Fay Wray Text Archive
On this page I will put various book excerpts and other text pieces written about Fay Wray,
reprinted with permission wherever possible, and always with complete credits given, in the
interest of gathering as much information as possible. As always, please point the way to more
information by emailing me.
(Added to site 17 June 2000)
Wisconsin/Warner Bros Screenplay Series: Mystery of the Wax Museum
Edited by Richard Koszarski
© 1979 by The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin.
excerpt from page 24-25:
Fay Wray had been rescued from Universal westerns by her featured role in von Stroheim's The Wedding March and had worked for
Stiller, von Sternberg, and Capra. After Doctor X, she appeared again opposite Lionel Atwill in The Vampire Bat (for Majestic,
a poverty-row outfit); Mystery of the Wax Museum was their third film together. Although in production earlier, King Kong would
not appear until a month after Mystery of the Wax Museum.
(Added to site 17 June 2000)
Stars of the Photoplay: Art Portraits of Famous Film Favorites with Short Biographical Sketches
by The Photoplay Magazine
© 1930 by Photoplay Publishing Co., Chicago.
Fay Wray spent an uneventful childhood on "Wrayland," her father's ranch in Alberta, Canada. Later, as a schoolgirl in Hollywood,
she played a minor role in the famous Hollywood Pilgrimage Play. Extra work in the movies followed. But it was when Eric Von Stroheim (sic)
chose her for the leading role in "The Wedding March" that her future became assured. She is married to J Monk Saunders, playwright and
dramatist. Born September 15, 1907, she is 5 feet 3, weighs 114 and has light brown hair and blue eyes.
(Added to site 17 June 2000)
by Roy Kinnard
Films In Review magazine, February 1987. © 1987 by National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, New York, New York.
Read the whole article here.
(Added to site 17 June 2000)
Hollywood High: The History of America's Most Famous Public School
by John Blumenthal
Ballantine Books, New York. © 1988 by John Blumenthal. ISBN 0-345-34344-1
excerpt, pages 72-74:
Long before a gargantuan primate would hold her in the palm of his hairy hand, Fay Wray, class of 1925, was the epitome of the well-rounded
Hollywood High student. Today, we would probably call her a Goody Two-shoes - the kind of student who does extra work and brings the teacher
an apple - but back then her gung-ho attitude about school was considered the norm. "I loved school, I adored it," Fay Wray reminisced
recently. "I was a good student and enjoyed applying myself to my studies. There were no subjects I was bad at, except maybe Miss Heep's phys
ed class, but that was it." Her grades were high enough to land her on the honor roll (English and literature were her best subjects); she was
elected vice-president of the popular Athenaeum Club, the school society that sponsored debates and plays; she performed in several school productions;
and she was never, ever sent to detention.
By most accounts, young Fay Wray was popular on campus, but she made her reputation as a scholar, not a socialite. Every morning she would walk
to school from her home in Hollywood, and every afternoon she would spend her lunch hour on the school's sweeping front lawn, among the wild
poinsettias. Even her extracurricular life was as wholesome and proper as her attitude about school: "After school I would go right home,
help my mother, and then study, sometimes until twelve o'clock at night, but I enjoyed it."
Though she never landed a lead role in a Hollywood High production, young Fay Wray did have minor parts in two school plays - Booth Tarkington's
Seventeen and The Pied Piper of Hamelin, presented in 1923. Arthur Kachel directed both plays, and even today Fay Wray credits
"Kaich" with having exerted a profound influence on her. "He was an inspiration," she says. "His energy was compelling and he had great
authority. He wasn't stuffy or too academic, but a real liberal personality."
That summer, Kaich chose Fay, along with five other students, to play nonspeaking roles in the Pilgrimage Play, one of the greatest
honors the drama teacher could bestow upon one of his young protogés. "I played a kind of vestal virgin who had to carry a candle up a path," Fay
recalls. "I didn't have any lines but it was a good experience. It gave me a chance to get the feel of working every night in a production." Most
of her studio publicity bios claim that Fay Wray was discovered while performing in the Pilgrimage Play, but this was not the case.
