Raymond Massey


Actor
Raymond Massey

About

Also Known As
Raymond Hart Massey
Birth Place
Toronto, Ontario, CA
Born
August 30, 1896
Died
July 29, 1983
Cause of Death
Pneumonia

Biography

Exceptionally tall, with distinctive, unconventional features and a commanding presence, actor Raymond Massey built an impressive career out of playing reassuring authority figures and scheming villains equally well. The Canadian-born actor first honed his craft on the stages of the U.K. for nearly 10 years before venturing across the Atlantic to appear on Broadway as "Hamlet" and in ear...

Photos & Videos

Things to Come - Lobby Card Set
Arsenic and Old Lace - Scene Stills
God is My Co-Pilot - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Adrianne Allen
Wife
Actor. Married 1929-39.

Bibliography

"A Hundred Different Lives"
Raymond Massey (1979)
"When I Was Young"
Raymond Massey (1977)

Biography

Exceptionally tall, with distinctive, unconventional features and a commanding presence, actor Raymond Massey built an impressive career out of playing reassuring authority figures and scheming villains equally well. The Canadian-born actor first honed his craft on the stages of the U.K. for nearly 10 years before venturing across the Atlantic to appear on Broadway as "Hamlet" and in early sound pictures like "The Speckled Band" (1931), in the role of Sherlock Holmes. Massey demonstrated his versatility with venomous characters in films like "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937) juxtaposed against his career-defining portrayal of the 16th U.S. president in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" (1940), based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play written with him in mind. Massey became the stuff of Hollywood legend when the aftermath of his divorce from actress Adrianne Allen inspired the beloved Tracy-Hepburn comedy "Adam’s Rib" (1949). As an actor, Massey continually impressed with is ability to make difficult characters sympathetic in such films as "The Fountainhead" (1949), opposite Gary Cooper, and as James Dean’s emotionally unavailable father in "East of Eden" (1955). A younger generation of fans came to appreciate his later work as Richard Chamberlain’s authoritative mentor Dr. Gillespie on "Dr. Kildare" (NBC, 1961-66). Even as his half-century career neared its end, Massey continued to make memorable contributions to such big-budget Hollywood offerings as the Western "Mackenna’s Gold" (1969). One of the first and best examples of a "working actor" in film, Massey never failed to elevate the integrity of any project.

Raymond Hart Massey was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Aug. 30, 1896. He was the son of Ann and Chester Daniel Massey, whose family roots could be traced back to pre-Revolutionary War America. Although Raymond participated in a few school productions while attending the Appleby School in Oakville, Ontario, the assumption was that he would eventually enter into his well-to-do family’s farm equipment business upon completing his education. As a member of the Canadian Officer’s Training Corps while attending the University of Toronto when World War I began, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Canadian Army. Massey served with a field artillery unit at France’s Western Front until he was wounded at Ypres in 1916. Hospitalized for several months and diagnosed with shell shock, he was later sent to the U.S., where he served as an artillery instructor for a time before rejoining the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in 1918 and being sent to Siberia in the wake of the Russian Communist Revolution. While stationed at Vladivostok, Massey was put in charge of entertainment for the troops, for whom he mounted several theatrical productions. In later years, the venerable actor related that it was then that the performing bug truly bit him, once and for all.

Upon being discharged, Massey attended Britain’s Balliol College, Oxford. The stay at Oxford was not a long one, however, and before long he was back home in Canada, where he attempted to make a go of it in the family business. But the thrill of the theater still called to Massey, who, upon the advice of renowned thespian John Drew and after pleading for permission from his patriarchal Methodist father, returned to England to pursue a career on the stage. Eventually the determined actor landed his first professional role in a 1922 production of Eugene O’Neill’s "In the Zone" and from that point forward, there was no looking back. Within four years, Massey was established on the stages of London as both an actor and director, and in less than a decade, he made trip back across the Atlantic for his Broadway debut as the star of a revival of Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" in 1931.

