extra. She went on to be regularly cast as a heroine in silent movies and made her break-through in 1928’s “The Wedding March.”
In the early 1930’s, she made a number of horror movies, including Doctor X (1932) and The Vampire Bat (1933) and became known as Hollywood’s first “scream queen.” After those movies, Wray was told her next job would be working with a tall, dark leading man.
“(King Kong Director 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,” Wray recalled.
“But then he showed me this sketch of a giant ape up the side of the Empire State Building, he said, ‘There’s your leading man.”‘
Wray’s character won praise for its combination of sex appeal, vulnerability and lung capacity as she was stalked by the beast to the top of the famed New York skyscraper.
But her career fell into decline after Kong and she retired from movies in 1942 after her second marriage.
In 1953, she made a comeback in character roles and made movies until 1958 and worked in television into the 60s. But she was forever known as the girl held in King Kong’s palm.
“At the premiere of ‘King Kong’ I wasn’t too impressed. I thought there was too much screaming,” Wray once said of her most famous role. “I didn’t realize then that King Kong and I were going to be together for the rest of our lives, and longer.”
In 1989, her autobiography “On the Other Hand” was published to critical acclaim. Wray had a daughter, Susan, by her first marriage to John Monk Saunders, and two children, Robert and Vicky, with Robert Riskin.