By 1923 she had already done a good deal of extra work in movies, and as she later said of the studios, "they didn't discover me, I discovered
them." Like so many who would follow her, young Fay left Hollywood High her junior year and, as was mandated by state law, completed her
education at a special school on the studio lot. As a result, her picture does not appear in the 1925 Poinsettia.
The school newspaper did, however, give passing mention to her leave-taking. Apparently, young Fay's sudden departure caused a bit of confusion
among the members of the Athenaeum Club, who had, only two weeks earlier, elected her vice-president. The newspaper's account of the situation,
titled "Important Meetings Held By Athenaeum," is indicative of the student body's matter-of-fact attitude toward the film careers of their
fellow students: "Last Thursday, the Athenaeum Club held two meetings. Both were of great importance. One was the tryouts for those wishing to
become members and the other was the election of a new vice-president. Fay Wray, former vice-president, is working in motion pictures, so is
unable to fill her position."
They Had Faces Then: Hollywood In The '30's - The Legendary Ladies
by John Springer and Jack Hamilton
Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey. © 1974, published 1988 by Citadel Press, A Division of Lyle Stuart Inc. ISBN 0-8065-1108-7
excerpt from page 257:
Fay Wray once confessed to us that she was heartily sick of her reputation as a screamer
and particularly fed up with herself as a shrieking blonde in the paw of that indescribable ape,
known as Kong. We can sympathize with her feelings.
After all, Fay Wray was lovely and competent in dozens of pictures through the thirties, as well as
in the silents opposite actors who ranged from Gary Cooper to Erich von Stroheim to Emil Jannings.
But in talkies her pictures were a mixed bag and few of them gave her much more opportunity than to be
present and pretty while the action was handled by Richard Arlen, Richard Dix, Jack Holt, George
Bancroft or Wallace Beery.
There were exceptions, most of them in secondary roles. These would include Miriam Hopkins' secretary
who posed as The Richest Girl in the World, the One Sunday Afternoon girl of Gary
Cooper's dreams who turned out to be such a nightmare, and - our particular favorite - the gluttonous
virgin, desired by both Fredric March and Frank Morgan in The Affairs of Cellini.
That leaves the horror heroines and - sorry, Fay - they're the ones for which you are particularly
remembered. There were only five of them, all released within one year, but they kept Miss Wray's
vocal cords working overtime. Scream she did, through the sinister experiments of
Doctor X; the horrifying doings involved with The
Mystery of the Wax Museum; the "Dracula"-type terrors of The Vampire
Bat; the escape from a madman who hunts humans in The Most Dangerous
And then there was King Kong, certainly the most magnificent
monster ever conceived. Fay turned out to be his nemesis - "It was beauty killed the beast," said
the philosophical movie producer - and like it or not, Kong was her greatest leading man - far and
away more commanding than Beery, Bancroft and Jack Holt all put together.
excerpt from page 339:
Fay Wray: Her birthday has been published as September 10, September 15, and September 25,
in the usual manner of film reference books. When asked which one, she said: "Pick September 15."
The year was 1907, and the place Alberta, Canada, where her father, Joseph H. Wray, was a rancher.
Her family first moved from Canada to California, then to Arizona, and then to Salt Lake City.
She went to public schools there, and later Hollywood High School. During a school vacation in 1923,
she started to work in movies as an extra, and progressed to leading lady in Gasoline Love
and in Westerns with such staunch names as Jack Hoxie, Art Acord and Hoot Gibson. Erich von Stroheim
chose unknown Fay Wray for the leading role of Mitzi in his The Wedding March
in 1926. She was nineteen, and he was attracted to her "spirituality and sex appeal." Her
long career, becoming a unique one in movie history, was launched. She continued steadily through
the 1930s, and into the early 1940s. Later, in the 1950s, she returned for occasional roles.
