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Hollywood's First Scream Queen

Before she screamed her way through “King Kong” (1933), actress Fay Wray was already screaming in “B” horror films such as “Dr. X” (1932) and the original “The Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1932). It would only be fitting for Wray to be solidified as the first scream queen of the silver screen with her role as “Anne Darrow” in “King Kong.”

How was she introduced to the role? It was in a meeting with Wray’s friend and film producer Merian C. Cooper when Cooper showed her sketches and the script for “King Kong.” He told her that her co-star was going to be the “tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.” Wray thought it would be heartthrob Clark Gable, but while reading the script, Wray found out it was a love story between a beauty and a large gorilla. “I thought it was a practical joke,” Wray recalled the moment in an interview. But it was not a joke.

Wray eventually accepted the role as “Ann Darrow,” an out-of-work actress who is hired by a production crew making an exotic adventure film on location. When they arrive on the island, “Ann” is captured by the natives as a sacrifice to “Kong,” a large gorilla who rules the island. Wray had to produce her famous scream by using her imagination combined with the directions of Ernest B. Schoedsack. “When I first saw the picture I thought the screams were overdone. But they were an important part of the picture and I was delighted with how it all looked. My scenes with King were exactly the way I imagined them.” Wray once explained.

In 2005, Director Peter Jackson decided to remake the film and cast Naomi Watts as “Anne Darrow.” When Watts and Jackson formally met Wray, Jackson introduced Watts as the new Ann Darrow. “You’re not Anne Darrow. I’m Anne Darrow!” Wray joked. But by the end of the meeting, Wray had given Watts her blessing, whispering, “Ann Darrow’s in good hands.”

Jackson wanted Wray to make a cameo appearance in order to say say the film's famous last lines, “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty that killed the beast." Wray passed away before the scene could be shot. She was 96 years old. Two days after, the lights of the Empire State Building in New York City were dimmed for fifteen minutes in loving memory of her.

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