With a career that has spanned more than four decades, actress Coleen Gray is truly one of the great talents of our time. She has appeared in forty motion pictures, live television, a television series and two long-running soap operas, had a starring role on Broadway and has had hundreds of appearances on popular television shows.
Born Doris Jensen in 1922 in Staplehurst, Nebraska, she moved with her family to Hutchinson, Minnesota, when she was seven years old. After high school she went to Hamline University in Minnesota and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following graduation, Coleen, with $26.00 in her pocket, took a Greyhound bus to California “to seek her fortune.” Working various jobs, she soon saved enough money to enroll at the University of Southern California to study art. To help pay her tuition, she worked in the university’s library.
Coleen read in a local paper about the casting of a play called Letters to Lucerne to be given by the Carl Heins Roth School of Drama. She auditioned and was given a lead part. Encouraged, she enrolled in the school and two months later her performance in another play, Brief Music, caught the attention of Jack Pomeroy, an agent, and Ivan Kahn, a talent scout for 20th Century-Fox. A screen test led to a contract. Coleen’s first film at 20th Century-Fox was State Fair (1945) with Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain.
Howard Hawks personally selected her for the key role of Fen in Red River (1948) with John Wayne. That led to a starring role in Kiss of Death in 1947, Nightmare Alley (1947) and Riding High (1950), and many more followed. For the next fifteen years, Coleen would make at least one picture each year. In 1956 she made six motion pictures in all. In 1949 she starred on Broadway with Charlton Heston and Richard Hart and did live television in the early ‘50s. She starred in the television series Window on Main Street with Robert Young, was later a regular for two years on the daily soap opera Days of Our Lives, and next she starred on the series, Bright Promise. During her film career, Coleen toured the United States with Movietime USA on behalf of the Motion Picture Industry. She has worked for many causes including the child adoption organization WAIF, where she served as president, the March of Dimes, United States Bond Sales, the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, American Mental Health Association, Los Angeles Epilepsy Society, Junior Blind of America, the Boy Scouts of America and Prison Fellowship, to name a few.
Coleen is a very talented artist. Her paintings have been exhibited in a number of galleries and group shows. She has designed for a large national greeting card house as well. Her home is filled with her original art and photographs. Singing with the non-profit group Cantori Domino all over the world for nine years provided an opportunity of expression for her love of music. Coleen did her own singing in the film Riding High with Bing Crosby. Coleen continues to contribute her time and talents to numerous social and civic causes. Throughout her life she has exhibited a genuine concern for the welfare of all people.