Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Colleen Gray Passes On

Coleen Gray, who appeared in such films as Kiss of Death (1947), Red River (1948) and The Killing (1956), died on August 3 2015 at the age of 92.

Coleen Gray was born Doris Jensen on October 23 1922 in Staplehurst, Nebraska. She spent her childhood in Hutchinson, Minnesota. She earned a Bachelor's degree in English and music from  at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating from college she moved to California. She worked for a waitress in La Jolla for a time before moving to Los Angeles and enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles. While attending UCLA she worked in the university's library as well as the YWCA.  Eventually she was signed to a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox.

Coleen Gray made her film debut in an uncredited, bit part in State Fair (1945). She appeared in another uncredited bit part in Three Little Girls in Blue (1946) before her first major role, playing the female lead in Kiss of Death (1947). In the late Forties she appeared in such films as Nightmare Alley (1947), Fury at Furnace Creek (1948), Red River (1948), Father Is a Bachelor (1950), Riding High (1950), and The Sleeping City (1950).

Despite appearing in The Killing in 1956, Coleen Gray's film career began to decline in the late Fifties. By that time she was appearing in such low budget films as The Vampire (1957) and The Leech Woman (1960). During the decade she appeared in such films as I'll Get You for This (1951), Apache Drums (1951), Models Inc. (1952), Kansas City Confidential (1952), The Vanquished (1953), Las Vegas Shakedown (1955), Frontier Gambler (1956), The Black Whip (1956), and Johnny Rocco (1958). She made her television debut in 1950 in an episode of Pulitzer Prize Playhouse and appeared frequently on television in the Fifties. She guest starred on such shows as Danger, Schlitz Playhouse, The Ford Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Four Star Playhouse, Damon  Runyon Theatre, Climax!, Mike Hammer, Playhouse 90, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Deputy, and General Electric Theatre.

The Sixties would see her career mostly take place on television. She appeared on such shows as Lawman, Maverick, Have Gun--Will Travel, Rawhide, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 77 Sunset Strip, Mister Ed, Perry Mason, The Virginian, My Three Sons, Run for Your Life, Bonanza, The Name of the Game, and Adam-12. She appeared in the movies The Phantom Planet (1961), Town Tamer (1965), and P.J. (1968). She was a regular for a time on the soap operas Days of Our Lives and Bright Promises.

From the Seventies into the Eighties Miss Gray appeared on such shows as The F.B.I., Mannix, The Sixth Sense, Ironside, Emergency!, McCloud, and Tales from the Darkside. She appeared in the films The Late Liz (1971), Mother (1978),  and Cry from the Mountain (1985).

There can be no doubt that Coleen Gray was incredibly beautiful. Sadly, her wholesome yet delicate beauty largely dictated the sort of roles she was given.  In both films noirs and Westerns Coleen Gray was always the girlfriend or wife. It did not matter that her characters were often in love with bad men, they were nearly always virtuous. Coleen Gray played such roles very well, but she could clearly do much more. She proved that in The Leech Woman, as well as many of her television appearances. Hardly a good film by any stretch of the imagination, The Leech Woman at least gave her the chance to play a villainous character, namely the title character who drains men of their youth. In some of her appearances on Perry Mason she also got to play characters who were very different from those she had in film--namely, women who were not below scheming to get what they wanted. In the Rawhide episode "The Devil and the Deep Blue" she not only played a woman who was cheating on her husband, but one capable of murder as well.  While Coleen Gray will most likely be remembered for the many wholesome women she played in films noirs and Westerns, she was capable of playing many more roles.

1 comment:

CineMaven said...

Nice tribute to Coleen Gray. I saw her at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival when she and Eddie Muller introduced "The Killing." Man, 92. Still miss her.