Canadian-born Fay Wray was brought up in Los Angeles and entered films at an early age. She was barely in her teens when she started working as an extra. She began her career as a heroine in westerns at Universal during the silent era. In 1926 the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers selected 13 young starlets it deemed most likely to succeed in pictures. Fay was chosen as one of these starlets, along with Janet Gaynor and Mary Astor. Fame would indeed come to Fay when she played another heroine in Erich von Stroheim’s The Wedding March (1928). She continued playing leads in a number of films, such as the good-bad girl in Thunderbolt (1929). By the early 1930s she was at Paramount working with Gary Cooper and Jack Holt in a number of average films, such as Master of Men (1933). She also appeared in such horror films as Doctor X (1932) and The Vampire Bat (1933). In 1933 Fay was approached by producer Merian C. Cooper, who told her that he had a part for her in a picture in which she would be working with a tall, dark leading man. What he didn’t tell her was that her “tall, dark leading man” was a giant gorilla, and the picture turned out to be the classic King Kong (1933). Perhaps no one in the history of pictures could scream more dramatically than Fay, and she really put on a show in “Kong”. Her character provided a combination of sex appeal, vulnerability and lung capacity as she was stalked by the giant beast all the way to the top of the Empire State Building. That was as far as Fay would rise, however, as this was, after all, just another horror movie. After “Kong”, she began a slow decline that put her into low-budget action films by the mid ’30s. In 1939 her 11-year marriage to screenwriter John Monk Saunders ended in divorce, and her career was almost finished. In 1942 she remarried and retired from the screen, forever to be remembered as the “beauty who killed the beast” in “King Kong”. However, in 1953 she made a comeback, playing mature character roles, and also appeared on television as Catherine, Natalie Wood’s mother, in The Pride of the Family (1953). She continued to appear in films until 1958 and television into the 1960s.
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