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Rediff.com  » Movies » Fay Wray, King Kong's leading lady, dies at 96

Fay Wray, King Kong's leading lady, dies at 96

August 10, 2004 18:10 IST

fay wrayThe beauty that killed the beast is dead.

Fay Wray, the blonde bombshell who screamed to fame on King Kong's palm in the 1933 classic, died in her Manhattan apartment on August 8. She was 96.

Wray, who was born September 15, 1907 in Alberta, Canada, moved to Hollywood as a child and entered the movies at 16. She acted in over 90 films and began her career in the silent era with Gasoline Love (1923).

She worked with some of the most renowned directors of the period, including Josef von Sternberg (Thunderbolt, 1929), George Abbott (The Sea God, 1930) and Frank Capra (Dirigible, 1931). Her last screen appearance was in Dragstrip Riot (1958). She also acted in the 1980 television drama Gideon's Trumpet, which starred Henry Fonda.

She was married thrice -- to writer-director John Monk Saunders (1928 to 1939), screenwriter Robert Riskin (1942 to 1955) and to Los Angeles doctor Sanford Rothenberg (1970 to 1991). Her first marriage, from which she has a daughter, ended in divorce. Riskin and Rothenberg died in 1955 and 1991 respectively.

Wray called her autobiography, which she published in 1989, On The Other Hand, a reference to her famous scenes in King Kong's hand. She wrote that co-director Merian C Cooper offered Wray a part in his movie saying that she would be working with the 'tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.' Wray thought of Cary Grant or Gary Cooper. But it turned out her co-star was a big, hairy ape.

In King Kong, which the American Film Institute honoured in 1998 among the greatest 100 American films of all time, she played Ann Darrow, an unemployed actress. Invited by a film producer on a voyage to Skull Island, she is offered as bait to capture King Kong. The captured ape is brought to New York, where it escapes and goes on rampage in search of Darrow, now his love interest. In the famous climax scene, King Kong topples off the Empire State Building.

Spurred by the success of the unforgettable King Kong, which brought its producers out of the red, Wray acted in a number of horror films, including The Most Dangerous Game, Doctor X, The Mystery Of The Wax Museum and The Vampire Bat.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has announced a remake of King Kong as his next film.