Although he had made a pair of brief, uncredited screen appearances two years prior, Massey’s first major film role was as Sherlock Holmes in the mystery "The Speckled Band" (1931), the first talkie to depict the exploits of the great detective. Other leading roles soon came in films like director James Whale's superb "The Old Dark House" (1932), opposite Boris Karloff. Massey’s imposing features also allowed him to adapt easily to more villainous roles, such as the slithering Chauvelin in "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1935). Massey had far from abandoned work on the stage, though, appearing on Broadway many times over the next two decades and earning accolades for such portrayals as "Ethan Frome" in 1936. Back on screen, he showed his bad side twice more as Black Michael opposite David Niven’s "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937) and as the conniving Prince Ghul in the British Empire epic, "The Drum" (1938). At 6’3" tall, Massey was perfectly suited to play the legendarily lanky commander-in-chief in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" (1938) which was written specifically with the actor in mind by playwright Robert Sherwood.

Massey’s personal life took a decidedly truth-is-stranger-than-fiction turn in 1939 when he and his wife of 10 years, actress Adrianne Allen, entered into divorce proceedings. Massey and Allen were each represented by one-half of the husband and wife legal team of William and Dorothy Whitney. With the divorce finalized, the attorneys quickly divorced each other and went on to marry their respective famous clients – Massey and Allen. The bizarre turn of events later inspired husband and wife screenwriting team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin to pen the classic 1949 battle of the sexes comedy "Adam’s Rib," starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. During their time as a couple, Massey and Allen had two children, Daniel and Anna, both of whom went on to enjoy acting careers of their own.

The following year, Massey reprised his most famous stage persona in the film version of "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" (1940), for which he received an Academy Award nomination. He took on another historical figure that year with a wild-eyed, unsympathetic portrayal of the radical abolitionist John Brown in "Santa Fe Trail" (1940), starring Errol Flynn as Confederate Civil War hero J.E.B. Stuart. Working steadily throughout the war years, Massey took over the role his "Old Dark House" co-star Boris Karloff had originated on stage for director Frank Capra’s film adaptation of the play "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944), then lent his intimidating visage to the role of a stern prosecutor in the Heaven-set sequences of the imaginative Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger fantasy, "A Matter of Life and Death" (1945). Maintaining his ties to the stage, the actor returned to Broadway to play Professor Henry Higgins in the 1945 production of "Pygmalion."

Other notable work of the period included a performance as General Ezra Mannon – an updated version of Greek King Agamemnon – in "Mourning Becomes Electra" (1947), the screen adaptation of O’Neill’s epic reinterpretation of "The Oresteia," a trilogy of Greek tragedies by Aeschylus. He was sympathetic as the well-meaning but weak-willed newspaper magnate Gail Wynand in director King Vidor’s adaptation of author Ayn Rand’s treatise on individuality, "The Fountainhead" (1949), starring Gary Cooper as visionary architect Howard Roark. Still at the height of his powers, Massey was excellent years later as the proud and emotionally distant patriarch Adam Trask opposite James Dean in the filmed version of Steinbeck’s "East of Eden" (1955) and delivered a far more balanced portrayal in his second outing as John Brown in the under-appreciated "Seven Angry Men" (1955).

By the second half of the decade, Massey transitioned more predominantly into the burgeoning medium of television, appearing in guest spots on many of the popular anthology series of the day, such as "General Electric Theater" (CBS, 1953-1962). The venerable stage and film star became widely known by a new generation of audience as the gruff but caring Dr. Gillespie on the popular medical-drama "Dr. Kildare" (NBC, 1961-66), featuring a fresh-faced Richard Chamberlain in the title role. Fans of his work as the stern taskmaster Gillespie may not have been surprised when Massey made his personal politics known by actively campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater during the 1964 race against incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson.

