Sally Gray

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Sally Gray
Sally Gray1.jpg
Constance Vera Stevens

(1915-02-14)14 February 1915
Holloway, London, England, UK
Died24 September 2006(2006-09-24) (aged 91)
London, England, UK
Other namesBaroness Oranmore and Browne
Dowager Lady Oranmore and Browne
Years active1930–1952
Spouse(s) Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne (1951–2002) his death

Constance Vera Browne, Baroness Oranmore and Browne (née Stevens; 14 February 1915 – 24 September 2006), commonly known as Sally Gray, was an English film actress of the 1930s and 1940s. [1] Her obituary in The Irish Times described her as "once seen as a British rival to Ginger Rogers." [2]

The Irish Times is an Irish daily broadsheet newspaper launched on 29 March 1859. The editor is Paul O'Neill who succeeded Kevin O'Sullivan on 5 April 2017; the deputy editor is Deirdre Veldon. The Irish Times is published every day except Sundays. It employs 420 people.

Ginger Rogers American actress and dancer

Ginger Rogers was an American actress, dancer, and singer. She is known for her starring role in Kitty Foyle (1940), but is best remembered for performing in RKO's musical films on stage, radio and television, throughout much of the 20th century.


According to one obituary, "In the Thirties she was a charming soubrette of light movies and musical comedy. After a break from performing, she emerged in the mid-Forties as a sultry beauty who starred in a series of moody dramas and potent thrillers." [3]


Early life

Born Constance Vera Stevens in Holloway, London, Gray was the daughter of Charles Stevens, who drove a motor cab, and his wife, Gertrude Grace. [4] Her mother was a ballet dancer [3] and her grandmother a "principal boy" in the 1870s. Her father died when Gray was young.

Holloway, London inner-city district in the London Borough of Islington

Holloway is an inner-city district of the London Borough of Islington, 3.3 miles (5.3 km) north of Charing Cross, which follows the line of the Holloway Road (A1). At the centre of Holloway is the Nag's Head commercial area which sits between the more residential Upper Holloway and Lower Holloway neighbourhoods. Holloway has a multicultural population. It is the home of Arsenal F.C.. Holloway is in the historic county of Middlesex.

Theatre career

She trained as a child at Fay Compton's School of Dramatic Art, and began acting on stage at the age of 10. Gray made her professional stage debut at the age of twelve in All God's Chillun at the Globe Theatre in London, playing an African boy. When she was 14, Gray appeared in a minstrel show at the Gate Theatre in London. She made her film debut with a bit part in The School for Scandal (1930). [3]

Gielgud Theatre theatre in the West End of London

The Gielgud Theatre is a West End theatre, located on Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster, London, at the corner of Rupert Street. The house currently has 986 seats on three levels.

<i>The School for Scandal</i> (1930 film) 1930 film by Maurice Elvey, Thorold Dickinson

The School for Scandal is a 1930 British comedy film directed by Thorold Dickinson and Maurice Elvey and starring Basil Gill, Madeleine Carroll and Ian Fleming. It is the first sound film adaptation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The School for Scandal. It is also the only feature-length film shot using the unsuccessful Raycol colour process, and marked the screen debut of Sally Gray.

She then went back to school for two years, training at Fay Compton's School of Dramatic Art, [5] during which time she performed in cabarets. [6]

Fay Compton actress

Virginia Lilian Emmeline Compton-Mackenzie, CBE, known professionally as Fay Compton, was an English actress. She appeared in several films, and made many broadcasts, but was best known for her stage performances. She was known for her versatility, and appeared in Shakespeare, drawing room comedy, pantomime, modern drama, and classics such as Ibsen and Chekhov. In addition to performing in Britain, Compton appeared several times in the US, and toured Australia and New Zealand in a variety of stage plays.

She appeared in The Gay Divorce (1933) on stage with Fred Astaire. The agent John Gliddon saw her in the musical Jill Darling (1934) and signed her. [7]

Fred Astaire American dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and television presenter

Fred Astaire was an American dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and television presenter. He is widely regarded as the most influential dancer in the history of film.

Film career

Gray returned to films in 1935, with The Dictator (1935). She could also be seen in Cross Currents (1935), Radio Pirates (1935), Lucky Days (1935), and Checkmate (1935). She returned on stage and was spotted by Stanley Lupino, who fell in love with her.

Gray had the female lead in Cheer Up (1936) with Stanley Lupino. She had leads in Calling the Tune (1936), Cafe Colette (1936), and Saturday Night Revue (1937) with Billy Milton. In 1936 she was earning £150 a week. [8] Gray had support roles in Lightning Conductor (1937), a thriller; Over She Goes (1937) with Lupino; Mr. Reeder in Room 13 (1937), a non musical; and Hold My Hand (1938) with Lupino. Gray was the female lead in Sword of Honour (1938), The Saint in London (1939) with George Sanders, The Lambeth Walk (1939) with Lupino Lane, and A Window in London (1940), a non musical film with Michael Redgrave. [9] [10] Gray was in Olympic Honeymoon (1940) then had the female lead in The Saint's Vacation (1941). She had a sensitive role in Brian Desmond Hurst's romantic melodrama Dangerous Moonlight (1941). [3] The same year she appeared in the West End musical Lady Behave which had been written by her co-star Stanley Lupino. The show had to close early because of Lupino's illness.

