In one of the most well-known movie posters from the 1960s, a young Dustin Hoffman is seen admiring a pair of legs, which feature a woman rolling on black silk stockings. The legs that stand 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 convinced 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 enough for one leg.”
Linda Gray became famous for her long legs, earning the nickname “the b*tch with the long legs” from Elizabeth Taylor. But who would have guessed that the “Dallas” co-star was paralyzed as a child due to polio?
Linda contracted polio when she was five years old in 1945. The virus, according to the actress, affected both her central nervous system and the neural pathways that connect the brain to the muscles. She felt the sensation when she touched her legs, but she couldn’t move them.
Gray’s family suffered from the illness, 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 felt it was her responsibility because of her parents’ depression and her mother’s drinking; 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 advised her parents to put Linda in the metal canister even though, as stated in her book, the illness had not harmed her lungs.
However, her parents decided to seek alternative therapy. If she had been forced into the iron lugs, which could have compromised her lungs and limbs, she could have suffered even worse injuries.
“Raggedy Ann and Andy” was the substitute therapy. While confined to her bed, her mother would stand at the foot of it, hold one leg, lift it, and then lower it again. She performed the exercise on each leg multiple times per day for months.
Linda could walk again after a few months as her legs gradually began to function normally. Her parents decided to enroll her in dance lessons. Everyone gathered to watch her dance in her debut recital because she was “the polio baby plucked from the clutches of paralysis,” as she put it.
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 met renowned record album cover artist Ed Thrasher not long after.
Ed was abusive and deceptive during their 21-year marriage. He was abusive to his wife and insisted on keeping her at home so he could complete his “To-Do List” instead of going to work.
Ed relied on Linda’s advertisements to bring money home so he could live out his cowboy fantasies. They built a house together in Canyon Country, Santa Clarita County, 45 minutes outside downtown Los Angeles.
Cooking, cleaning the house, caring for the animals they co-raised, and looking after their two children were all on the farm wife’s to-do list.
After ten years of following in his footsteps, Linda resolved to reclaim control of her life. Following her debut as a transgender person on “All That Glitters,” she was cast in one of the most important roles of her career—Sue Ellen—in the venerable CBS soap opera “Dallas.”
Sue Ellen Ewing, the drunken wife of oil millionaire JR Ewing, caused considerable childhood anguish for the actress:
“By playing Sue Ellen, I hoped to break out of my shell and avoid becoming a depressed, lonely, or hopeless woman like Sue Ellen or my Mom.”
In her forties, the “Dallas” co-star chose to seek professional help. She realized it was time to confront her traumas from her alcoholic mother and other difficulties. The process began when Linda’s therapist suggested she set boundaries with her mother.
Her mother frequently referred to “The Graduate” as a leg-double and would “ramble incoherently.” The therapist advised her to tell her mother not to call her when she was drunk. Linda initially resisted, but the strategy worked.
This initial move served as a springboard for her to learn how to set boundaries with her mother and, later, with her ex-husband.
Linda stated that Sue Ellen had assisted her in discussing her past traumas and drinking with her mother. After her father died, she moved to Palm Springs and cared for her mother in her final years.
The actress played Sue Ellen, JR Ewing’s wife, for 11 years before divorcing him. She moved to Malibu and began living next door to her best friend and “Dallas” husband, Larry Hagman. Linda discovered a new sexual life after her divorce:
“My unmarried sexual life has been a source of happiness and pleasure for the past thirty years. You care about orgasm just as much at 75 as you did when you were 25.”
Linda Gray appeared in several “Dallas” reboots from 2012 to 2014, in addition to 12 of the show’s 14 seasons. The actress received two Golden Globe nominations and one Emmy nomination for her portrayal of JR Ewing’s wife.