Fay Wray, Janet Leigh scream! Top Ten Scream Queens
5 - Janet Leigh, Psycho (1960)
I don't recall myself recoiling in horror while watching Janet Leigh's iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho – in my humble opinion, one of the most overrated movies ever made – but I do recall quite vividly one night long ago when I was showering at an acquaintance's place and imagined myself facing the same fate as Leigh's unlucky bank clerk. So, I guess that sequence did make an impact. (Needless to say, I was out of the shower stall and all dried up in a matter of seconds.)
Janet Leigh, I should add, deservedly earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her Psycho performance. (Hear Janet Leigh's Psycho scream below. If you go deaf, don't blame us. Addendum: I was told that's not Janet Leigh, but Vera Miles, which goes to show that a scream is not just a scream. See this post's comment section.)
4 - Fay Wray, King Kong (1933), Doctor X (1932), and The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Fay Wray must be on this Top Ten Scream Queens list. In fact, to Wray belongs the title of Hollywood's Scream Queen, thanks to RKO's giant ape with a healthy appetite for young, good-looking, curvaceous blondes. Wax figures and mad doctors also trigger Wray's glass-shattering vocal cords in two Warner Bros. releases, Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum. (Scroll down a bit to hear Fay Wray' vocal prowess in King Kong. You'll then see – or rather, hear – why Wray is officially known as Hollywood's Scream Queen.)
Though not as effective as Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper's 1933 blockbuster King Kong, Doctor X and The Mystery of the Wax Museum should be better known. As usual, Fay Wray is thoroughly convincing as both screamer and fainter, which is pretty much all she does in those two early two-strip Technicolor horror movies directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Lionel Atwill.
Indeed, screaming and fainting would seem to be pretty much all Fay Wray did throughout the '30s, in movies such as The Most Dangerous Game, The Clairvoyant, The Vampire Bat, Black Moon, etc., etc. In truth, however, Wray was much more than a Scream Queen. To label her a "horror movie heroine" would be an injustice to her range as an actress during that time. For instance, Wray was excellent in Gregory La Cava's 1934 comedy The Affairs of Cellini and held her own opposite Miriam Hopkins – no easy task – in another 1934 release, William A. Seiter's The Richest Girl in the World.
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Fay Wray scream King Kong image: RKO Pictures.