Gary Gray

Child star and teen heart-throb of the 1940s whose screen début, aged 3, was alongside Joan Crawford


Gary Dixon Gray, actor: born Los Angeles 18 December 1936; married 1961 Jean Bean (four daughters); died Brush Prairie, Washington 4 April 2006.

The child star Gary Gray graduated in his movie career from an earnest child to a teen heart-throb. Fair-haired and blue-eyed, he was the son of the agent Bill Gray, whose clients included the comics Jack Benny and Bert Wheeler, both of whom advised him to put Gary into films.

Born in 1936, Gary Gray made his screen début at the age of three with an uncredited part of a little boy in a sailor suit playing hopscotch in the park in George Cukor's A Woman's Face (1939), starring Joan Crawford. He later recounted how he fell during his scene and cut his knee:

Before my mother could get to me, Joan Crawford picked me up, took me to her dressing room, cleaned my cut and was feeding me chocolates.

Because of his father's business, Gray was not overawed by stars, and formed close friendships with some, including William Holden, one of the stars of Gray's favourite of his films, Rachel and the Stranger (1947), a frontier drama in which he was the mischievous son of a widowed farmer (Holden) in the early 1800s. When Holden purchases a new wife (Loretta Young) to cook and help raise the boy, Gray resents her and Holden takes her for granted until a wanderer (Robert Mitchum) arrives and begins to court her. Gray and Mitchum recorded songs from the film for Delta Records in 1947.

Gray also befriended Rhonda Fleming when he appeared with the actress in the comedy The Great Lover (1949), starring Bob Hope as chaperon to a group of boy scouts on an ocean liner. "Hope was very businesslike," he recalled:

He did his work, went to his trailer and came out when he had scenes to do. Rhonda was beautiful, and all the kids liked her. I became president of the Rhonda Fleming fan club and she loved it. She had T-shirts made that said "Rhonda Fleming fan club" and she took us bowling. A great lady.

Another of Gray's favourite assignments was the musical Two Weeks with Love (1950), in which he was the younger brother of Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds. He recalled how he and Reynolds became friends and would sit on the set watching Busby Berkeley at work. "That was a fun movie," he said. "Berkeley had grown weary by this time of his career and didn't direct entire films any more, just the musical numbers."

Father is a Bachelor (1950) reunited him with William Holden, who played a hobo "adopted" by five orphans, among them Gray and, as his brother, Billy Gray, a child star with whom Gary was sometimes confused (they were not related). Earlier the pair had played brothers in To Each His Own (1945).

Gary Gray's other films included Sun Valley Serenade (1941, as a wartime refugee), The Clock (1945, as a boy encountered in Central Park by Judy Garland and Robert Walker), and The Girl from Jones Beach (1949) with Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo. In the 1980s Gray was planning a trip to Washington on business and was urged by a friend to contact Reagan:

I told him I wasn't going to bother the busiest man in the world. My friend sent a fax behind my back. I was sitting in the living room when the phone rang. "This is President Reagan's office." So I met the President at the White House and he signed a still for me. I told him, "You know, Mr President, I was a lot more impressed with Virginia Mayo than you!" He laughed and said, "She was a very pretty woman."

Gray also acted as one of Raymond Walburn's sons in the "Latham family" B-movie comedies, including Leave it to Henry (1949) and Father Makes Good (1950), and he was the son of James Whitmore and Nancy Kelly in the controversial drama The Next Voice You Hear (1950), in which the voice of God emanates from a radio.

One of his final major roles was in The Painted Hills (1951), the last in MGM's series of films starring the famous collie Lassie. At the end of shooting, Gary was given one of Lassie's pups, which he christened Laddie. He acted in only five more movies, including Teenage Rebel (1956) and The Party Crashers (1958), co-starring Connie Stevens, who as a teenager had run a Gary Gray Fan Club. His last film was Terror at Black Falls (1962).

"I always got a regular job between movies," he said, and ultimately he was a sales manager for swimming-pool manufacturers.

Tom Vallance

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?