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October 31, 2021

Linda Gray Was ‘Snatched Out of the Claws of Paralysis’ before She Became a Famous ‘Leg-Double'

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One of the most famous movie posters of the '60s shows a woman rolling on black silk stockings with a young Dustin Hoffman staring at the pair of legs. The film's most memorable legs aren't Anne Bancroft's, "The Graduate" 's costar. They belong to Linda Gray. 

Linda Gray, the CBS soap opera "Dallas" costar said that at the time, everyone thought that the famous pair of legs belonged to Anne Bancroft, but they were, in fact, hers:

“Everyone assumed they were Anne Bancroft's. She must have been out of town or she wasn't consulted at all about the poster. I got paid $25. For one leg, that was good."

[Left]: Linda Gray attends The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2013 honoring "Dallas" at the Saban Theatre on March 10, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. [Right]: Linda Gray poses for a portrait in 1988 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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THE POLIO BABY BECAME THE WORLD'S FAMOUS LEGS

The stunning legs gave Linda Gray fame and Elizabeth Taylor dubbed her as "the b*tch with the long legs." But who could think that the "Dallas" costar has fought polio in her childhood and she couldn't move her legs as a kid?

In 1945, when Linda was just five, she contracted polio. The actress explained that the virus affected her central nervous system as well as the connection between the brain and muscles. That means she could touch her legs and feel the sensation, but she couldn't move them. 

The disease took its toll on Gray's family, and her mother found comfort in alcohol. She turned from a social drinker into an alcoholic. Both of her parents fell into depression with their daughter's diagnosis. 

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Linda Gray in association with the television program, Dallas. Image dated February 1978. | Source: Getty Images

Her parents' depression and her mother's alcoholism made the little Linda Gray feel it was her fault -- she said in her memoir, "The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction," that she secretly carried the weight of the diagnosis. 

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The standard treatment for polio at the time included putting the patience into iron lungs, an 800-pound airtight metal ventilator. As she wrote in her book, her lungs haven't been affected by the virus, but the doctors recommended her parents put Linda in the metal canister anyway. 

Her parents, however, decided to search for an alternative treatment. If she'd been put into the iron lugs, it might've weakened her lungs and limbs, resulting in even more damage. 

Linda Grey arrives at the launch party for the new Channel 5 television series of 'Dallas' at Old Billingsgate on August 21, 2012 in London, England. | Source: Getty Images

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The alternative treatment was "Raggedy Ann." While quarantined in her bed, her mother would stand at the foot of her bed, grab one leg, lift it up and drop it down again. She repeated the procedure several times on each leg, daily, for months. 

Her legs slowly regained function, and in a few months, Linda was walking again. Her parents decided to enroll her in a dance class. In her first recital, everyone came to see her dance; and in her own words, the "polio baby snatched out of the claws of paralysis."

FROM FAMILY TRAUMA TO ABUSIVE HUSBAND

Family issues and her mother's alcoholism made Linda want to run away from home as soon as possible. She then dropped out of college and started modeling full-time to make money. Right after that, she met the famed record album cover art director Ed Thrasher.

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Linda Gray and husband Ed Thrasher attends the Wrap-Up Parties for the Fifth Season of "Dallas" and the Third Season of "Knots Landing" on February 6, 1982 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

The union lasted 21 years, and Ed was controlling and manipulative. The man was abusive to his spouse and demanded her to stay home and complete his "To-Do List," instead of working. 

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Ed wanted to fulfill his cowboy dream and required Linda to bring money home from her commercials and make his dream come true. They built a house together, 45 minutes from downtown LA, in Canyon Country, in Santa Clarita County.

Part of the homestead wife's To-Do List included cooking and house cleaning taking care of the animals they raised together, and taking care of their two children. 

Linda Gray attends The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2013 honoring "Dallas" at the Saban Theatre on March 10, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

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Linda followed his lead for ten years, but she decided to regain control over her own life one day. She took acting classes, and after her first gig as transsexual on "All That Glitters," she landed one of the most important roles of her career, Sue Ellen, in the iconic CBS soap opera "Dallas."

Sue Ellen Ewing was the wife of the oil tycoon JR Ewing, as well as an alcoholic, which triggered some childhood traumas on the actress:

“'By taking the role of Sue Ellen, I hoped to break out of my box and avoid becoming a sad, lonely, desperate woman, like Sue Ellen or my Mom.”

Ed Thrasher and Linda Gray circa 1982. | Source: Getty Images

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IT WAS TIME TO SEE A THERAPIST

During her thirties, the "Dallas" costar decided to search for professional help. She knew it was time to face her traumas around her alcoholic mother and other issues. The process began when the therapist recommended Linda set boundaries with her mother.

"The Graduate" leg-double often got calls from her mother in which she"ramble incoherently." The therapist suggested she tell her mother not to call her when she was drunk. At first, Linda was resistant, but the strategy worked. 

This first step was a stepping stone for her to learn how to set boundaries with her mother and, eventually, with her ex-husband. 

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Linda Gray arrives at the HSH Prince Albert II Of Monaco Hosts 60th Anniversary Party For The Monte-Carlo TV Festival at Sunset Tower Hotel on February 05, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Linda revealed that Sue Ellen helped her break the silence with her mother regarding her traumas and her alcoholism. She took care of her mom during her final years after her father passed away while living with her in Palm Springs.

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The actress played JR Ewing's wife, Sue Ellen, for 11 years and ultimately divorced Ed. She moved to Malibu and became neighbors of her "Dallas" husband and best friend, Larry Hagman. After her divorce, Linda discovered a new sex life:

“My unmarried sex life has been a source of joy and pleasure for the last thirty years. You still care about orgasm just as much at seventy-five as you did at twenty-five.”

Linda Gray visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on December 11, 2019 in Universal City, California. | Source: Getty Images

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Linda Gray appeared in several "Dallas" reboots from 2012 until 2014, besides the series's 12 out of 14 seasons. The actress received two Golden Globes nominations and one Emmy Award nomination for her role as JR Ewing's wife. 

In 2020, the 80-year-old actress lost her son Jeff Thrasher at 54 of AML leukemia. Her daughter Kehly Sloane, 54. Jeff and Kehly's father, Linda's ex-husband, died in 2009.

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