Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at leading ladies in the movies, especially horror movies. Up today, it’s Fay Wray, the woman who King Kong carried to the top of the Empire State Building in KING KONG (1933).
Fay Wray had a ton of credits. She began her career as a teenager in silent movies, and so by the time she made KING KONG in 1933 at age 26, she had already amassed fifty four screen credits!
All together, Fay Wray had 123 screen credits, but none bigger than her role as Ann Darrow in KING KONG.
Here’s a partial list of Wray’s movie credits:
GASOLINE LOVE (1923) – Fay Wray’s first screen credit.
THE COAST PATROL (1925) – Beth Slocum- Wray’s first feature film role.
DOCTOR X (1932) – Joanne Xavier- horror movie with Lionel Atwill, famous for being shot in Technicolor.
THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) – Eve Trowbridge – Thriller directed by KING KONG director Ernest B. Schoedsack and featuring Carl Denham himself, Robert Armstrong.
THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933)- Ruth Bertin- classic horror movie featuring Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye. Atwill is the mad scientist, Douglas the hero, Wray the heroine, and Frye is the creepy guy the villagers think is the vampire— but they’re wrong. Very atmospheric creepy horror movie.
MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933) – Charlotte Duncan – Reunited with Lionel Atwill in yet another classic horror movie. Like DOCTOR X, it was also shot in color and was believed to have been lost for decades before being re-discovered in the late 1960s. Directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed that little wartime movie, CASABLANCA (1942).
KING KONG (1933) – Ann Darrow – the film that made Fay Wray a star, and she spends most of it screaming, as she is abducted and chased by Kong throughout. Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, with an outstanding music score by Max Steiner, and starring Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Wray, and of course King Kong. Amazing special effects by Willis O’Brien. This classic movie still holds up wonderfully today. By the way, Wray was not blonde. She wore a wig for her most famous role. That is her real scream, though.
MASTER OF MEN (1933)- Kay Walling- The last of eleven movies Wray made in 1933!
BLACK MOON (1934) – Gail Hamilton – Horror movie about a voodoo curse, directed by Roy William Neill, the man who in addition to directing many of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies also directed FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).
WOMAN IN THE DARK (1934) – Louise Loring – Crime movie starring Ralph Bellamy and Melvyn Douglas, based on a book by Dashiell Hammett.
THE CLAIRVOYANT (1934)- Rene – Effective mystery/horror movie with Claude Rains as a fake clairvoyant who suddenly finds himself with real predictive powers.
HELL ON FRISCO BAY (1955) – Kay Stanley – Film-noir with Edward G. Robinson and Alan Ladd.
CRIME OF PASSION (1957) – Alice Pope- more film-noir, this time with Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, and Raymond Burr.
TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR (1957) – Mrs. Brent- First of four “Tammy” movies, starring Debbie Reynolds, Leslie Nielsen, and Walter Brennan.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS – “Dip In The Pool” (1958) – Mrs. Renshaw/ “The Morning After” (1959) – Mrs. Nelson – two appearances on the ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS TV show.
PERRY MASON – “The Case of the Prodigal Parent” (1958) – Ethel Harrison/ “The Case of the Watery Witness” (1959)- Lorna Thomas/ “The Case of the Fatal Fetish” (1965) – Mignon Germaine – several appearances on the classic PERRY MASON TV show starring Raymond Burr.
GIDEON’S TRUMPET (1980) – Edna Curtis – Fay Wray’s final screen credit, in this TV movie starring Henry Fonda based on the true story of Clarence Earl Gideon.
Even though she never had a bigger role than Ann Darrow in KING KONG, Fay Wray enjoyed a long and successful movie career. She passed away in 2004 at age 96.
Fay Wray – September 15, 1907- August 8, 2004.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of LEADING LADIES. Join me again next time when we look at the career of another Leading Lady.
Thanks for reading!