Gail Davis

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Gail Davis
Gene Autry and Gail Davis Toronto.jpg
Gene Autry and Davis in Toronto, circa 1956.
Betty Jeanne Grayson

(1925-10-05)October 5, 1925
DiedMarch 15, 1997(1997-03-15) (aged 71)
Alma mater Harcum Junior College for Girls
University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Actress
Years active
  • 19461961
  • 1994
Spouse(s)(1) Bob Davis (1945–52)
(2) Richard Pierce
(3) Carl Guerriero
ChildrenTerrie Davis

Gail Davis (born Betty Jeanne Grayson, October 5, 1925 March 15, 1997) was an American actress and singer, best known for her starring role as Annie Oakley in the 1950s television series Annie Oakley . [1]

Annie Oakley American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter

Annie Oakley was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Her talent first came to light when at age 15 she won a shooting match against traveling-show marksman Frank E. Butler, whom she later married. The couple joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West show a few years later. Oakley became a renowned international star, performing before royalty and heads of state.

<i>Annie Oakley</i> (TV series) television series

Annie Oakley is an American Western television series that fictionalized the life of the famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Featuring actress Gail Davis in the title role, the weekly program ran from January 1954 to February 1957 in syndication. A total of 81 black-and-white episodes were produced, with each installment running 25 minutes in length. ABC aired daytime reruns of the series on Saturdays and Sundays from 1959 to 1960 and then again from 1964 to 1965.


Life and career

Early years

The daughter of a small town physician, Davis was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but was raised in McGehee, Arkansas until her family moved to Little Rock. [ when? ]

McGehee, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

McGehee is a city in Desha County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 4,219 at the 2010 census.

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, and then completed her education at the University of Texas at Austin. [2] She had a younger sister, Shirley Ann Grayson (August 26, 1937 – February 23, 1971).

Harcum College human settlement in Pennsylvania, United States of America

Harcum College is an associate degree-granting residential college in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1915 and was the first college in Pennsylvania authorized to grant associate degrees.


Betty Jeanne and her husband, Bob Davis, 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." [3]

Bette Davis American film, television and stage actress

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress of film, television and theater. With a career spanning 60 years and 100 acting credits, she is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greatest successes were in romantic dramas. She was the first person to garner ten acting Academy Award nominations.

Kathryn Grayson Actress from the United States

Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick was an American actress and coloratura soprano.

In 1947, she made her motion picture debut in a comedy short film. She then appeared in minor roles in another four films, the first being The Romance of Rosy Ridge , [4] then landed a supporting role under star Roy Rogers in the 1948 The Far Frontier . From 1948 to 53, Davis appeared in 32 feature films, [4] all but three of which were in the Western genre. Twenty of the Western films were with Gene Autry, produced by his company, Gene Autry Productions, released and distributed by Columbia Pictures,

<i>The Romance of Rosy Ridge</i> 1947 film by Roy Rowland

The Romance of Rosy Ridge is a 1947 drama film, directed by Roy Rowland, about a rural community bitterly divided during the aftermath of the American Civil War. It stars Van Johnson, Thomas Mitchell, and Janet Leigh in her film debut. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by MacKinlay Kantor.

Roy Rogers American singer and actor

Roy Rogers was an American singer and actor. He was one of the most popular Western stars of his era. Known as the "King of the Cowboys", he appeared in over 100 films and numerous radio and television episodes of The Roy Rogers Show. In many of his films and television episodes, he appeared with his wife, Dale Evans; his golden palomino, Trigger; and his German shepherd, Bullet. His show was broadcast on radio for nine years and then on television from 1951 through 1957. His productions usually featured a sidekick, often Pat Brady, Andy Devine, George "Gabby" Hayes, or Smiley Burnette. In his later years, Rogers lent his name to the franchise chain of Roy Rogers Restaurants.

The Far Frontier is a 1948 American film western starring Roy Rogers.


In 1950, Davis 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 1950's episodes entitled "Buried Treasure," "Friend in Need" (3/1/1951) and "Spanish Gold" of The Lone Ranger and twice each on The Range Rider , The Adventures of Kit Carson and Death Valley Days . [5] Beginning in September 1950, through September 1954, she appeared in 15 episodes of The Gene Autry Show , sponsored by Wrigley's Doublemint gum.

