Fay Wray, a noted beauty from the Golden Age of Hollywood, had two main love interests in her life. One of them was a 10-ton gorilla who dangled her from the top of the Empire State Building. The other was a Jewish guy from Brooklyn.

Believe it or not, the latter love story is somehow just as remarkable as the former, and served as the subject of the most recent Tuesdays in the Newsroom speaker series at the Vineyard Gazette. Victoria Riskin, the daughter of Fay Wray and that Jewish guy from Brooklyn, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in his own right, Robert Riskin, came into the newsroom to discuss her new book: Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir.

Ms. Riskin is now a year-round Vineyard resident — and quite the storyteller, too.

“When I was a child, my dad was a very magical person,” Ms. Riskin said. “He died when he was young so he is frozen in time for me. He was there and then he was gone. This book is me finding him again.”

Ms. Riskin’s mother, Fay Wray, grew up in a poor, rural community a “wagon-ride away” from Salt Lake City in northern Utah. When she was just a teenager, a dashing young photographer came to town and asked if he could take Ms. Wray back to Hollywood with him. Ms. Wray’s mother, sensing the opportunity, said yes, and by the early 1920’s Ms. Wray had landed her first silent film roles.

Ms. Riskin's memoir will be published on Feb. 26 by Penguin Random House. — Thomas Hausthor

“Fay Wray was really smart,” Ms. Riskin said. “A lot of those early Hollywood women were. That’s something I really want to emphasize.”

One of Ms. Wray’s first roles was as a clown in a silent film. Ms. Riskin had compiled clips for the newsroom audience to watch as she discussed her mother’s early work onscreen.

“She did slapstick comedy,” Ms. Riskin said. “She had this poise and comfort in front of the camera.”

Ms. Riskin told a story about how her mother landed a role in the Erich von Stroheim/ZaSu Pitts film, The Wedding March. After Ms. Wray finished her audition for the role of “Mitzi,” Mr. von Stroheim said, “I’ll give you a call, Mitzi.” Ms. Wray then ran up to Mr. von Stroheim, yelling “Thank you! Thank you!” as she hugged him, thinking she’d gotten the role because he had referred to her by the character’s name.

“How could he refuse her?” Ms. Riskin said.

Ms. Wray went on to work with many of the biggest stars of her era including Hollywood heartthrob Cary Grant. But for the role she is still known best for, her agent told her that he was going to give her a part opposite the tallest, darkest leading man in all of Hollywood.

“And he showed her a photo of King Kong,” Ms. Riskin said. “Obviously she took the part.”

While Ms. Wray plied her trade as an actress in Los Angeles, the teen-aged Robert Riskin moved from New York to Florida where he made over 100 silent films in the span of two years.

“He did everything,” Ms. Riskin said. “He wrote, he sold, he produced...the sad thing about silent films is that most of them are gone.”

Her father also wrote plays and produced on Broadway, but lost everything when the stock market crashed during the Depression, prompting Mr. Riskin to try his luck in Hollywood. When he arrived, a Warner Brothers agent called, asking if the company could purchase one of his plays. Warner Brothers offered $7,500 for the script, but Mr. Riskin refused, countering with $50,000. After much back-and-forth, they settled on $40,000 — a very large sum of money for the time.

“The movie was already in production,” Ms. Riskin revealed. “My father just had this instinct.”

Robert Riskin would go on to write dozens of successful films, earning an Oscar for It Happened One Night and collaborating often with director Frank Capra.

“Every film he made he was trying to communicate something,” Ms. Riskin said. “His films were always concerned about the little guy.”

Although both Ms. Wray and Mr. Riskin achieved great successes in their respective Hollywood careers, they both felt something was missing.

“I think they were always looking for this perfect other,” Ms. Riskin said.

The pair met at a Christmas party hosted by the silent film star Richard Barthelmess. Mr. Riskin invited Ms. Wray to see the newly-released film, The Grapes of Wrath, and the rest was history.

For her memoir, Ms. Riskin spent interminable hours deciphering her parents’ love letters. She even had to hire a former doctor’s assistant to decode her father’s barely legible handwriting. Sadly, only a few years after Ms. Wray and Mr. Riskin’s marriage, her father had a stroke. He died young, at age 58, when Ms. Riskin was only nine. Ms. Wray would go on to live into her 90s, starring in hundreds of films over her six-decade career.

Part of the impetus for Ms. Riskin’s memoir was to get to know her parents off the screen.

“It is a love story, at the heart of it,” she said. “I brought my parents together again through the writing of this book.”

On Saturday, August 3 at 1 p.m., Victoria Riskin will take part a panel called Memoir, Where We Came From, Who We Came to Be. On Sunday, August 4 at 2 p.m. she will participate in a conversation with Jenny Allen.