Miss Wray was married to writer John Monk Saunders (Wings) in 1927, divorced 1939. He
committed suicide in 1940. She married again, in 1942, screenwriter Robert Riskin (It Happened
One Night), who died in 1955. Miss Wray lives alone in Hollywood.
Quinlan's Illustrated Directory of Film Stars
by David Quinlan
Hippocrene Books, Inc. New York. © 1986, published by Hippocrene Books, 171 Madison Ave, New York NY 10016. ISBN 0-87052-346-5
excerpt from page 455:
Wray, Fay (Vina F. Wray) 1907-
Canadian actress with red-brown hair and attractive almond eyes, a great beauty adrift in westerns
when whisked to stardom by Erich von Stroheim in The Wedding March;
immortalized a few years later as the girl admired by King Kong.
She gained a reputation as the great screaming heroine of thirties' horror films. Retired on
marrying her second husband, writer-producer Robert Riskin, in 1942, but he died in 1955.
Cult Movie Stars
by Danny Peary
Fireside Books, New York. © 1991, published by Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020. ISBN 0-671-74924-2 and 0-671-69394-8
excerpt from page 594:
Fay Wray (1907-)
Her fame as Ann Darrow in King Kong and as other screaming heroines
in the thirties has eclipsed her romantic leading-lady status during the twenties, which culminated
with her moving performance as Mitzi in Erich von Stroheim's monumental The Wedding March.
In fact, she was at her best in sound films during long silent passages (especially in King Kong),
when both subtle and exaggerated acting were called for: the gorgeous eyes of her imperiled
heroines grow wide in terror yet look for escape, their breasts rise and fall, their lips fight to
open, their hands rise to their faces, and finally they scream and scream. Of course, in sound films,
her screams could be heard, and they were heard often in most of her films. Light-haired, with a pretty,
innocent face, but a willingness to wear sexy, ripped outfits in King Kong and be naked and strapped
to a table in The Mystery of the Wax Museum, she remains one of the most
fetching horror-movie stars. It's little wonder that several men were attracted to her in each film.
In King Kong, it seems only one man, Bruce Cabot's Jack Driscoll, covets her. But Robert
Armstrong's woman-hating Carl Denham also falls for her. The giant gorilla that chases her and takes her
up the most phallic building in the world (he who can distinguish Ann from other women only by her
smell) actually represents the sexually repressed Denham's uncontrollable desire for Ann. The "Girl
in the Hairy Paw" retired in 1942; she returned in the fifties, and played a lot of mothers.
Who's Who & What's What In Science Fiction Film, Television, Radio & Theater
by Gene Wright
Bonanza Books, © 1983, published 1985 by Facts On File, Inc. ISBN 0-517-488868
excerpt from page 218:
"They told me I was going to have the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood," Fay Wray recalled,
years after she played the archetypal monster-movie heroine. "Naturally, I thought of Clark Gable." Ms.
Wray's co-star was actually an 18-inch rubber model covered in dyed rabbit fur, augmented by a full-scale
mechanical arm and a bearhide-covered head and shoulders.
To make the miniature appear to be 20 times the size of the actress, stop-motion artist Willis O'Brien
devised a unique method of trick photography. He shot the actress first, then projected this footage
onto a small rear screen. In front of this was placed Kong, who now seemed as large as he was supposed to be.
Next, each frame of the live action was stopped as animators brought the giant ape's movements in line
with Ms. Wray's and photographed the two together.
Cooper describes how the famous scene in which Kong yanks at her clothing was done: "A movie was
made of her alone while invisible wires pulled off her clothes. Then the miniature Kong was placed on
a set built on a waist-high platform, about twice the size of a dining-room table, on which miniature
trees, ferns and plaster-of-Paris rocks had been arranged. Back of this, the movie of Fay Wray was
projected, and Kong's movements made to correspond with it."
