Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gene Raymond (1908-1998)


The American born actor with his blonde locks and piercing blue eyes started his career on a stage as a young boy and was considered a veteran of the stage by age 12. His first Broadway debut was at the age of 17 appearing in The Cradle Snatchers which ran for two years and also show cased a very young Humphrey Bogart. Gene eventually made his way to Hollywood to try his hand at acting on film. His first acting credit  was in "Personal Maid" 1931 starring Nancy Carroll and Pat O'Brien.

with Sylvia Sidney "Behold My Wife" 1934


Gene was soon cast in "Red Dust" 1932 starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow then playing the spouse of  Bette Davis in "Ex-Lady" 1933. Throughout the 1930's Gene became the dependable leading man to many well known actresses like Loretta Young, Sylvia Sidney, Ann Sothern, Frances Drake, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck.  My favorite of his films is "Mr. and Mrs Smith" 1941. An early Hitchcock classic co-starring Robert Young, the amazingly funny Carole Lombard and of course Gene in one of his most memorable roles. 

with Robert Young and Barbara Stanwyck

Gene met and fell in love with the beautiful actress Jeanette MacDonald during the 1930's. They were married in 1937 and remained happily married until her death of a heart attack in 1965. (At the time of her death they were considered one of the longest lasting marriages in Hollywood). During the 1940's Gene appeared in musicals, light comedies and a couple of dramas while also recording music, some of which his wife Jeanette recorded and sang in her own movies. The lovely couple starred in only one film together "Smilin Through" 1941.

Gene with wife Jeanette MacDonald


He was sent to England during WWII where he served until the war ended. While deployed he flew many missions as an Air Force pilot (He had previously been a reservist). Upon returning to Hollywood he dabbled in directing and producing in 1948 without much success. That same year he and Jeanette decided to slow down their careers in order to travel and spend more quality time together. After Jeanette's passing in 1965 Gene kept in touch with her fans and made it a priority to attend the Jeannette MacDonald International Fan Club Convention in Los Angeles every year, sharing stories of their life together with her fans. Gene remarried in 1974 and remained married to his second wife Nel until her death in 1995.

with Jeanette all dressed up for an Award show.

The talented Mr. Raymond died of pneumonia in 1998. He was interred next to his wife Jeanette in the Sanctuary of Heritage section at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, CA Their resting place can be viewed HERE.  The mausoleum is also the resting place of Nat King Cole, George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen, Rex Bell and his wife Clara Bow, and Alan Ladd and his wife Sue Carroll who surround the Raymonds. You can view the mausoleum HERE.


Interesting Gene Raymond Facts:

He was a Colonel in the Air Force Reserves upon retiring from the military in 1968 and a decorated military pilot. He took flying lessons at his own expense before the war started.

During the time that Gene was stationed in England during WWII Jeanette wore his flying wings on her lapel, never taking them off until he returned safely.

He returned to Broadway briefly in 1957 starring in A Shadow of my Enemy. Unfortunately the play was a flop.

There are two books discussing Gene's marriage to Jeanette and why it came about. Throughout his years in Hollywood it was well known that he was bi-sexual.  In Nelson Eddy's biography Sweethearts released in 2001 he claims that studio head Louis B. Mayor knew that Gene was bi-sexual but arranged his marriage to Jeanette MacDonald to prevent her from marrying him. His reasoning was not wanting Eddy and MacDonald's marriage ending in divorce which would risk the loss of his lucrative box office duo. Nelson Eddy also wanted children with Jeanette and for her to semi-retire to raise a family. This did not sit well with the studio head and so the union between Gene and Jeanette began.  (That had to be crushing for Nelson Eddy, losing the love of his life for his career and what was best for MGM).

It has been well documented that Gene was arrested on three separate occasions for having sex with men during the 1930's. His last arrest occurred while stationed in England during WWII.  This caused a huge scandal within the movie industry and looked bad for MGM. Gene was subsequently blacklisted by Louis B. Mayor to do damage control after photos came out of his 1938 arrest. Gene was unable to work until 1940 when he appeared in Hitchock's "Mr. and Mrs Smith" and "Cross Country Romance".

After Jeanette's death he vowed to keep in touch with her many fans until they were reunited again.


I hope you return for more of my collection.
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8 comments:

  1. Why did Jeanette MacDonald stay married to Gene Raymond for so long when he was GAY? According to the book "Sweethearts" he spent what was to be he and Jeanette's honeymoon with another male actor. How and why did she put up with that for all those years?

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  2. According to many accounts, Jeannette was determined to maintain her career in Hollywood. Louis B. Mayer apparently forced her away from Nelson Eddy and into a marriage with Gene Raymond. Also, Nelson didn't want her to continue her career if she married him. Nelson wanted a stay-at-home wife. Jeanette was torn in so many directions, it is not surprising that she became frail as she grew older and finally died too young.

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  3. Gene Raymond appears to have been an excellent citizen. If Jeanette Macdonald loved him, who else should complain?

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    1. Wasn't he anti-semitic? That's doesn't make for being a good citizen if true.

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  4. "Sweethearts" by Sharon Rich wasn't Nelson's biography. The full title is "Sweethearts, the Timeless Love Affair, On Screen and Off, Between Jeanette MacDaonaald and Nelson Eddy." It is the documentation of the great love affair between Jeanette and Nelson which continued from the early 30s until her untimely death in 1965.

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  5. Robert Young is not in MR AND MRS SMITH. It's Robert Montgomery.

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  6. I've lived in Hollywood, for over 80 years. There are no secrets now. Back then, it was a different world. The big studios ran things, as they saw fit. It's hard to believe now, but people went to the movies, four or five times a week, EVERY week There was no other form of entertainment. They had Keno and free dinnerware. This is an attempt to show, how the studios valued the reputation of their stars and bit players. Anything that would jeopardize the steady stream of money, was dealt with harshly. The studios owned the police, paid bribes and bought off blackmailers. Standard practice, cost of doing business. The publicity departments ground out a steady stream of manufactured news about the stars, planted scoops, covered up scandals. The gossip columnists went along with the hype, because the studios were their bread and butter. They would print "exclusives". "What well-known actor, was seen with what well-known actress, at what well-known eatery?" Big scoop.

    The contracts had a "Morals Clause", that covered everything, you could think of, and more. If you got caught in a scandal, that couldn't be hushed up, you were out the door. Your income went to zero, with no hope of ever working in Hollywood again. There were (and are) a lot of gay actors and actresses. They were told who to marry and when to smile for the reporters. All for appearances.

    Sorry for the length of this, but it started with the question, Was Gene gay?
    Yes, he was. But he was a perfect "Hollywood Husband" To Jeanette, and approved by
    Louis B. Mayer, to keep her away from Nelson. He believed that a MacDonald/Eddy marriage, would kill his Golden Goose musical team. You really should read Sharon Rich's LATEST edition of "Sweethearts." Heartbraking, and much more detail.

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  7. It seems history repeated itself a few years later when L.B. Mayer arranged a marriage for another blond gay actor. This time it was Van Johnson. By the time the studios got around to arranging Rock Hudson's fake marriage in the 50s, they must have been able to do this in their sleep.

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