In one of the most well-known movie posters from the 1960s, a young Dustin Hoffman is pictured admiring a pair of legs, which include a woman rolling on black silk stockings. The legs that stick out the most in the film are not Anne Bancroft’s in “The Graduate.” They belong to Linda Gray.
At the time, everyone thought the famous pair of legs belonged to Anne Bancroft, but they were hers, according to Linda Gray, a costar on the CBS soap opera “Dallas,” who added:
“They were all certain they belonged to Anne Bancroft. She was either not consulted about the poster or had to be out of town at the time. I received $25. That was plenty for one leg.”
Linda Gray became famous for her long legs, gaining the epithet “the b*tch with the long legs” from Elizabeth Taylor. But who would have imagined that the “Dallas” co-star was paralyzed as a child due to polio?
Linda contracted polio when she was five years old in 1945. According to the actress, the virus affected both her central nervous system and the neurological connections connecting the brain to the muscles. She felt the sensation when she touched her legs but couldn’t move them.
Gray’s family suffered from the sickness, and her mother sought solace in alcohol. She became an alcoholic after being a social drinker. Both of their daughters’ parents were saddened by their daughter’s diagnosis.
Little Linda Gray believed it was her obligation due to her parents’ depression and her mother’s alcoholism; in her memoir, “The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction,” she claimed she silently carried the burden of the diagnosis.
Iron lungs, an 800-pound airtight metal ventilator, were the standard treatment for polio back then. The doctors encouraged her parents to put Linda in the metal canister even though, as stated in her book, the sickness had not affected her lungs.
However, her parents decided to seek alternative therapies. She could have suffered even worse injuries if she had been forced into the iron lugs, which may have weakened her lungs and limbs.
“Raggedy Ann and Andy” was the substitute therapy. While confined to her bed, her mother would stand at the foot of it, grab one leg, lift it, and then lower it again. She performed the procedure on each limb numerous times every day for months.
Linda could walk again after a few months when her legs gradually began functioning normally. Her parents decided to enroll her in dance instruction. Everyone gathered to watch her dance in her debut recital because, in her words, she was “the polio baby plucked out of the clutches of paralysis.”
Linda desired to leave her home as soon as possible due to family issues and her mother’s alcoholism. She eventually dropped out of school and began working as a model full-time to support herself. She soon after met renowned record album cover artist Ed Thrasher.
The marriage lasted 21 years, and Ed was abusive and deceptive. He was abusive to his wife and insisted she stayed with him so he could finish his “To-Do List” instead of going to work.
Ed needed Linda to use her advertisements to bring money home so that he could live out his cowboy fantasy. Together, they constructed a home in Canyon Country, Santa Clarita County, 45 minutes outside Downtown Los Angeles.
The farm wife’s to-do list included cooking, cleaning the house, caring for the animals they co-raised, and looking after their two kids.
Linda resolved to take back control of her life after ten years of following in his footsteps. She studied acting, and following her debut as a transgender person on “All That Glitters,” she was cast in one of the most significant parts of her career—Sue Ellen—in the venerable CBS soap opera “Dallas.”
Being the drunken wife of oil millionaire JR Ewing, Sue Ellen Ewing caused considerable childhood anguish for the actress:
“By adopting the role of Sue Ellen, I hoped to escape my shell and prevent turning into a depressed, lonely, or hopeless woman, like Sue Ellen or my Mom.”
The “Dallas” co-star chose to go for expert assistance in her forties. It was time for her to confront her traumas related to her alcoholic mother and other difficulties, she realized. The process got underway when the therapist suggested that Linda create boundaries with her mother.
Her mother would frequently call “The Graduate” leg-double and “ramble incoherently.” The therapist advised her to advise her mother not to call her when intoxicated. Linda first resisted, but the tactic was effective.
This initial move served as a springboard for her to develop the ability to establish boundaries with her mother and, subsequently, with her ex-husband.
Linda said that Sue Ellen had assisted her in talking to her mother about her past traumas and drinking. After her father left, she lived with her in Palm Springs and cared for her mother during her last years.
For 11 years, the actress portrayed Sue Ellen, JR Ewing’s wife, before divorcing him. She relocated to Malibu and started living next door to Larry Hagman, her best friend and “Dallas” husband. Linda found a new sex life after her divorce:
“For thirty years, my unmarried sexual life has been a source of happiness and pleasure. At the age of 75, you care about orgasm exactly as much as you did when you were 25.”
Linda Gray appeared in a number of “Dallas” reboots from 2012 to 2014 in addition to the show’s 12 out of 14 seasons. For her portrayal of JR Ewing’s wife, the actress won two Golden Globe nods and one Emmy nomination.
The 80-year-old actress lost her 54-year-old son Jeff Thrasher to AML leukemia in 2020. Kelly Sloane, her daughter, is 54. 2009 saw the passing of Linda’s ex-husband, Jeff, and Kehly’s father.