fwray.jpgVina Fay Wray, an actress who co-starred in feature films with Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Atwill, Raymond Burr and King Kong, died on Aug. 8. Cause of death was not released. She was 96.
Born in Alberta, Canada, Wray was 12 years old when her parents divorced. She moved with her mother and siblings to Los Angeles where she landed bit parts in movies. After graduating from Hollywood High School, Wray played the ingénue in several silent westerns and the damsel-in-distress in horror flicks like “Dr. X,” “The Mystery of the Wax Museum and “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Over the course of her career, Wray appeared in nearly 100 movies, but was best known as Hollywood’s first “scream queen” for her loud reaction to being carried to the top of the Empire State Building by a giant ape in the 1933 film, “King Kong.” She spent an entire day recording screams for that movie, many of which were later inserted into the soundtrack.
Although Wray officially retired from the business in 1942, she occasionally appeared in movies, including the 1979 Henry Fonda film “Gideon’s Trumpet.” Last year, she received a Legend in Film Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival.
Wray married screenwriter John Monk Saunders, who committed suicide two years after their divorce in 1940. She then wed screenwriter Robert Riskin, who died in 1955. Wray’s last marriage was to Dr. Sanford Rothenberg, a neurosurgeon; he died in 1991. Her final years were spent writing plays and chronicling her life in the autobiography “On the Other Hand,” which was published in 1989.
The Empire State Building will dim its lights tonight in her honor.
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