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Gail Davis (October 5, 1925 ‚Äď March 15, 1997) was an American actress, best known for her starring role as Annie Oakley in the 1950s television Western series Annie Oakley.
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas USA
Full Name at Birth
Betty Jeanne Grayson
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
Wiki Bio Text
Gail Davis (I) (1925–1997)
Actress | Soundtrack
Date of Birth 5 October 1925, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
Date of Death 15 March 1997, Los Angeles, California, USA (cancer)
Birth Name Betty Jeanne Grayson
Height 5' 2" (1.57 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Hailed by Gene Autry as the 'perfect western actress', diminutive, pig-tailed Betty Jeanne Grayson had all the genre's prerequisite attributes. The daughter of a prominent Arkansas physician (who went on to became State Health Officer), she had been trained in drama and dance at the University of Texas. More pertinently, she was of an athletic disposition, a keen swimmer, golfer and tennis player. She was also an ace rider (to the extent of performing in rodeos), as well as an expert trick shot. Her arrival in Hollywood happened some time in 1946. Thereafter, sources vary as to how she got into movies. One account has her being spotted by an MGM talent scout while working as a hat check girl, while another asserts that she had previously met Autry while performing amateur dramatics at a camp show for the Army Air Force. The story further goes, that Autry (who was serving in the military at the time) was so impressed with her, that he told her to look him up later at Columbia studios.
Gail's looks, feisty personality and tomboyish aptitudes soon got her cast in outdoorsy films. She went on to co-star opposite Autry (who prompted her change of name to 'Gail Davis') in fifteen of his films, as well as appearing at least a dozen times as different characters on his TV show. Gail tended to do all of her own stunts. She became sufficiently popular for Autry to produce Annie Oakley (1954) (through his Flying A Productions), starring Gail as the gun-toting titular heroine, invariably disarming (rather than killing) assorted screen villains with her Single Action Army Colt. Gail thus achieved an additional measure of prominence by becoming the first female to command the nominal lead in a western TV series. For this, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis
Carl Guerriero (19 June 1971 - 20 May 1982) (his death)
Richard Harold Peirce (25 June 1959 - 1967) (divorced)
Bob Davis (1944 - 1952) (divorced) (1 child)
Daughter, with Davis, Terrie Davis, born
(October 28, 2004) Inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.
According to Holly George Warren's book, Public Cowboy No. 1, Gail Davis had an affair with Gene Autry, who discovered her and put her in many of his westerns and produced her starring series Annie Oakley (1954). The affair lasted for many years.
Personal Quotes (2)
[in 1982] Annie Oakley had to deal with the same ruthless characters--rustlers and killers--that the cowboys dealt with. And she did it without ever killing a one of them.
[on Stanley Andrews] I loved him almost as much as my father. My dad passed away quite some time before I met Stanley. He was so wonderful to me all the time we worked together. He wasn't my real father, but it felt like that.
Biography by Hal Erickson
Even as an infant, Gail Davis was "playing" characters younger than herself; she won the Most Beautiful Baby in Arkansas contest at the ripe old age of two. While a student at Texas University, Davis performed in a camp show, where she caught the eye of visiting celebrity Gene Autry. Placed under contract by Autry, she co-starred in 15 of his films and twice as many episodes of his various TV series, often cast as a pre-teen tomboy. From 1952 to 1956, she was starred on the Autry-produced TVer Annie Oakley. Even when production ceased on this series, Davis remained under contract to Autry, performing in his traveling rodeo as a rider, roper, and trick shooter. During this period, she was forbidden to cut off her trademarked Annie Oakley pigtails; it wasn't until 1959 that she was able to let down her hair, so to speak, as a guest star on The Perry Como Show. After a few more TV appearances, Gail Davis retired from acting; she later became a partner in a company that managed other celebrities.
Gail Davis (October 5, 1925 – March 15, 1997) was an American actress, best known for her starring role as Annie Oakley in the 1950s television Western series Annie Oakley.
The daughter of a small town physician, she was born as Betty Jeanne Grayson in a Little Rock, Arkansas hospital, but was raised in McGehee until her family moved to Little Rock. 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, before completing her education at the University of Texas at Austin. At Austin she met and married her first husband, Bob Davis, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie.
She and her husband 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."
In 1947 she made her motion picture debut in a comedy film short. She then appeared in minor roles in another four films until landing a supporting role under star Roy Rogers in a 1948 Western film, The Far Frontier. Between 1948 and 1953, Davis appeared in more than three dozen films, all but three of which were in the Western genre, including twenty films with or for the production company of the singing cowboy star, Gene Autry.
In 1950, she 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 a 1950 episode entitled "Buried Treasure" of The Lone Ranger and twice each on The Range Rider and The Adventures of Kit Carson. She appeared more than a dozen times on The Gene Autry Show.
Between 1954 and 1956, Davis starred in the syndicated Annie Oakley series, later rebroadcast on ABC. An adroit horseback rider, Davis also toured North America in Gene Autry's traveling rodeo. She went on to manage other celebrities. In 1961, she made a guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show as Thelma Lou's cousin.
Davis and her Third husband, Carl Edward Guerriero, retired to the San Fernando Valley. 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.
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. On June 25, 1959, she married Richard Pierce, a recording executive, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Davis, then a widow, died of cancer in Los Angeles at age 71. She is interred there in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
For her contribution to the television industry, Gail Davis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd. In 2004, she was posthumously inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. 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."
Davis was presented one of the Golden Boot Awards in 1994 for her contributions to western cinema.
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Gail Davis died on 15th March, 1997. Her last relationship was with Carl Guerriero, they were married for 10 years.
During her life she was married to Carl Guerriero from 1971 to 1982, Richard Harold Peirce from 1959 to 1967 and Bob Davis (i) from 1944 to 1952.
Little Rock High School
University of Texas at Austin, Harcum Junior College for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
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