Debra Paget

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Debra Paget
Debra Paget.jpg
in Fourteen Hours (1951)
BornDebralee Griffin
(1933-08-19) August 19, 1933 (age 80)
Denver, Colorado, USA
OccupationActress
Years active19481965
ReligionChristian
Spouse(s)David Street (1958–1958; divorced)
Budd Boetticher (1960–1961; divorced)
Louis C. Kung (1964–1980; divorced); 1 child
ChildrenGregory Kung
 
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Debra Paget
Debra Paget.jpg
in Fourteen Hours (1951)
BornDebralee Griffin
(1933-08-19) August 19, 1933 (age 80)
Denver, Colorado, USA
OccupationActress
Years active19481965
ReligionChristian
Spouse(s)David Street (1958–1958; divorced)
Budd Boetticher (1960–1961; divorced)
Louis C. Kung (1964–1980; divorced); 1 child
ChildrenGregory Kung

Debra Paget (born August 19, 1933) is an American actress and entertainer who rose to prominence in the 1950s and early 1960s in a variety of feature films, including 20th Century Fox's epic Demetrius and the Gladiators, starring Victor Mature, Jay Robinson and Susan Hayward, a sequel to The Robe. She also appeared in Love Me Tender, the film début of Elvis Presley.

Early life and career[edit]

Paget was born in Denver, Colorado as Debralee Griffin, one of five siblings born to Frank H. and Margaret Griffin. The family moved from Denver to Los Angeles in the 1930s to be close to the developing film industry. Margaret, a former actress, was determined that Debra and her siblings would also make their careers in show business. Three of Paget's siblings, Mareta ("Judith Gibson", "Teala Loring"), Lezlie ("Lisa Gaye"), and Frank ("Ruell Shayne") all entered show business.[1]

Paget had her first professional job at age 8,[1] and acquired some stage experience at 13 when she acted in a 1946 production of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. From 1950-56 she took part in six original radio plays for Family Theater. During those same years, she read parts in four episodes of Lux Radio Theater, sharing the microphone with such actors as Burt Lancaster, Tyrone Power, Cesar Romero, Ronald Colman, and Robert Stack. The latter set included dramatizations of two of her feature films.

Paget's first notable film role was as "Teena Riconti", girlfriend of the character played by Richard Conte, in Cry of the City, a 1948 film noir directed by Robert Siodmak. Fresh out of high school in 1949, she acted in three other films before being signed by 20th Century-Fox. Her first vehicle for Fox was the successful Broken Arrow with James Stewart. Paget played an Indian maiden, Sonseeahray ("Morningstar"), who gives up her life to save Stewart's character.

Paget again played an Indian Princess 'Appearing Day' in White Feather (1955) along with Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter and later at MGM replaced Anne Bancroft in The Last Hunt. In 1953, wearing a blonde wig, she auditioned along with, among others, Anita Ekberg and Irish McCalla, for the starring role in Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, which went to McCalla. Paget went on to starring roles in a variety of films. Paget also appeared in "The Ten Commandments" in 1956.

Leaving the studio system[edit]

The Ten Commandments

The Hollywood studio system dominated American feature film production in the first half of the 20th century. Under it, an actor would sign an exclusive contract to make films for a major studio, such as Fox. The system that worked well at first for Paget as her early Fox films did well, so the studio bolstered her film career. During the year after Princess of the Nile was released, the fan mail Paget received at 20th Century-Fox was topped only by that for Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable.[citation needed]

During this time that she appeared in what would become her signature role — Lilia the water girl, in Cecil B. DeMille's monumental production of The Ten Commandments - Fox lent her to Paramount. In 1955 she also broke the exclusivity clause of her contract; White Feather (1955) was not a Fox film. The studio dropped her contract and The River's Edge (1957) was the last film she made for Fox.

After that, her career began to decline. She was typically cast in exotic roles such as South Sea Island maidens or middle-eastern harem girls. In 1959, she traveled to Germany to join the cast of Fritz Lang's two-film adventure saga (called in America Journey to the Lost City) in a role that recalled her role as Shalimar/Taura of Princess of the Nile. Like the Egyptian epic, Lost City is remembered chiefly for her energetic dance scenes.

