Ray by Ray
by Nicca Ray


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Ray by Ray: A Daughter’s Take on the Legend of Nicholas Ray [is] a decade-plus project that tells all in a way that’s true to [author Nicca Ray] and true to her father…an intimate first-hand grasp on the benefits and hindrances of drugs and alcohol––along with front-row access to the Hollywood scene …In Ray by Ray, Nicca stays out of … film talk, rather opening up her own family history to reveal her dad’s emotional and professional disintegration, his own twisted-up storylines.” —Please Kill Me

“In this intimate blend of memoir and biography, [Nicholas Ray’s] daughter, Nicca, a filmmaker and writer, explores her father’s complex life and artistic legacy as well as their own complicated relationship and his impact on her life. … This contemplative, deeply personal portrait of both Rays will appeal to readers interested in mid-century Hollywood.” ―Library Journal

“Nicca connects the dots, emotional links resonating in not only her parents’ erratic behavior, but in her father’s cinematic masterpieces.” —Chris D., author, former American Cinematheque programmer and singer/songwriter of the bands, The Flesh Eaters and Divine Horsemen

“[Ray by Ray] is the screamingly sad, wise, drug-fueled, hilarious tale of a daughter’s coming to light from under an immense paternal shadow. A deep dark shadow, by mortal standards, a shadow’s shadow; for Nick Ray is himself a burnt-out case, an artist swallowed whole by the bottle, the spoon and the syringe.” —Amos Poe, director, The Blank Generation

“Nicholas Ray invented the meme of teenage anguish. His daughter Nicca lived it. The first miracle is that she survived. The second is that she created this beautiful, heart-breaking book, in which she maps the intersecting arcs of her life and her father’s, creating a dazzling geometry of self-creation and self-destruction.” —Peter Trachtenberg, author of 7 Tattoos and Another Insane Devotion

Nicholas Ray was cinema. He was an innovator, and as director of such classic as Rebel Without a Cause he was a force that dramatically changed the Hollywood landscape. He was also Nicca Ray’s dad, Nick. After he disappeared from her life in 1964, Nicca began to imagine her father as a hero who would return and whisk her away from a life in LA where she never felt safe. However, the man who reappeared in 1974 was not the legendary figure she dreamed of.

Through his movies and letters along with her intimate interviews of family members and Hollywood icons, Nicca stitches together the seemingly disparate pieces of the real Nicholas Ray. A man so devoted to his craft he insisted on spending the last hours of his life surrounded by a film crew. A man who lost everything to drugs and gambling. An absentee father she longed for connection with.

Both well-researched and deeply personal, Ray by Ray: A Daughter’s Take on the Legend of Nicholas Ray unravels the lives entangled in Nick’s, including those of Gloria Grahame, Dennis Hopper, John Houseman, and the Ray family itself. Nicca tracks her father’s whereabouts during the ten years he was missing from her life and works to reconcile his artistry with his persona. In discovering the truth about her father, she navigates her own path beyond the shadows cast by the Golden Age of Hollywood and into her own life. An essential new perspective on Nicholas Ray, Ray by Ray redefines this legendary figure through the eyes of a daughter searching for her father.

In Ray by Ray: Nicca Ray recounts growing up the child of Hollywood royalty and fills in the blanks it left by interviewing those who knew the renowned director best: the stars of 50s Hollywood fame. An essential new perspective on the legendary Hollywood director of Rebel Without a Cause by Nicholas Ray’s daughter and namesake Nicca which examines his genius and demons, unraveling myths to illuminate who he really was, what drove him to create, and who, now, is Nicca Ray?

RAY BY RAY: A Daughter’s Take on the Legend of Nicholas Ray, by Nicca Ray; 978-1-941110-87-4; Trade Paper Original; 360 pages; $20; Pub Date: April 21, 2020

About the Author

Nicca Ray was raised in Los Angeles, not far from the Griffith Park Planetarium where scenes from her father, Nicholas Ray’s, most famous film, Rebel Without a Cause, were shot. First inspired by the New York Dolls performing on the Real Don Steele Show, she became heavily involved in the L.A. punk scene by the time she was 15, spending many wild nights at Hollywood clubs. At age 20, she began work on getting sober, and shortly after, moved to New York, where, in her early 30s, was accepted into the New School University. While a student she published short stories in various journals, made two short films—including one that screened at the New York Underground Film Festival—and starred in Cutting Moments, the first film in the underground gore classic series, Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America, directed by Douglas Buck. After graduating in 1999, at thirty-eight years old, she devoted her life to researching and interviewing people about her father’s life, for which Ray by Ray is a culmination. She currently lives in New York City.

Additional information


Film, Punk