Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lorna Gray R.I.P.

Lorna Gray, who was billed as Adrian Booth later in her career, died on April 30 2017 at the age of 99. She was the star of many B-movies for Columbia Pictures and Republic Pictures in the Thirties and Forties.

Lorna Gray was born Virginia Pound in Grand Rapids, Michigan on July 26 1917. She won the Miss Grand Rapids beauty pageant and went on to win the Miss Michigan pageant. Afterwards she moved to Chicago as a singer. She later moved to New York City to perform in Ben Yost’s Varsity Coeds in vaudeville. It was a Universal talent scout who sent her on her way to Hollywood. She was signed to Paramount Pictures. At Paramount she spent her time playing uncredited roles in such films as Hold 'Em Navy (1937), The Buccaneer (1938), and The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938).

It was an agent who gave her the name "Lorna Gray". She signed with Columbia Pictures where her first film was an uncredited part in Scandal Street (1938). She received her first major role in Adventure in Sahara (1938). In the late Thirties she appeared in such feature films and serials as The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), Flying G-Men (1939), The Man They Could Not Hang (1939), Convicted Woman (1940), Bullets for Rustlers (1940), and Deadwood Dick (1940). She also appeared in various short subjects, including "Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise" (1939). "Three Sappy People" (1939),  "You Nazty Spy!" (1940), and "Rockin' Thru the Rockies" (1940) with the Three Stooges and "Pest from the West" with Buster Keaton. Beginning in the late Thirties Lorna Gray moved to Monogram, where she made such films as Up in the Air (1940), Drums of the Desert (1940), and Father Steps Out (1941).

Miss Gray then shifted to Republic Pictures in 1941. There she appeared in various feature films and some rather well-known serials, including Perils of Nyoka (1942), Ridin' Down the Canyon (1942), Captain America (1944), The Girl Who Dared (1944), and Federal Operator 99 (1945). She appeared in So Proudly We Hail! (1943) for Paramount. In 1946 Republic gave her the new name "Adrian Booth" and touted her as a new discovery, even though she had been working since the late Thirties. As Adrian Booth she appeared in such films as Valley of the Zombies (1946), Daughter of Don Q (1946), Out California Way (1946), Along the Oregon Trail (1947), Under Colorado Skies (1947), The Gallant Legion (1948), The Plunderers (1948), Brimstone (1949), Rock Island Trail (1950), Oh! Susanna (1951) and The Sea Hornet (1951). 

Miss Gray retired from film making in 1951. She was an active supporter of the World Adoption International Fund. She later became an ordained minister. For many years she attended film festivals, including those devoted to Westerns and the Three Stooges.

Lorna Gray was certainly beautiful, and she was also a delight to see on the screen. She acted opposite some very famous leading men during her career, including Monte Hale, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Clayton Moore, the Three Stooges, and John Wayne. What is more she held her own with all of them. Miss Gray was always convincing, even when some of her material stretched the bounds of reality (such as some of the serials she made).

I have known a few people who had the opportunity to meet Lorna Gray and even some who corresponded with her. Every one of them had the same things to say about her. She was an incredibly sweet lady, very kind and considerate. She was always grateful to her fans. Lorna Gray may have spent her career in B-movies, but for many she was a true star.

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