Gray returned to the stage to star in My Sister Eileen (1942) with Coral Browne. Lupino died, leaving Gray £10,000. [11] Gray had a nervous breakdown, resulting in her retirement for a number of years. [2]


Gray returned to the screen in 1946 and made her strongest bid for stardom in a series of melodramas. They include the hospital thriller Green for Danger (1946), Carnival (1946), They Made Me a Fugitive (1947) and The Mark of Cain (1948). Gray then made Silent Dust (1948) and Edward Dmytryk's film noir piece Obsession (1949), in which she plays Robert Newton's faithless wife. [5] Her final film was the spy yarn Escape Route (1952). [3]

RKO executives, impressed with Gray, authorised producer William Sistrom to offer her a long-term contract [4] if she would move to the United States. John Paddy Carstairs, director of The Saint in London , also thought she could be a star.[ citation needed ] However, she declined the offer and instead retired in 1952 after getting married.

Personal life

Gray married The 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne, an Anglo-Irish peer, on 1 December 1951, [4] and lived in County Mayo, Ireland. [3] The couple kept the marriage secret until the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II, at which she appeared with her husband. [12] [13]

In the early 1960s they returned to England and settled in a flat in Eaton Place, Belgravia, London. The couple had no children.


Gray died on 24 September 2006, at 91 years of age, [5] in London, England. [14]



1930 The School for Scandal Bit Part(uncredited) [3]
1935 The Dictator Minor RoleReleased as Loves of a Dictator in USA, (uncredited)
Cross Currents Sally Croker
Radio Pirates
Lucky Days Alice [3]
Checkmate Jean Nicholls [3]
1936 Cheer Up Sally Gray [3]
Calling the Tune Margaret Gordon
1937 Cafe Colette Jill ManningReleased as Danger in Paris in USA
Saturday Night Revue Mary Dorland [3]
1938 Lightning Conductor Mary [3]
Over She Goes Kitty
Mr. Reeder in Room 13 Claire KentReleased as Mystery of Room 13 in USA [3]
Hold My Hand Helen Milchester
1939 Q Planes Minor roleReleased as Clouds Over Europe in USA, (uncredited)
Sword of Honour Lady Moira Talmadge
The Saint in London Penny Parker [3]
The Lambeth Walk SallyReleased as Me and My Girl in USA [3]
1940 A Window in London VivienneReleased as Lady in Distress in USA [3]
Olympic Honeymoon Miss America [5]
1941 The Saint's Vacation Mary Langdon [3]
Dangerous Moonlight Carol Peters RadetzkyReleased as Suicide Squadron in USA [3]
1946 Green for Danger Nurse Linley [3]
Carnival Jenny Pearl [3]
1947 They Made Me a Fugitive SallyReleased as I Became a Criminal in USA [3]
The Mark of Cain Sarah Bonheur [3]
1949 Silent Dust Angela Rawley [3]
Obsession Storm RiordanReleased as The Hidden Room in USA [3]
1952 Escape Route Joan MillerReleased as I'll Get You in USA [3]

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  1. "Sally Gray".
  2. 1 2 "British rival to Ginger Rogers and wife of Lord Oranmore". The Irish Times. October 7, 2006. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Tom Vallance (2 October 2006). "Sally Gray". The Independent. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  4. 1 2 3 Goldman, Lawrence (2013). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2005-2008. OUP Oxford. pp. 452–453. ISBN   9780199671540 . Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Ronald Bergan (5 October 2006). "Obituary: Sally Gray". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  6. Lentz, Harris M. III (2008-10-24). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2006: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 146. ISBN   9780786452118 . Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  7. "New Film Star". The News . XXV (3, 797). Adelaide. 21 September 1935. p. 5. Retrieved 30 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "CHORUS GIRL'S FAME". The Examiner . XCV (87). Tasmania, Australia. 23 June 1936. p. 6 (DAILY). Retrieved 30 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "STAR GOES UP IN THE WORLD". The Sun (9361). New South Wales, Australia. 4 January 1940. p. 14 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 30 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "SALLY GRAY". The Maitland Daily Mercury (21, 424). New South Wales, Australia. 13 December 1939. p. 8. Retrieved 30 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "£10,000 LEFT TO YOUNG ACTRESS". The Courier-Mail (2857). Brisbane. 31 October 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 30 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  12. "Sally Gray – the Actress". Pevensey and Westham Historical Society. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  13. "An actress insured against love". The Sun (2615). Sydney. 7 June 1953. p. 15. Retrieved 30 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  14. Aaker, Everett (2013). George Raft: The Films. McFarland. p. 154. ISBN   9780786466467 . Retrieved 13 March 2017.