Gene Raymond, ca. 1945
August 13, 1908
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 2, 1998
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Jeanette MacDonald (1937-1965) (her death)
Nel Bentley Hees (1974-1995)
Gene Raymond (August 13, 1908 – May 2, 1998) was an American film, television, and stage actor of the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to acting, Raymond was also a composer, writer, director, producer, and decorated military pilot.
Stage and movie career
Raymond was born Raymond Guion on August 13, 1908 in New York City. He attended the Professional Children's School while appearing in productions like Rip Van Winkle and Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. His Broadway debut, at age 17, was in The Cradle Snatchers which ran two years. (The cast included Mary Boland, Edna May Oliver, and a young Humphrey Bogart.)
His screen debut was in Personal Maid (1931). Another early appearance was in the multi-director If I Had a Million with W. C. Fields and Charles Laughton. With his blond good looks, classic profile, and youthful exuberance — plus a name change to the more pronounceable "Gene Raymond" — he scored in films like the classic Zoo in Budapest with Loretta Young, and a series of light RKO musicals, mostly with Ann Sothern. He wrote a number of songs, including the popular "Will You?" which he sang to Sothern in Smartest Girl In Town (1936). His wife, Jeanette MacDonald, sang several of his more classical pieces in her concerts and recorded one entitled "Let Me Always Sing".
His most notable films, mostly as a second lead actor, include Red Dust (1932) with Jean Harlow, Zoo in Budapest (1933) with Loretta Young, Ex-Lady (1933) with Bette Davis, Flying Down to Rio (1933) with Dolores del Río, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, I Am Suzanne (1934) with Lilian Harvey, Sadie McKee (1934) with Joan Crawford, Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, and The Locket (1946) with Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, and Robert Mitchum. MacDonald and Raymond made one film together, Smilin' Through, which came out as the U.S. was on the verge of entering the World War II.
Following the beginning of war in Europe in 1939, Raymond felt certain the U.S. would eventually enter the war. He trained as a pilot for that eventuality, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. He served as an observer aboard B-17 anti-submarine flights along the Atlantic coast before attending intelligence school and shipping out to England in July 1942. He served with the 97th Bomb Group before taking over as assistant operations officer in the 8th Bomber Command. He was transferred back to the U.S. in 1943 and piloted a variety of aircraft, both bombers and fighters, in stateside duties. He remained in the United States Air Force Reserve following the war, retiring in 1968 as a colonel.
Raymond wrote, directed and starred in the 1949 film "Million Dollar Weekend". In later years he appeared in only a few films. His last major film was “The Best Man” in 1964 with Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.
In the 1950s he mostly worked in television, appearing in "Fireside Theatre," "Hollywood Summer Theatre" and "TV's Reader's Digest". In the 1970s he appeared on ABC Television Network's "Paris 7000" and had guest roles in "The Outer Limits," "Robert Montgomery Presents," "Playhouse 90," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "Ironside," "The Defenders," "Mannix," "The Name of the Game," "Lux Video Theatre," "Kraft Television Theatre" and "U.S. Steel Hour."
In 1974 he married Nel Bentley Hees, who died in 1995.
A 2001 biography of Nelson Eddy and MacDonald, Sweethearts by Sharon Rich, claims that Raymond had affairs with men during his marriage to MacDonald. The book includes documentation of Raymond being arrested on three occasions for sex with other men: a photo of Raymond's January 1938 arrest and booking number (page 498 of the 2001 edition); a U.S. Army nurse is named and quoted concerning the second arrest; and retired Scotland Yard detective Joe Sampson confirms the third arrest, which occurred in England during World War II.[page needed]
The book also claims that Louis B. Mayer engineered the marriage of MacDonald to Raymond—even though Mayer knew Raymond was bisexual—to prevent MacDonald from marrying Nelson Eddy. Mayer was concerned that a MacDonald-Eddy marriage would end in divorce, due to their temperaments, then he would lose his lucrative box office team. Also, Eddy wanted children and preferred MacDonald to at least semi-retire, which didn't please the studio mogul. While Mayer blessed the MacDonald-Raymond union, he had Raymond blacklisted following his 1938 arrest.[page needed] After Stolen Heaven (1938), Raymond made no films until Cross-Country Romance (1940) and Hitchcock's Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) -- previously he averaged 4 movies a year.
- Personal Maid (1931)
- Ladies of the Big House (1931)
- Forgotten Commandments (1932)
- The Night of June 13th (1932)
- Red Dust (1932)
- If I Had a Million (1932)
- Zoo in Budapest (1933)
- Ex-Lady (1933)
- Ann Carver's Profession (1933)
- Brief Moment (1933)
- The House on 56th Street (1933)
- Flying Down to Rio (1933)
- I Am Suzanne (1933)
- Coming-Out Party (1934)
- Sadie McKee (1934)
- Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (1934)
- Behold My Wife (1934)
- The Woman in Red (1935)
- Transient Lady (1935)
- Hooray for Love (1935)
- Seven Keys to Baldpate (1935)
- Love on a Bet (1936)
- The Bride Walks Out (1936)
- Walking on Air (1936)
- Smartest Girl in Town (1936)
- That Girl from Paris (1936)
- There Goes My Girl (1937)
- The Life of the Party (1937)
- She's Got Everything (1937)
- Stolen Heaven (1938)
- Cross-Country Romance (1940)
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
- Smilin' Through (1941)
- The Locket (1946)
- Assigned to Danger (1948)
- Sofia (1948)
- Million Dollar Weekend (1948) (also director and writer)
- Hit the Deck (1955)
- Plunder Road (1957)
- The Best Man (1964)
- I'd Rather Be Rich (1964)
- Five Bloody Graves (1970) (voice only)
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force website, http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=1658
- Gene Raymond dies at 89, Variety, May 6, 1998.
- *Myrna Oliver, Gene Raymond Obituaries: Gene Raymond, 89; Actor Wed Jeanette MacDonald, Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1998.
- Gene Raymond Biography (1908-1998) at FilmReference.com
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2008)|
- Daly, Maury. "Gene Raymond: Renaissance Man" in Classic Images (November 1995)
- Eyman, Scott. Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005)
- Gene Raymond at the Internet Movie Database
- Gene Raymond at the Internet Broadway Database
- Gene Raymond at Find a Grave
- Gene Raymond at Virtual History