Debra Paget is an American actress who mesmerized moviegoers with her beauty and talent in the 1950s. She was born in Denver, Colorado to Frank Henry Griffin and Margaret Allen. Her mother was a stage actress who was determined to get her children into the film industry. The family moved to Los Angeles, California, to stay close to Hollywood. Debra was enrolled in dance and drama classes as soon as her family came to Los Angeles. When she was eight, she got her first acting job, while her first stage appearance came at 13. Debra signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox, and starred in movies like ‘Broken Arrow’, ‘Princess of the Nile’ and ‘The Rivers Edge’. After she worked with Elvis Presley in ‘Love Me Tender’, there were rumors that he wanted to marry her. After her contract with Fox ended, she went to Europe to work in Italian and German movies. Debra’s successful career saw her play several exotic roles. Her screen name was inspired from Lord and Lady Paget of England, who were her ancestors. Debra's brother and two sisters also worked in the film industry.
Childhood & Early Life
Debra Paget was born on August 19, 1933, in Denver, Colorado to Frank Henry Griffin and Margaret Allen. Her father was a painter, while her mother was a stage actress.
She had three sisters and a brother. Her brother Frank Griffin and sisters, Teala Loring and Lisa Gaye, also worked in the film industry.
Her family moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s to stay close to the entertainment industry.
Her mother enrolled Debra in dance and drama classes. In Los Angles, she studied at ‘Hollywood Professional School’. At 14, she was enrolled in ‘Fox Studio School’.
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Debra Paget got her first professional acting job at eight, while her stage debut was in Shakespeare's ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ in 1946. She then appeared in film noir ‘Cry in the City’ in 1948. 20th Century Fox was impressed by her performance and signed a long-term contract with her.
She was just out of college when she got her first prominent role in the 1950 western ‘Broken Arrow’, which was a huge success. This was also her first movie with 20th Century Fox.
She received top billing from Fox for her performance in the adventure film ‘Princess of the Nile’ in 1954. Though the film was not a huge success at the box office, Debra's fan mail started flooding.
She was tested for the lead role in ‘Sheena: The Queen of the Jungle’ (1953), but was not selected for it. She however worked alongside Elvis Presley in ‘Love Me Tender’ in 1956. Presley was smitten by her beauty, and she later claimed that he wanted to marry her.
Debra played the role of Lilia in the epic religious drama film ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956), for which she never auditioned. She was asked to report directly to Paramount to start filming. Her last work with Fox was in the 1957 film noir adventure ‘The River's Edge’.
She did two films with Paramount before going to Germany. Her energetic dance scenes in ‘The Indian Tomb’ (1959) became very popular, and she will always be remembered for them. She also worked in ‘The Tiger of Eschnapur’ in the same year, which was also a huge success.
Debra appeared in the historical drama ‘Cleopatra's Daughter’ (1960) and the epic adventure ‘Rome 1585’ (1961), both of which were shot in Italy. Her last film ‘The Haunted Palace’ belonged to the horror genre, and it released in 1963.
She appeared in television shows throughout her career. Her most notable work was in the show ‘The Rawhide’ between 1960 and 1962. She also participated in radio plays for Family Theater in the 1950s.
She hosted her own show ‘An Interlude with Debra Paget’ in the early 1990s.
The biblical epic ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956) was Debra Paget’s most successful film.
Her energetic dance sequence, which was meant to charm a giant snake in the film ‘The Indian Tomb’ (1959), became very popular.
Family & Personal Life
Debra Paget married actor and singer David Street on January 14, 1958. However, they got divorced a few months later, on April 11, 1958.
She married director Budd Boettichier on March 27, 1960, and divorced him on August 24, 1961.
Debra married Ling-Chieh Kung, a wealthy Chinese-American oil industry executive, on April 19, 1962. She retired from acting after her third marriage. Kung was the nephew of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. They had a son together, Gregory Kung, who was the only child of Debra Paget. The couple divorced in 1980.
Her screen name was inspired from Lord and Lady Paget of England, who were her ancestors.
She owned a chimpanzee named Lord Murphy and a golden-cheeked gibbon named Haji Baba.