What Is The Most Dangerous Game?
by George E. Turner
© 1995 The Roan Group, Inc. from the supplement of
the laserdisc release of The Most Dangerous Game, to which I give the highest recommendation...
you need to own this outstanding laserdisc release!
Arrangements had been made to borrow Margaret Perry from MGM to portray Eve Trowbridge. When she
proved unavailable at production time, the producers seized the opportunity to hire their friend,
Fay Wray, who had worked for them in The Four Feathers. Cooper was secretly in love with
the lovely Canadian-born actress, who was married unhappily to John Monk Saunders, the hard-drinking
author of Wings. Although Cooper and Wray became lifelong friends, their relationship
remained strictly platonic.
From The Most Dangerous Game Press Kit
© 1933 RKO-Radio Pictures
Question: "What was your most dangerous game?"
Fay Wray: "My flight through reptile infested Fog Hollow with Joel McCrea as my protector
was an ordeal. We eluded Zaroff that time, the bloodthirsty fiend. The choking mist hid us
and he could not shoot. My beautiful evening dress was in tatters and my feet bled during this
Most Dangerous Game."
Fay Wray has the distinction of having played in more films in which she was the only girl than
any other actress in Hollywood. Born on a ranch near Alberta, Canada, of English parents, Fay
received her early training and education in Salt Lake City. When her family moved to
California, Fay attended Hollywood High School and finished her schooling with a tutor on the sets
when she was signed by Hal Roach for comedies. Her first dramatic role was in The
Wedding March, following which she made The Legion of the Condemned, Street of
Sin, Thunderbolt, The Unholy Garden, and several Paramount films in which she was
co-featured with Gary Cooper. She is the wife of John Monk Saunders, well-known writer, and
last winter made her Broadway stage debut in the title role of Nikki, her husband's play.
Fay Wray: she is as feminine as a Parisian modiste and has the physical courage of an Indian.
She has the vivid coloring of a Maxfield Parrish nymph and the red hair of Salome.
She likes sun baths...parades...the smell of fine linen and the feel of gardenias. She's a champion
at ping pong and an adept at needlepoint tapestry.
She hates bridge...charcoals deftly...would rather vacation in London than Paris...loves New
York in the autumn...and is bored by speakeasy philosophers.
Her dresses run to red and her lipstick usually matches them. She uses a different perfume in
every picture...says she'd be confused in her characterization if she duplicated one.
She prefers Hemingway to Hergesheimer and buttermilk to tea. She names her fox terriers
after A.A.Milne characters and thinks whimsy is an inherited affliction like anemia. She likes
cold weather...Philadelphia cream cheese and Lois Moran's dancing. She cares little for jewelry...
Roumanian costumes...or Wagner's music.
In almost all of her pictures she has been the only girl in the cast...Four Feathers, Legion of the
Condemned, The First Kiss, Thunderbolt, and now in RKO-Radio's The Most Dangerous Game.
She was born on a ranch in Alberta, Canada...educated in Salt Lake City and made her first screen
success in The Wedding March. She is five feet three inches tall...weighs 105 pounds and
has blue eyes.
Evening Gown Entirely Ruined
There are all kinds of styles, but Fay Wray probably wins the silk-lined calico kimona by depicting
what milady will wear - or not wear - in the jungle this season. In the exciting RKO-Radio production,
The Most Dangerous Game, now playing, Miss Wray is first shown in a smart and becoming
evening dress of pale green. But before the end of the picture one would have to have an
excellent imagination to consider her garment anything resembling a dress. Hunted by a fanatic
killer through jungle wastes, clawed at by savages, Miss Wray's dress is torn to shreds, revealing
many things including the fact that the jungle is very tough on evening dress. (shill's note:
makes a change from the shamelessly blatant promotion of sex we get these days!)
