She lost her son in a tragic way, and the suffering left deep marks on her soul. Today she’s 83, and it’s hard to recognise her.

Over the course of television and film’s evolution, we’ve witnessed actors and actresses astound audiences with their performances time and again. Personally, when it comes to those exceptional portrayals, it seems as though the actors were tailor-made for their roles, with no one else capable of embodying them to such perfection.

Consider, for instance, envisioning anyone other than Michael Landon portraying the iconic Charles Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie.” Or could “Mary Poppins” have retained its charm and magic if Dick Van Dyke hadn’t graced the screen as Bert?

The name of this actress is also inextricably linked to her roles in movies and TV series…

Linda Gray rose to prominence as she embodied the character of Sue Ellen Ewing in the beloved soap opera Dallas, becoming a familiar face in households across the nation.

Over the span of more than 300 episodes, Gray remained a fixture on the show. Yet, amid her professional triumphs, she grappled with personal challenges.

This is the journey of Linda Gray, whose resilience continues to shine bright as she celebrates her 83rd year.

Linda Gray – childhood

Linda Gray came into the world on September 12, 1940, in Santa Monica, California, encountering a significant hurdle early in life when diagnosed with polio.

Her family had already grappled with the virus, with her grandfather confined to a wheelchair since the age of 17.

While her diagnosis initially unsettled her family, Linda herself remained unfazed, seeing it as an opportunity to share a bond with her grandfather.

Raised in Culver City, California, where her father operated a watchmaker shop, Linda’s passion for performance bloomed from a young age. Even as a child, she showcased her talents on the neighborhood streets and later took on the role of Cinderella during her time at Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles.

Despite her father’s stoic demeanor, he provided a sense of stability for Linda and her sister Betty, although emotional support was scarce in those times. In her 2015 memoir, “The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction,” Linda reflects on her father’s presence as being akin to furniture—present but not actively engaged in their personal lives.

In contrast, their mother, Marge, a former artist and ballerina, offered a more nurturing and expressive form of support.

Troubled childhood

Marge struggled with alcoholism, leading the two young sisters to take charge of their household.

“She wasn’t visibly intoxicated or belligerent,” Linda reflected. “She existed in a haze, forgetting basic necessities like food shopping, prompting me to take over cooking duties. My sister and I grew distant from her.”

In time, Marge sought help through Alcoholics Anonymous, eventually overcoming her addiction. Linda attributes her mother’s drinking to unfulfilled aspirations and stifled creativity, a fate she was determined to avoid.

“I feared that neglecting my career could lead me down the same path,” Linda Gray shared.

However, life threw obstacles her way early on, beginning as early as her twenties.

Nightmare marriage

Growing up in Culver City meant being in close proximity to the entertainment hub of Hollywood.

Linda Gray and her friends would often spend time around various studios after school, collecting autographs from luminaries like Tyrone Powers and Spencer Tracy.

Initially drawn to a career in medicine, Gray’s proximity to the film industry gradually shifted her focus towards acting. During her teenage years, she found work as a model for beauty companies and airlines.

At the young age of 21, Linda Gray married photographer Edward Lee Thrasher. However, the marriage proved challenging for Linda as her aspirations in show business took a backseat to her roles as a wife and mother. Despite her dedication to family life, she felt emotionally disconnected in her marriage.

After the birth of their children, Jeff and Kehly, Linda’s determination to pursue her own career intensified. Despite her husband’s desire for a lavish lifestyle and reluctance to support her professional endeavors, Linda seized the opportunity to enter the entertainment industry.

Soon, she found herself appearing in numerous television commercials, marking the beginning of her journey in show business.

Linda Gray – career

In 1963, Linda Gray made two brief, uncredited appearances in feature films: “Under the Yum Yum Tree” and “Palm Springs Weekend.”

A few years later, at the age of 27, Gray landed a gig that would become iconic. She was paid $25 to serve as Anne Bancroft’s body double for the poster of “The Graduate” (1967), featuring a young Dustin Hoffman. Gray’s legs are immortalized in the iconic image. Interestingly, she later portrayed Mrs. Robinson in the 2001 West End stage production of “The Graduate.”

