Gregory Grigoriovitch Gay, a veteran character actor whose 50-year career included roles in such film classics as “Casablanca,” “Blood on the Sun” and “Blue Hawaii,” has died at his Studio City home. He was 92.
A San Fernando Valley resident for 12 years, Gay died Monday of complications due to his advanced age, said his grand-niece, Iya Gaynes Salcone of Santa Barbara.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Gay attended the Russian Royal Naval Academy and fought in the service of Czar Nicholas II during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. He was eventually driven across Siberia by the advancing Bolsheviks and escaped into China, where he later boarded a Shanghai ship bound for Seattle.
After arriving in Los Angeles during the 1920s, Gay became active in the Southland’s growing Russian community, making contact with several exiles in the motion picture industry. He made his film debut in 1929’s “They Had to See Paris” and later appeared with his friend Walter Huston in the 1936 drama, “Dodsworth.”
Gay played a German banker in the 1942 classic “Casablanca” and appeared three years later in “Blood on the Sun,” with James Cagney. Roles followed during the 1940s in “Cornered,” “Pursuit to Algiers,” “Blackmail,” “So Dark the Night” and “Dancing in the Dark.”
In 1944, Gay wed his second wife, Frances Lee, in Beverly Hills. She died in 1985.
According to his nephew, actor George Gaynes, although Gay appeared occasionally on television and the stage, he primarily worked in film, appearing typically as a foreign diplomat or businessman alongside stars like Cagney, Huston, Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Gay appeared in such films as “The World in His Arms,” “Remains to Be Seen,” “Jungle Man-Eaters,” “Kelly and Me,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and the 1961 Elvis Presley musical, “Blue Hawaii.” He made his last appearance in the 1979 disaster drama, “Meteor.”
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Pierce Brothers-Meyer Mitchell Mortuary, 5940 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys. Gay’s cremated remains will then be scattered at sea off the Santa Barbara coast.
Donations may be made in Gay’s name to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, 23388 Mulholland Drive, Woodland Hills 91364.