When Marcia landed a film contract with Paramount, the family moved to Los Angeles and Leslie was taught dancing and acting at the Hollywood Professional School. She made her stage début as a dancer in The Merry Wives of Windsor, starring Charles Coburn, at the Los Angeles Biltmore Theatre. At the start of her Universal contract in January 1953 (her mother insisted that she and her sister work for different studios to avoid competition) she adopted the stage name Lisa Gaye and was given lessons in drama, singing, dancing, fencing and horse riding.
She made her feature-film debut in a bit part in The Glenn Miller Story (1954) as one of a mob of teenagers. She was Audie Murphy’s reserved fiancée in Drums Across the River (1954), co-starred in Shake Rattle and Rock (1956) and seemed well on her way to mainstream success; however, the studio dropped her after little more than two years, partly because a back injury meant that she had to wear a brace. Gaye left the studio system and appeared alongside Dean Martin in Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957), in which she dances to an Italian version of Rock Around the Clock. In La Cara del Terror (1962), a Spanish thriller, she played an escaped asylum patient whose disfigured face is restored to beauty by Fernando Rey’s pioneering doctor - until the serum wears off, of course. Night of Evil (1962) gave Gaye her only top billing, as a raped high-school cheerleader who becomes a stripper, then commits armed robbery. Night of Evil received dismal reviews on release and she decided to seek other outlets for her acting.
She broke into television in the mid-50s, first in small cameo roles in sitcoms like The Burns and Allen Show, but it was in Westerns that Gaye found her niche. Her horse-riding experience proved invaluable as she dipped into episodes of more than 20 popular series, from Annie Oakley (1956), Northwest Passage (1958), Cheyenne (1960), Rawhide (1960), Maverick (1961) and The Wild Wild West (1966-1967). In Death Valley Days alone, between 1960 and 1969, she acted in 10 different roles.
In 1955, Lisa married Bently Ware, a business executive, and in 1970 retired from acting to raise their daughter, Janell. Following her husband's death from a heart attack in 1977, she moved to Houston, where she worked for nineteen years as a receptionist at KETH Channel 14, a local religious television station. Lisa Gaye passed away on July 14, 2016 and encrypted at the Houston National Cemetery.
29° 55.837, -095° 26.765
Houston National Cemetery