Dorothy Fay (Dorothy Fay Southworth)

Dorothy Fay

Dorothy Fay was born Dorothy Fay Southworth in Prescott, Arizona, the daughter of Harry T. Southworth and Harriet Fay Fox. Her father was a medical doctor. Fay attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She began her motion picture career in the late 1930s, performing in several B grade westerns. In 1938, she appeared opposite George Houston in Frontier Scout at Grand National Pictures. She also appeared with Western stars Buck Jones and William Elliott. Fay made four movies with her husband, country singer and actor Tex Ritter, at Monogram Pictures: Song of the Buckaroo (1938), Sundown on the Prairie (1939), Rollin’ Westward (1939) and Rainbow Over the Range (1940). She played a heroine in The Green Archer (1940) and White Eagle (1941), both at Columbia Pictures. Fay also made a few small appearances in other genres, such as the crime drama Missing Daughters (1939). In 1940, she asked Monogram to give her a different part and was loaned to MGM for a small role in The Philadelphia Story, which starred Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Katharine Hepburn. She also appeared as a debutante in the MGM musical Lady Be Good (1941) starring Ann Sothern, Eleanor Powell, Robert Young and Lionel Barrymore. Dorothy Fay married singer/actor Tex Ritter on June 14, 1941; the marriage ended at his death January 2, 1974. They had two sons, Thomas Matthews “Tom” (b. January 8, 1947) and John, a well known comedic actor. Among her grandchildren is actor Jason Ritter.

Dorothy Fay made several more movies after she and Ritter married, but then retired from show business in late 1941. In 1965, she and Ritter moved to Nashville, because of his singing and recording career. For a time, she was an official greeter at the Grand Ole Opry. She returned to Southern California in 1981. Fay turned down several offers to return to movie work, including an opportunity to appear on the ABC television series The Love Boat playing the mother of real-life son, John. But she was a frequent guest at western movie conventions. In 1987, Fay suffered a stroke that impacted her speech. She moved to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, in 1989. In August 2001, her death was mistakenly reported in the obituary section of The Daily Telegraph in London. This reportedly happened when a nurse at the Motion Picture Hospital returned after a holiday to find her not in her room. When told that she had “gone,” as she had, but only to another wing, the nurse promptly called one of Dorothy Fay’s friends, who happened to be a regular contributor to the Telegraph obituaries desk. Fay and her family found the blunder amusing and took it in good sport. Dorothy Fay died of natural causes at the age of 88 in Woodland Hills, California, less than two months after the death of her son, John. She is interred with her parents at Mountain View Cemetery in her hometown of Prescott, Arizona. Tex Ritter is interred at Oak Bluff Memorial Park in Port Neches, Texas. John Ritter is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.

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  • April, 04, 1915
  • USA
  • Prescott, Arizona


  • November, 05, 2003
  • USA
  • Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • natural causes


  • Mountain View Cemetery
  • Prescott, Arizona
  • USA

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