Person - John Gray

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Born in Wellington NZ, Jack Gray was brought up by his grandparents. After attending Wellington College, at age 16 he arrived with his grandmother in Sydney where he pulled petrol at a city garage and became friendly with photographer Max Dupain. By 1939 he was managing the garage. He then got work in a battery factory. He was well-read. In 1940 at the Garrison Church Millers Point he married Oriel Bennett; their son Stephen was born in 1945 (in 1966 Stephen played a shearer in a Melbourne revival of Reedy River) . By 1947 the Grays' marriage had broken down.

In 1938 John Gray received good reviews for his first NT role in Transit, and played John Smith in The Home of the Brave. Later NT productions included the double bill Waiting for Lefty and Private Hicks in 1941, Hitler in Oriel's 1942 revue Marx of Time, and Corporal Gunther in According to Plan 1942. In 1942 he was in the cast of Oriel's International Settlement as part of a Festival of Community Drama at Bryant's Playhouse. In 1943 Gray was reviewed as "splendid" as the boxer’s Italian father in Golden Boy, won the Norman Maxwell Cup for the best individual performance as the doctor in The Cave (the play also won the British Drama League’s Fay Compton Cup for the best group performance) and directed Oriel's Lawson. In 1944 he acted in The Little Foxes, directed Oriel's sketch Milestones and Maxwell Anderson's The Eve of St Mark before touring NZ with a J C Williamson company headed by Lloyd Lamble , in Arsenic and Old Lace, The Man Who Came to Dinner and as a short and tubby 13-year-old in Kiss and Tell.

On returning to Sydney in 1945 he played a Cretan in Sons of the Morning and Cudworth in They Came to a City. In 1946 he directed Oriel's “dust bowl play” Western Limit, played Jim the poor taxi driver in The Bells Are Ringing, a sympathetic employer in Enemies , and showed "a sure instinct for rough affection and vitality" as George in Of Mice and Men. In 1947 Gray played a newspaper owner in Woman Bites Dog. In 1950 he was well reviewed as the headmaster in Oriel's Had We But World Enough before touring with the Independent's production of Rusty Bugles . Gray was critical that NT had turned down Rusty Bugles (its cast included Ken McCarron, Jack Mudge, Des Rolfe and Peter Carver from Melbourne NT). In 1950 John Gray went to Melbourne as Sydney NT delegate to the Australian People’s Assembly for Democratic Rights.

By 1948 Gray's was a familiar voice in radio serials and drama. After the formation of ASIO, like others he took a pseudonym to avoid being blacklisted. As Eric Grayson he helped with the 1952 revue Follies Bourgeois: The Basic Rage. The next year he was working with Melbourne NT and approached Dick Diamond to write a storyline around his collection of Australian ballads and choruses. The result was Reedy River, which Gray directed before attending the World Festival of Youth in Bucharest. In 1956 he lost two stone in two months while living in London where he became friendly with Tyrone Power with whom he acted in the film Seven Waves Away. On his return to Sydney he directed Nekrassov 1957. In 1958 he was keen that the theatre produce The Crucible, considering Miller the "greatest contemporary dramatist". In 1959 he directed The Biggest Thief in Town. In 1960 he reverted to his real name to direct All My Sons. In 1964 he was reviewed as aggressively working class, gustily belligerent, saving the show with potency and fire, as Alf in The One Day of the Year.

Gray also did television commercials, played at the Adelaide Festival, and worked with professional companies including The Old Tote and Elizabethan Theatre Trust (notably, in 1957 with Margaret Rutherford in The Happiest Days of Your Life).

John Gray was a close friend of Graeme Stewart . During the CPA scare in 1940 he and Oriel burned copies of the Communist Review in an incinerator.

See also Oriel Gray.

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