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She was the quintessential "good girl" of Film Noir. While the scheming, murderous bad girls of noir got all the attention, Gray was quietly lending her talents to some of the key films of the genre, including KISS OF DEATH, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, and THE KILLING.
In fact, her performance in NIGHTMARE ALLEY is essential to the film. In a role that could have come off as cloying and one-note, Gray imbues Molly with a conflicted conscience and a grounded genuineness that makes her character's goodness feel real. The realness of Molly's goodness makes Stan's descent into ruin that much more tragic.
Here's my haiku tribute to the wonderful Coleen Gray.
Nice girl goes slumming.
Watch out for Tommy Udo,
Electra the Amazing,
Cited for indecent exposure.
Say a prayer for the Geek.
Oh Leech Woman, your
John Wayne costar days are long
Gone! B-flicks pay bills.
Good Girl of Film Noir.
Such seedy stories. Who thought
She would find Jesus.