Fay Wray — Aloof and Friendly (1928) 🇺🇸
It would be exceedingly difficult to write a few trite paragraphs about Fay Wray — and let it go at that. In fact, such treason would be quite impossible if — as all interviewers should — one had a conscience at all. For Fay Wray is delightful. She is exquisitely bred and innately serious. She has a delicately placed sense of humor, and she is charmingly aloof yet pleasantly friendly.
by Patsy DuBuis
If the foregoing seems paradoxical, you have caught the idea I am trying to suggest. Because Fay Wray’s personality is as elusive as her lilting name would hint.
When she was a very small girl, the children in the Utah town where Fay lived, indulged in an almost daily round of surprise parties. It was their custom to descend — thirty or forty of them — upon the home of one of their friends, where Fay the surprised one was expected to furnish refreshments and entertainment. Fay’s house was the most popular rendezvous, it appears, for these ceremonies. For Fay and her elder sister, Willa, were accomplished in the art of entertaining. Willa sang. And Fay would dress up in her mother’s clothes, and recite “pieces.” She would even give one-act plays, if sufficiently prevailed upon.
This conflict of talents caused Mrs. Wray many a loving chuckle. Willa had a desire to sing for the children. Fay wanted to act. They couldn’t do them both together. Finally Mrs. Wray had to decide upon a method of arbitration, whereby the sister and Fay presented short numbers by turns.
With the Wrays’ hegira to Bingham, Utah, a few years later, Fay’s mud-pie era began. Always a domestic little girl, Fay found in the concocting of ornate mud pies an outlet for her desire to make real pastry. There was only one difficulty — she could not understand why her mother would not allow her to wear her party dress when she was “cooking.” Fay’s one and only spanking occurred when she disobeyed this maternal mandate. Her father did the honors — and Fay never made mud pies again, while wearing her fancy dress.
Fay and I were lunching in the Paramount cafe, while she confided all this to me. The Paramount cafe, at noon, is bedlam incarnate. More noise I have never heard in one eating place. It is here that stars, directors, extras, script girls, and others forgather at noon, to lunch and to discuss anything and everything. Fay and I sat at a table in the center of this, and so vividly did she describe some of those incidents of her childhood, that I forgot entirely all the confusion about me. Forgot that at the neighboring table sat an array of stellar players, whose appearance in one group would give the average person heart failure. I was with Fay Wray — back in her not-so-long-ago childhood.
There were little boys who used to carry Fay’s books home from school, but Fay did not particularly care for little boys. She loved playing dolls with girls. Playing house — that also was her idea of fun. Sometimes her sister played with her — but not so often. Where Fay was quiet, serious-minded, and domestic, Willa wanted to run and to clamber up trees. Fay sewed intently on doll clothes. The sister hacked at rough boards, trying to make houses and automobiles.
For all their different temperaments, though, Fay and Willa grew up as the best of chums. I mention the sister so particularly, because a comparison of the two girls reveals a part of Fay Wray as nothing else does.
Fay, as she emerged into her early teens, liked nothing so much as to have the management of the home for a day. Cleaning, planning the meals, and cooking them, were her special delights.
When she was fourteen, the family moved to Los Angeles.
Now, I have it from some of Fay’s schoolmates that she was its shining, literary light. It was Fay who named their school yearbook The Reflector — which name it still bears. It was Fay who wrote this poem, the only one individually signed in The Reflector for 1923.
The mightiest things that nature’s hand hath made,
Majestic in their dignity they stand,
Aglow with life now as the sun doth fade,
And fill each chasm with shadows deep and grand.
They are the kings; all nature owns their might.
The floods, the waves, the rivers pass away,
That ball of fire sinking out of sight
Acknowledges their power, every day.
From out their sides stand mighty silhouettes
Of weird, strange faces carved by some huge hand,
Sphinxlike in wisdom so that one forgets
His fleeting life and marvels as he stands.
They symbolize serene, eternal power,
Seen by the eyes of ages of the past.
They still shall be until the destined hour
When time shall cease and earth shall pass away.
At fourteen or thereabouts, most of Fay’s school chums were beginning to attend parties with their boy friends. Fay was aloof. She was “different.” Unquestionably the prettiest girl in the school, with her deep-blue eyes, her curly, brown hair and her lovely face, she was always singled out for special attentions; but she quietly and serenely would have none of them. She was to be a writer. She must study.
Fay’s literary ambitions were side-tracked when the Wrays moved to Hollywood. Somehow she found small bits, during vacations, at one of the lesser studios. After that, she knew her place must be on the screen.
She went back to high school, but did not finish; for an offer came for work at the Hal Roach studio — and Ray accepted it.
Her signing for the role of Mitzi, in The Wedding March, and her subsequent contract with Paramount, are well known. She is now one of the elite on the Paramount lot. Her roles in The Legion of the Condemned, The Street of Sin, and The First Kiss have established her as a leading player in her own right. Fay Wray and Gary Cooper have brought to the screen one of its most satisfying young couples.
I suppose you are wondering just how much this new life of fame and glamour has changed the serious, domestic little girl. Quite truthfully it has changed her very little, if at all.
She loves her work — the work that is an outgrowth of her play acting of the surprise-party days. Instead of her childhood friends, it is now the great movie-going public that gives her “surprise parties.” She wants to go as high as she can in pictures. Fay is cultivating her already lovely voice, so that sound pictures will not find her wanting.
”I’ve never had a lifelong chum like most girls have,” she told me. “I don’t know why, unless it is that I was always so serious, and needed none but Willa.”
A few weeks ago the mother of one of the girls who used to attend Fay’s high school decided it would be pleasant to bring together some of the girls who were classmates there. Fay was among those invited. She accepted, overjoyed at the prospect of again seeing her one-time classmates. But a location trip intervened, and Fay sent her regrets, adding that should another such get-together be planned, she would not wish to be excluded.
Her career has interfered with her domestic proclivities. She has not the time in which to do the things she would like to do in her home. But, believe it or not, she still derives pleasure from cooking and sewing; and the things she makes for her own wear are skillfully fashioned.
Pier sense of humor? We were discussing my imminent journey on shipboard, and Fay was very seriously recommending chewing gum as a preventive of seasickness. “Really,” she urged, “I’ve never been troubled, and I always chew gum when we go on location over the water. If you do take some with you, and it doesn’t do any good, you may say in your story that Fay Wray’s prescription for staving off mal de mer was all damp.
Fay Wray’s personality, her character and her appearance may be described as the nearest to “ideal” that girls ever attain. I do not — most emphatically do not — mean to be anything but sincere when I make such a statement. For it seems to me that those qualities embodied in the near-ideal are, first, strong character; then a pleasant and cultured personality, a sense of humor, friendliness, a lack of selfish self-esteem, and a pleasingly attractive appearance and voice.
Fay Wray has all these cardinal virtues. She is a delightful young woman.
Since she was very little, Fay has always been innately serious.
Wray as a star is little changed from the child who loved to make mud pies and “play house.”
Photo by: Otto Dyar (1892–1988)
Collection: Picture Play Magazine, December 1928