However, Gray’s journey wasn’t without setbacks. In her 2015 memoir, she shared a rejection letter from Glamour Magazine she received in the early 1960s. Despite the disappointment, Gray found humor in the situation, recognizing that rejection is a part of life. Rather than letting it deter her, she used it as fuel to drive her ambitions.

Although Linda cherished her role as a mother, she also felt frustrated by her inability to pursue her career. When she finally decided to enroll in acting classes, her husband expressed discontent.

Linda Gray – Dallas

“He suggested, ‘Why not pursue acting once the children are in college?’” she recounted.

Nevertheless, at the age of 37, Linda Gray forged her own path, diving into acting classes alongside much younger peers. Actor Dennis Weaver recognized Gray’s talent and facilitated her first significant acting opportunity: a guest-starring role on the TV series “Marcus Welby M.D” in 1974.

Soon, fortune smiled upon her.

In 1978, Gray landed the role of Sue Ellen Ewing in the new television soap opera “Dallas.” Initially slated as a recurring guest role for the first five episodes, Gray swiftly transitioned into a regular cast member due to her captivating performances. Her portrayal elevated her to stardom amidst the backdrop of corruption, betrayal, and scandal set in the Southfork Ranch. Television critics lauded Gray’s performance, and alongside her acting counterparts Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy, she soared to immense success.

Gray became a symbol of allure on “Dallas,” and the palpable chemistry between her and Larry Hagman was undeniable.

Relation with Larry Hagman

CBS executives witnessed the unfolding events with sheer astonishment, witnessing what seemed like pure magic. However, Gray clarifies that the chemistry wasn’t rooted in any romantic tension.

“He was like the mischievous big brother I never had,” Gray explained. “In my mind, he was always up to something—drinking too much or whatever—and I’d scold him. He thrived on that, loved to push my buttons. I’d say, ‘Don’t eat that. You don’t need all that sugar, and cut back on the drinking.'”

“I was a bit of a nag—and he reveled in it,” she continued. “He’d deliberately provoke me. The directors were bemused. They thought we were like crazy teenagers, but the moment they called ‘action,’ we effortlessly became J.R. and Sue Ellen. It was seamless. We couldn’t explain it. It was pure magic. We felt fortunate, and we were.”

“Dallas” garnered adoration not only from television critics and industry insiders but also from the audience.

The show shattered numerous viewership records, emerging as one of the hottest commodities on television. Even today, it stands as one of the longest-running series in American prime-time television history.

Dallas – television records

On November 21, 1980, viewers eagerly awaited the resolution to the mystery of who shot Larry Hagman’s character, JR Ewing, and the anticipation was palpable.

With an estimated 80 million viewers tuning in, the episode became the most-watched single television program in American history at the time, according to BT. It held the top spot until the final episode of the sitcom MASH, which drew 121 million viewers.

Linda Gray received recognition for her performance on “Dallas,” earning two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama, along with a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Amid her successful tenure on the show, Gray finalized her divorce from her husband Ed Thrasher in 1983. Following in his mother’s footsteps, her son Jeff pursued a career in directing.

Jeff garnered acclaim, earning an Emmy nomination in 2018 for Outstanding Directing in a Multiple Camera Lifestyle, Culinary, or Educational and Informational Program for “Furze World Wonders.” Additionally, he received a Canadian Screen Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series for his work on “Mission Asteroid” in 2015.

Tragedy with son Jeff Thrasher

In 2020, tragedy struck with the passing of Jeff, reportedly after battling leukemia.

Linda Gray took to Instagram to honor her son’s memory.

“Remembering and celebrating the life of my son Jeff. He embodied kindness, humor, and sweetness… he spread love wherever he went and was cherished by all. May his voyage be filled with wonder and magic,” she penned.

Linda Gray today at 83

Linda Gray graced screens in an impressive 308 episodes of Dallas. But what came next?

Post-Dallas, she continued her television career, and in 2012, reprised her role as Sue Ellen Ewing when Dallas was revived for two seasons. Gray also received a Special Award at the 2014 USA Film Festival.

At 83 years old today, she remains as radiant as ever!

Gray’s life journey has seen its share of challenges, from her early years to her first marriage and the heartbreaking loss of her son.

Yet, one thing remains constant: her ability to transform adversity into the fuel that propels her forward.

We admire her resilience and wish her nothing but the best for the future! Share this article with your loved ones on Facebook.

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