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Gene Autry and Davis in Toronto, circa 1955.
|Born||Betty Jeanne Grayson
October 5, 1925
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
|Died||March 15, 1997
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Texas at Austin|
|Occupation||Actress: Annie Oakley|
(1) Bob Davis(2) Carl Guerriero
Life and career
The daughter of a small town physician, she was born as Betty Jeanne Grayson in a Little Rock, Arkansas hospital, but was raised in McGehee until her family moved to Little Rock.[when?] She had been singing and dancing since childhood. After graduating from Little Rock High School, she studied at the Harcum Junior College for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, before completing her education at the University of Texas at Austin. At Austin she met and married her first husband, Bob Davis, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie.
She and her husband moved to Hollywood to pursue a film career. She told an interviewer how she acquired her professional acting name. "I went under contract to MGM around 1946. They told me 'we can't have a Betty Davis, because of Bette Davis, and we can't have a Betty Grayson because of Kathryn Grayson'.... Then a guy in the casting department said 'how about Gail Davis?' So that's where it came from."
In 1947 she made her motion picture debut in a comedy film short. She then appeared in minor roles in another four films until landing a supporting role under star Roy Rogers in a 1948 Western film, The Far Frontier. Between 1948 and 1953, Davis appeared in more than three dozen films, all but three of which were in the Western genre, including twenty films with or for the production company of the singing cowboy star, Gene Autry.
In 1950, she began to guest star in television Westerns, notably in The Cisco Kid, in which she appeared six times in two roles, including that of a niece whose uncle is trying to stop her pending marriage to a gangster. She guest starred in two 1950 episodes entitled "Buried Treasure" and "Spanish Gold" of The Lone Ranger and twice each on The Range Rider and The Adventures of Kit Carson. She appeared more than a dozen times on The Gene Autry Show.
Between 1954 and 1956, Davis starred in the syndicated Annie Oakley series, later rebroadcast on ABC. An adroit horseback rider, Davis also toured North America in Gene Autry's traveling rodeo. She went on to manage other celebrities. In 1961, she made a guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show as Thelma Lou's cousin.
Davis and her second husband, Carl Edward Guerriero, retired to the San Fernando Valley. During her retirement Davis made guest appearances at western memorabilia shows and film festivals. Her last public appearance was in 1994, when she received the Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
For her contribution to the television industry, Gail Davis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd. In 2004, she was posthumously inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. Davis' exhibit at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame recalls her impact of young girls through the Annie Oakley series:
"Back then I knew the show was having a positive impact, especially on little girls. It wasn't until years later that I realized just how much. Little girls had turned into influential women, thanking my portrayal of Annie for showing them the way."
- Yukon Manhunt (1951)
- "Gene Autry Collection: TV's Annie Oakley". autrycollection.com. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
- Annie Oakley Hits the Bulls-Eyes, in the Summer/Fall 1994 Trail Dust magazine
- Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, 1946-Present, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 47
- The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, by TIm Brooks and Earle Marsh, Ballantine Books, 1995
- The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture website, see External Links
- Gail Davis exhibit, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas
- Gail Davis at Find a Grave
- Gail Davis at the Internet Movie Database
- Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture web article
- The Colt Revolver in the American West—Gail Davis' Single Action Army