Vanity Fair Magazine, December 1988
"Flashback" article, page 148:
In 1930, things were looking up for this twenty-two-year-old. After three years of comedy shorts and "cow operas,"
she had starred in Erich von Stroheim's classic The Wedding March. And Fay Wray (her real name) found
everlasting fame in 1933-- when her beauty killed the beast in King Kong. (Promised the "tallest, darkest
leading man in Hollywood," she spent ten months sitting in an eight-foot hairy paw.) The Hays Office cut six
minutes of monkey business with the big ape peeling off the heroine's clothes, hurling a fake Wray to the
ground, and eating a hapless New Yorker, but missed Wray's uncovered breast bobbing above the waves off Skull
Island. And even though she made nearly one hundred films, worked with Stiller, Capra, and von Sternberg, starred
with Gable, Cooper, and Powell, co-wrote a play with Sinclair Lewis, and survived a stormy affair with
Clifford Odets, Fay Wray remains the scream queen. She tells her story in On the Other Hand (St. Martin's).
Cinema of the Fantastic
by Chris Steinbrunner and Burt Goldblatt
Galahad Books, New York City. © 1972, published by arrangement with Saturday Review Press, a division of E.P.Dutton. ISBN 0-88365-256-0
excerpt from page 54:
[Merian C.] Cooper chose his cast with care from players available to RKO. Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong were
leading men who had already done several pictures for the studio. For his heroine Cooper selected Fay Wray,
who had demonstrated her aptitude for thrillers in Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and Cooper's own
The Most Dangerous Game, made literally at the same time as King Kong but released a year earlier
because of King Kong's time-consuming animation work. Because the same studio jungle was used for both
films, Fay Wray often had to plunge terrified through the same underbrush twice over! Her grace, her honest
beauty, her screams--especially her screams--catapulted her amongst the immortals. Her identification with
King Kong is so complete that it blots out any other vestige of her career from memory and even,
I suspect, from the public records. (shill's note:
Not if I have anything to do about it.) She is Kong's girl, beyond question. Like the sacrificial
offering Kong took her to be, Fay Wray surrendered herself to this one-in-a-lifetime part; even though
she played character roles as late as the mid-1950s and accepts an occasional interview to this day,
King Kong eclipses all. She is the perfect heroine: love-object, femme fatale, American beauty. The
beauty that killed the beast.
Collecting King Kong
by David Prestone
Baby Boomer Collectibles Magazine, February 1996, p.36
© 1996, published by Antique Trader Publications, 100 Bryant St., Dubuque, Iowa, 52003.
Note by Steve Hill:
This article is a VERY comprehensive listing of ALL things related to King Kong...books,
magazine articles, toys, videos, programs, records, even television commercials. Outstanding work
from Mr Prestone.
Other Books of Significant Interest to Fay Wray fans:
- Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender, Sexuality, and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema
by Rhona J Berenstein
Columbia University Press, New York. 1996. ISBN 0-231-08463-3
"The first book to explore the gender dynamics of classic horror film, ... Rhona J Berenstein presents an in-depth look at
such films as Bride of Frankenstein, Doctor X, Dracula, King
Kong, Mad Love, Svengali, and White Zombie." Much discussion of Fay Wray and her characters throughout.
- At the Center of the Frame: Leading Ladies of the Twenties and Thirties
by William M Drew
Vestal Press, Lanham, Maryland. 1999. ISBN 1-879511-44-4
"A fascinating collection of oral histories from ten prominent film actresses of the Golden Era of filmmaking: Billie Dove,
Fay Wray, Annabella, Anita Page, Dorothy Lee, Marian Marsh, Constance Cummings, Evelyn Venable, Jean Muir, and Claire Trevor. Each
star reveals intimate details and offers a penetrating look at some of the most important historical developments in cinema." One chapter on Fay Wray,
pages 58-101, very long and detailed and accompanied by many photos, some provided by Fay Wray herself.
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Layout and editing © 1995,2000 Steve Hill