<i>The Cisco Kid</i> (TV series) American television series

The Cisco Kid is a half-hour American Western television series starring Duncan Renaldo in the title role, the Cisco Kid, and Leo Carrillo as the jovial sidekick, Pancho. Cisco and Pancho were technically desperados, wanted for unspecified crimes, but instead viewed by the poor as Robin Hood figures who assisted the downtrodden when law enforcement officers proved corrupt or unwilling to help. It was also the first television series to be filmed in color, although few viewers saw it in color until the 1960s.

The Range Rider is an American Western television series that was first transmitted in syndication from 1951 to 1953. A single lost episode surfaced and was broadcast in 1959. The Range Rider was also broadcast on British television during the 1960s, and in Melbourne, Australia during the 1950s.

<i>The Adventures of Kit Carson</i> television series

The Adventures of Kit Carson is an American Western television series that aired in syndication from August 1951 to November 1955, originally sponsored by Coca-Cola. It stars Bill Williams in the title role as frontier scout Christopher "Kit" Carson. Don Diamond co-starred as "El Toro", Carson's Mexican companion.

Gail Davis was the answer to a long-held dream of Autry -- providing Western programming with a star to whom girls could relate. He said: "Little boys have had their idols ... from the beginning of the picture business.... Why not give the girls a Western star of their own?" [6] Davis became that star, but on television rather than in movies, as Autry originally envisioned. [6]

Between 1954 and 1957, Davis starred in the Annie Oakley series which ran for 81 episodes. An adroit horseback rider, Davis also toured North America in Gene Autry's traveling rodeo. She went on to manage other celebrities. [7] In 1961, she made a guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show (Season 2, Episode 8, titled "The Perfect Female") as Thelma Lou's cousin. [8]

She believed her success as Annie Oakley undermined other opportunities she might have had for other roles in the future. In 1982, she told a reporter "I tried to find other acting work, but I was so identified as Annie Oakley that directors would say, 'Gail, I'd like to hire you, but you re going to have to wait a few years, dye your hair and cut off your pigtails.' Directors just couldn't envision me in a sexy part or playing a heavy. I was always going to be Annie Oakley. So, as they say, I retired." [9]


While Annie Oakley was popular on television, Davis made some recordings for Columbia and RCA Victor. Some were targeted toward children, and others were aimed at adults. However, Bob Leszczak wrote in his book, From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950-2000, "Even with two different musical avenues, none of the records caught on with the public." [10]

Later years

Davis and her third husband, Carl Edward Guerriero, retired to the San Fernando Valley. [11] 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. [11]


While at the University of Texas at Austin in 1945, she met and married her first husband, Bob Davis, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1952. [4] On June 25, 1959, she married Richard Pierce, a recording executive, in Las Vegas, Nevada. [12]


Davis, then a widow, died of cancer in Los Angeles at age 71. She is interred there in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. [13]


For her contribution to the television industry, Gail Davis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd. [14] In 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. [4] 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." [15]

Davis was presented a Golden Boot Award in 1994 for her contributions to western movies. [16]

Selected filmography

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  1. "ACTRESS GAIL DAVIS DIES AT 71; PLAYED ANNIE OAKLEY IN TV SERIES". Buffalo News. March 17, 1997. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  2. "Gene Autry Collection: TV's Annie Oakley". Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  3. Annie Oakley Hits the Bulls-Eyes, Summer/Fall 1994 Trail Dust magazine.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Hendricks, Nancy. "Gail Davis (1925-1997)". The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  5. Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, 1946-Present, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 47
  6. 1 2 "Gail Davis Called 'Perfect Western Actress' by Autry". Chino Champion. April 22, 1954. p. 1. Retrieved May 15, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  7. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, by TIm Brooks and Earle Marsh, Ballantine Books, 1995
  9. Oney, Steve (December 29, 1982). "Star's career shot after 'Oakley' days". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  10. Leszczak, Bob (2015). From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950-2000. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 86. ISBN   9781442242746 . Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  11. 1 2 The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture website, see External Links
  12. "Actress Marries Recording Exec". Times Daily. June 26, 1959. p. Section Two-Page 7. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  13. Gail Davis at Find a Grave
  14. "Gail Davis". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  15. Gail Davis exhibit, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas
  16. "The Golden Boot Awards". Retrieved 27 December 2016.