In 1959, Paget appeared as Lela Russell in the episode "The Unwilling" of the NBC western television series, Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin. In the story line, Dan Simpson, played by Eddie Albert, attempts to open a general store despite a raid from pirates who stole $20,000 in merchandise. Russell Johnson appears in this episode as Darius.[2]

In 1960, she appeared as Laura Ashley in the episode "Incident of the Garden of Eden" on CBS's western series, Rawhide. That same year she had played an author, Agnes St. John, the only surviving witness to a brutal stagecoach robbery in another CBS western, Johnny Ringo, starring Don Durant in the title role.

Paget appeared in a pair of films shot in Italy. Her final feature film was The Haunted Palace, a 1963 horror movie directed by Roger Corman for American International Pictures. She did television work throughout her career. Her last performance in this medium came in a December 1965 episode of ABC's Burke's Law, starring Gene Barry. She retired from entertainment in 1965, after marrying a wealthy oil executive, by whom she had one son, her only child.[citation needed]

Paget became a born-again Christian. She hosted her own show, An Interlude with Debra Paget on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), a Christian network, in the early 1990s, and also was involved in Praise the Lord. She occasionally appears on TBN as a guest.[1]

In 1987, the Motion Picture & Television Fund presented Paget with its Golden Boot Award, which is awarded to those actors, writers, directors and stunt crew who "have contributed so much to the development and preservation of the western tradition in film and television".

Personal life[edit]

In 1958, Paget was married for four months to actor and singer David Street; the marriage was annulled. In 1960, she married Budd Boetticher, a prominent director. They separated after just 22 days, and their divorce became official in 1961. (In his later years, Boetticher ascribed the failure of this marriage to the daunting difficulties he encountered when he went to Mexico to make a film about the life of his friend, legendary bullfighter Carlos Arruza.)[citation needed]

Paget left the entertainment industry in 1964 after marrying Louis C. Kung, a Chinese-American oil industry executive and nephew of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. This third marriage produced a son, Gregory, but ended in divorce in 1980.

Acting roles[edit]

Feature films[edit]

YearTitleDirectorRole
1948Cry of the CityRobert SiodmakTeena Riconti
1949Mother Is a FreshmanLloyd BaconLinda
1949It Happens Every SpringLloyd BaconAlice
1949House of StrangersJoseph L. MankiewiczMaria Domenico
1950Broken ArrowDelmer DavesSonseeahray
1950Fourteen HoursHenry HathawayRuth
1951Bird of ParadiseDelmer DavesKalua
1951Anne of the IndiesJacques TorneurMolly LaRochelle
1952Belles on Their ToesHenry LevinMartha Gilbreth
1952Les MisérablesLewis MilestoneCosette
1952Stars and Stripes ForeverHenry KosterLily Becker
1954Prince ValiantHenry HathawayIlene
1954Princess of the NileHarmon JonesPrincess Shalimar/Taura
1954Demetrius and the GladiatorsDelmer DavesLucia
1954The Gambler from NatchezHenry LevinMelanie Barbee
1955White FeatherRobert D. WebbAppearing Day
1955Seven Angry MenCharles Marquis WarrenElizabeth Clark
1956The Last HuntRichard BrooksIndian girl
1956The Ten CommandmentsCecil B. DeMilleLilia
1956Love Me TenderRobert D. WebbCathy Reno
1957The River's EdgeAllan DwanMargaret Cameron
1957Omar KhayyamWilliam DieterleSharain
1958From the Earth to the MoonByron HaskinVirginia Nicholl
1959The Tiger of EschnapurFritz LangSeetha
1959The Indian TombFritz LangSeetha
1960Cleopatra's DaughterFernando CerchioShila
1960Why Must I Die?Roy Del RuthDottie Manson
1961Most Dangerous Man AliveAllan DwanLinda Marlow
1961Rome, 1585Mario BonnardEsmeralda
1962Tales of Terror (segment: "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar")Roger CormanHelene Valdemar
1962The Haunted PalaceRoger CormanAnn Ward

Radio plays[edit]

Family Theater[edit]

Lux Radio Theater[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]