Coleen Gray, 1952
October 23, 1922
Staplehurst, Nebraska, USA
Gray was born Doris Jensen on October 23, 1922 in Staplehurst, Nebraska. She was the daughter of a farmer. After graduating from high school, she studied dramatics at Hamline University, from which she received a Bachelor of Arts. She then decided to travel to California. When she reached La Jolla she obtained employment as a waitress in a restaurant. After several weeks there, she moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in a drama school.
She had leading roles in the Los Angeles stage productions Letters to Lucerne and Brief Music, which won her a 20th Century Fox contract in 1944. After initially playing a bit part in State Fair (1945), she became pregnant and briefly stopped working, only to return a year later as the love interest of the character played by John Wayne in Red River (1948), which was shot in 1946 but held for release until 1948, by which time she had already graduated to leading roles in films noir such as Kiss of Death (1947) opposite Victor Mature and Nightmare Alley (1947) opposite Tyrone Power.
Gray appeared in two 1947 films noir: in Kiss of Death as ex-con Victor Mature's wife and Richard Widmark's target, and in Nightmare Alley as "Electra", Tyrone Power's carnival performer wife. In 1948, she appeared as John Wayne's love interest in the opening sequences of Red River, but, overshadowed by the men in Howard Hawks's western, her career suffered and Fox ended her contract in 1950. Gray worked steadily in the 1950s. She played a crooked nurse in The Sleeping City (1950) and appeared in Kansas City Confidential (1952) and the Stanley Kubrick film noir The Killing (1956), in which she played a lonely woman desperate for love. Other films included Father Is a Bachelor (1950), the cult horror film The Leech Woman (1960), The Phantom Planet (1961), and P.J. (1968).
Gray appeared in The Late Liz (1971), and acted in the films Forgotten Lady (1977), and Mother (1978) with Patsy Ruth Miller. Mother had a premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Both Mother and Forgotten Lady were written for Gray by Brian Pinette, who also served as director and producer. She appeared in the religious film Cry From the Mountain (1986), produced by Billy Graham.
In 1964, along with actors Victor Jory and Susan Seaforth, Gray testified before the United States Congress as part of "Project Prayer," arguing in favor of a constitutional amendment allowing school prayer.
From the 1950s, Gray guest-starred in episodes of television series such as Maverick, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, Mr. Ed, Rawhide in 1962 in the episode "The Devil and the Deep Blue" as Helen Wade, 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza, The Deputy, Have Gun Will Travel, The Dakotas, Family Affair, Ironside,The Name of the Game and Branded. On May 23, 1962, she was cast as Miss Wycliffe in the series finale, "A Job for Summer", of the CBS comedy/drama series, Window on Main Street, starring Robert Young as a widowed author in his hometown. She made four guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the title role of defendant Lorraine Kendall in the 1960 episode, "The Case of the Wandering Widow."
Gray married Rodney Amateau, a screenwriter, on August 10, 1945; they divorced on February 11, 1949, and had one daughter, Susan (born 1946). Her second husband was William Clymer Bidlack, an aviation executive. They were married from July 14, 1953, until his death in 1978. The union produced a son, Bruce Robin Bidlack (born 1954).
In 1979, Gray married Fritz Zeiser; they remained together until his death in March 2012. They were active with the non-profit organization, Prison Fellowship, founded in 1976 by Chuck Colson, a convicted felon in the Watergate scandal. Prison Fellowship assists the church in ministering to prisoners and their families and victims.
- "When I attended the University, I daydreamed about being a movie star. I would do my dressing room in Early American and give lovely presents to my make-up man and hairdresser for making me look so lovely, and so on. When I got my contract at 20th I was in seventh heaven, but I found out that a movie career is mostly hard work laced with disappointments." — Coleen Gray, quoted in The Boston Sunday Post November 9, 1947
- Kiss of Death (1947)
- Nightmare Alley (1947)
- Fury at Furnace Creek (1948)
- Red River (1948)
- Sand (1949)
- Father Is a Bachelor (1950)
- Riding High (1950)
- The Sleeping City (1950)
- Apache Drums (1951)
- I'll Get You for This (1951)
- Kansas City Confidential (1952)
- Sabre Jet (1953)
- The Fake (1953)
- Tennessee's Partner (1955)
- The Killing (1956)
- Death of a Scoundrel (1956)
- The Vampire (1957)
- Johnny Rocco (1958)
- The Leech Woman (1960)
- The Phantom Planet (1961)
- P.J. (1968)
- Mother (1978)
- Magers, Boyd (2004). Western Women: Interviews with 50 Leading Ladies. McFarland & Company. pp. 94–96. ISBN 978-0786406722.
- Magers, p. 94.
- "Her Life Reads Like a Soap Opera". Bucks County Courier. July 23, 1966. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Coleen Gray.|
- Coleen Gray at the Internet Movie Database
- Coleen Gray at the TCM Movie Database
- Yahoo biography
- Photograph of Coleen Gray