Friday, November 18, 2011

Actress Dulcie Gray R.I.P.

Actress and singer Dulcie Gray, who appeared in many Gainsborough films, passed on 15 November 2011 at th age of 95. The cause was bronchial pneumonia.

Dulcie Gray was born Dulcie Bailey in Kuala Lumpur, British Malaya (now Maylasia) on 20 November 1915. She attended schools in Wallingford, Oxfordshire; Wokingham, Berkshire; and Swanage, Dorset. After completing her education in England she returned to British Malaya where she worked as a journalist for the Malaya Tribune. Following her father's death she returned to England where she enrolled in Ecoles des Beaux Arts school. Learning she did not excel at art, she enrolled at the Webber Academy of Dramatic Art. It was there she met Michael Denison. The two would eventually marry and would form one of the best known husband and wife acting teams in the United Kingdom. They would be married for 59 years, until Mr. Denison's death.

In 1939 Miss Gray made her professional debut in Hay Fever at His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen, Scotland. While Mr. Denison served in World War II, she played with repertories in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Harrogate. Afterwards she went to London to play in Shakespeare at the Open Air Theatre in Regent Park. It was in 1942 that she made her debut on the West End in Little Foxes. It was her role in the play Brighton Rock that attracted the attention of Gainsborough Pictures, who signed her to a contract.

Dulcie Gray made her film debut in a small part in Banana Ridge in 1942. She went onto appear in such films as Two Thousand Women (1944), A Place of One's Own (1945), They Were Sisters (1945), Mine Own Executioner (1947), A Man About the House (1947), and The Glass Mountain.

In the Fifties Miss Gray made her debut on television in an adaptation of the play Milestones in 1951. Throughout the decade she appeared on such shows as Rheingold Theatre, Alfred Marks Time, BBC Sunday Night Theatre, and ITV Play of the Week. She appeared in such films as The Franchise Affair (1951), Angels One Five (1952), and There Was a Young Lady (1953).  In the Sixties Dulcie Gray appeared in the movie A Man Could Get Killed (1966) and the TV series ITV Playhouse. In the Seventies she appeared on the TV series Crown Court and BBC Playhouse of the Month.

In the Eighties Miss Gray was a regular on the series Howard's Way, on which she played Kate Harvey. She appeared on the shows Play for Today, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime, Rumpole of the Bailey, and Three Up Two Down,. In the Nineties she appeared on the shows Tales From the Crypt and Doctors. In 1996 she and Michael Denison appeared on Broadway for the first time in a revival of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband.

In addition to being an actress and singer, Dulcie Gray was also a mystery novelist. Her first novel, Murder on the Stairs, was published in 1957. She would go onto write around two dozen mystery novels, most of them featuring the character of Inspector Cardiff. She also wrote eight radio plays and many short stories. One, "The Fur Brooch," was adapted as an episode of Night Gallery. Miss Gray was also one of the foremost experts on butterflies. In 1978 she published the scholarly study Butterflies on My Mind.

As an actress it is difficult to separate Miss Gray's career from that of her husband, Michael Denison. As a team Mr. Denison and Miss Gray acted together many, many times. As an individual actress she was often compared to Googie Withers. That having been said, Dulcie Gray was actually quite talented as an actress. In They Were Sisters she appeared without her husband, playing opposite James Mason as the wife he destroys. It was an impressive and sensitive performance and one of the stand out performances in the film. Of course, Miss Gray was more than an actress. As a mystery novelist she wrote popular books, some of which are in print to this day. She was also quite knowledgeable as a lepidopterist. Butterflies on My Mind won the Times Senior Information Book Award. Although Dulcie Gray was not the best known of the Gainsborough Girls, she was certain a woman of multiple and considerable talents.

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