8 March 2011

Gabrielle Ray

Gabrielle Ray (28 April 1883 - 21 May 1973), was an English stage actress, dancer and singer, best known for her roles in Edwardian musical comedies.

Ray was considered one of the most beautiful actresses on the London stage and became one of the most photographed women in the world. In the first decade of the 20th century, she had a good career in musical theatre. After an unsuccessful marriage, however, she never recovered the fame that she had enjoyed. She spent many of her later years in mental hospitals.

Ray was born Gabrielle Elizabeth Clifford Cook in Cheadle, Stockport, England. She was the fourth child of William Austin Cook, a prosperous iron merchant and a Justice of the Peace for Cheschire, and his wife Anne Maria Elizabeth née Holden. Ray first appeared on London's West End at the age of ten in the role of Eveleen in a musical play called Miami at the Royal Princess's Theatre. This was followed by juvenile roles in a series of plays in London and on tour. 

During the first decade of the 20th century, Ray's career had progressed to the point where she was performing at leading West End venues and gaining attention as a beautiful young dancer and actress. Her photograph was much sought after by the various trade publications and leading photographers such of the day. Known across Europe for her looks, she was admired by such gentlemen as Alfred Vanderbilt and the King Manuel of Portugal.

George Edwardes hired Ray to understudy Gertie Millar in The Toreador at the Gaiety Theatre, London in 1902, where she had the chance to play the role on many occasions. She then took over for Letty Lind in The Girl from Kays at the Apollo Theatre, earning good notices for her graceful, acrobatic dancing in particular. Next, she earned considerable fame playing Thisbe in the hit musical The Orchid (1903). Her acting was not strong and her singing was weak but when she danced it was with an unbelievable lightness and when she high kicked her leg flew over her golden curls effortlessly. The Orchid was a huge success and she continued to appear in Edwardes' productions in 1905 and 1906.

In 1907, Ray played Frou Frou in Edwardes' adaptation of The Merry Widow. Ray's dance number, complete with handstands and high kicks, all performed on a table at Maxim's held head high by four men, was a show stopper.

Ray announced her retirement to marry the wealthy Eric Loder (1888–1966) in early 1912 and left the production of Peggy. She did not appear at the well-attended scheduled ceremony at St Edwards Roman Catholic Church in Windsor because of Loder's failure to sign the prenuptial contract, but the marriage took place soon afterwards. Loder strayed, however, and the couple divorced in 1914.

The broken marriage was difficult for Ray, but in 1915, she returned to the stage.For nearly a decade afterwards, she appeared occasionally in provincial variety tours and pantomimes, finally leaving the stage about 1924. After this, Ray struggled with depression and alcohol abuse. In 1936, she suffered a complete mental breakdown and was institutionalized for nearly forty years.

Ray died in 1973 at Holloway Sanatorium in Egham, Surrey, England, at the age of 90.

in Wikipedia


  1. Thank you for posting such a nice selection of Miss Ray, sadly she isn't seen nearly enough in blogs.

  2. Thank you for your comment. It was a pleasure discovering your wonderful site. I hope you don't mind if I add it to my sources' list...

  3. Please do, I am always pleased when people visit my site and hopefully enjoy my growing collection of Miss Ray postcards and pictures


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