"I've always had this old, husky voice. I never was your little itsy-poo 18 or 20-year-old. I was a character actress as a teenager."
Dark Shadows Characters:
Appeared in: 475 episodes
First episode: # 265, June 30, 1967
Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; September 18, 1923
Died: August 7, 1985, cancer
Years later, producer Bob Costello coaxed Grayson not to scream in one pivotal DS scene. "Actually I had to be talked out of a scream once on Shadows," she told a reporter. "This was back at the beginning, when no one knew that Barnabas was really a vampire. I suspected it, but I couldn't prove it, so one morning, promptly at dawn, I went sneaking down into the basement of the house, found his coffin, opened the lid-and guess who was taking his after-dinner nap? I felt that I should scream. Wouldn't you if you found a vampire? But Bob Costello said no, Doctor Hoffman wouldn't, because this was just final proof that she'd been right all along. We finally settled for a sharp intake of breath."
In the 1940s, Shirley Grossman took the stage at Temple University, where she was studying. She later majored in drama at Cornell University. However, she did not graduate, and instead moved to New York City to further her career. One of the first things she did was change her name to Shirley Grayson.
With her new identity, she appeared on stage and in the still-new medium of live television. In the early 1950s, she met young playwright Sam Hall, whom she later married. Sam called her Grayson, so eventually her stage name became Grayson Hall.
She continued acting on stage, but in August of 1958, she gave birth to son Matthew Hall and took time off to concentrate on being a mother. By 1960, however, she was lured back to the stage.
Grayson was cast by John Huston in the 1964 film version of Tennessee Williams' play Night of the Iguana. Her performance in the supporting role of Judith Fellowes earned her an Oscar nomination.
Though she didn't win the trophy, she was flooded with movie offers. She was happily settled in New York, however, with her small family, and chose not to move to California and pursue a movie career. She told The New York Post she had no regrets: "you see, I don't like the sun," she said. "I get burned. And I don't know what people do out there between jobs except lie in the sun."
In 1965 she appeared in the Disney film That Darn Cat, as well as an hour-long color television film, Back to Back, opposite Shelley Winters and Jack Hawkins. The following year, she went to Paris to star in the title role of American expatriate William Klein's satire of French fashion and society, "Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?" (French title: "Qui Etes-vous, Polly Maggoo?") Her character was closely modeled after William Klein's former boss Diana Vreeland, the infamous editor of Vogue magazine.After her return to the U.S., in 1966 Grayson guest-starred as an evil assassin in the TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (She later appeared in the spin-off, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., too)
While on DS, Grayson appeared in a few films, including End of the Road and Adam at Six a.m. (with a very young Michael Douglas). In 1970 she played Julia Hoffman again in House of Dark Shadows. Then in 1971, she portrayed Carlotta Drake, Collinwood's creepy housekeeper in Night of Dark Shadows.
Grayson made TV commercials in the early '70s, taking a brief break from more-demanding roles, but she soon returned to the stage and the television screen. Among her many roles, in 1972, she played a hard-drinking, tough-talking character named Mrs. Parks in the camp-classic TV movie Gargoyles. In April 1973, she portrayed a magazine reporter named Marge in a few episodes of All My Children. And in 1977, Grayson acted with her former DS co-star David Selby in a play called Rib Cage in New York City. (Over the years, she also maintained contact with Nancy Barrett and Joan Bennett.)
In 1982 Grayson joined the cast of One Life to Live, another soap opera written by her husband, Sam. (She played a character with the unusual name Euphemia Ralston.) Grayson and Nancy Barrett joined their fellow former DS-er, Anthony George, in a One Life to Live scene in 1983.
Grayson's final performance was in a revival of Jean Giraudoux's Madwoman of Chaillot at the Theatre at St. Peter's Church, but she had to leave the cast in early 1985, due to illness. She died of lung cancer on August 7, 1985.
In a 1970 New York Post interview, Grayson summed up her persona: "I wanted to be an ingenue. I wanted to get to New York and try, which of course was ridiculous, because I've never been an ingenue. I've always had this old, husky voice. I never was your little itsy-poo 18 or 20-year-old. I was a character actress as a teenager. I think I've probably grown up to what I am."
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