BEL AIR—Actress Coleen Gray, best known for her role as Fay in Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 film “The Killing,” died at her Bel Air home on Monday, August 3.
Gray was born Doris Bernice Jensen on October 23, 1922 in Stablehurst, Nebraska. She changed her name to jumpstart her career when she reached Hollywood. As she told Eddie Muller in his book “Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir,” she picked Gray because it was “short, good for marquees,” Coleen because “I thought it sounded like water over the rocks in a babbling brook,” and chose to use only one l in Coleen “just to be different.”
Gray herself was just a little different. Though her most well known movies were hard boiled, cynical film noirs, she never played the femme fatale. Instead, she was always, in Muller’s words, “the slumming angel of reason and redemption, ably wresting straying men away from the precipice.”
She did sometimes take her turn at playing the bad girl. In the 1960 camp horror flick “The Leech Woman,” she played the eponymous leech woman, June Talbot, who killed men to keep herself young.
The movie was a low budget affair, designed to be the second, “B-film” in a double feature with “The Brides of Dracula.” The movie was a critical failure, and has since been featured on parody show “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
“No matter the part, I always went at it with complete sincerity,” she told Mullins “It was a lot of fun making that one. We blew a lot of takes because we were all laughing so hard.”
In addition to her roles on the silver screen, Gray also had a strong television career. She was a regular star on soap operas “Bright Promise” and “Days of Our Lives.” She also guest-starred on many shows, including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Ironside,” and “Perry Mason.”
Off-screen, Coleen Gray was active in the community. In 1970, Gray began a term on the board of directors at her alma mater, Hamline University. Along with her third husband, bible scholar Joseph Fritz Zeiser, Grey also dedicated their time to the non-profit organization Prison Fellowship, which ministers to prisoners and their families and victims.
Grey is survived by Susan, her daughter from her first marriage; Bruce, her son from her second marriage; two stepsons; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.