Long established as an elder statesman of screens both large and small, Massey continued to appear in projects, albeit with less frequency as the ‘60s drew to a close. His final performance in a feature film was as a fortune-hunting preacher in the Gregory Peck Western "Mackenna’s Gold" (1969). This was followed a few years later by his last television appearances in the political-thriller "The President’s Plane is Missing" (ABC, 1973) and the family film "My Darling Daughter’s Anniversary" (ABC, 1973), starring one of his contemporaries, Robert Young. After battling a case of pneumonia for nearly a month, Massey died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on July 29, 1983, just weeks shy of his 87th birthday. Somewhat overshadowing the sad event was the passing of actor David Niven, Massey’s "Prisoner of Zenda" co-star, who died that same day.

By Bryce Coleman

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

My Darling Daughters' Anniversary (1973)
Matthew Cunningham
The President's Plane Is Missing (1973)
All My Darling Daughters (1972)
Matthew Cunningham
Mackenna's Gold (1969)
Preacher
How the West Was Won (1963)
Abraham Lincoln
The Queen's Guards (1963)
Capt Fellowes
The Fiercest Heart (1961)
Willem Prinsloo
The Great Impostor (1961)
Abbot Donner
The Naked and the Dead (1958)
Gen. Cummings
Omar Khayyam (1957)
The Shah/Narrator
The Naked Eye (1957)
Narrated by
Seven Angry Men (1955)
John Brown
Battle Cry (1955)
Gen. Snipes
Prince of Players (1955)
Junius Brutus Booth
East of Eden (1955)
Adam Trask
The Desert Song (1953)
Sheik Yousseff
Carson City (1952)
Big Jack Davis
Come Fill the Cup (1951)
John Ives
David and Bathsheba (1951)
Nathan
Sugarfoot (1951)
Jacob Stint
Barricade (1950)
Boss Kruger
Chain Lightning (1950)
Leland Willis
Dallas (1950)
Will Marlow
The Fountainhead (1949)
Gail Wynand
Roseanna McCoy (1949)
Old Randall McCoy
Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)
Ezra Mannon
Possessed (1947)
Dean Graham
A Matter of Life and Death (1947)
Hotel Berlin (1945)
Armin Von Dahnwitz
God Is My Co-Pilot (1945)
Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Jonathan Brewster
The Woman in the Window (1944)
Frank Lalor
Action in the North Atlantic (1943)
Captain Steve Jarvis
Desperate Journey (1942)
Major Otto Baumeister
Reap the Wild Wind (1942)
King Cutler
Dangerously They Live (1941)
Dr. Ingersoll
49th Parallel (1941)
Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)
Abraham Lincoln
Santa Fe Trail (1940)
John Brown
The Drum (1938)
Prince Ghul [Khan]
Black Limelight (1938)
The Hurricane (1937)
[Eugene] DeLaage
Dreaming Lips (1937)
Miguel de Vavo
Fire over England (1937)
Philip of Spain
Under the Red Robe (1937)
Cardinal Richelieu
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Black Michael
Things to Come (1936)
John Cabal/Oswald Cabal
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935)
Chauvelin
The Old Dark House (1932)
Phlip Waverton
The Face at the Window (1932)
The Speckled Band (1931)

Life Events

1914

Stage debut at Appleby in "She Stoops to Conquer"

1915

Lieutenant with Canadian Field Artillery in France; after year at the front returned to Canada suffering from shell shock; served as artillery instructor alongside fellow-officer and future actor Walter Pidgeon

1917

Artillery and trench warfare instructor at school in Toronto, Yale and Princeton

1919

Discharged from army; to Oxford, England

1921

Returned to Canada, appearing in amateur productions

1922

To England to pursue professional acting career

1924

In West End production including debut of G.B. Shaw's "St. Joan"

1925

Took over as manager of Everyman; Everyman collpased 1927

1929

Film debut (a bit) in "High Treason" (Great Britain)

1931

Film acting debut in "The Speckled Band" (GB)

1931

To US; Broadway debut in "Hamlet" (dir. Norman Bel Geddes), then to Hollywood and contract with Universal (where wife Adrienne Allen was just signed as actress) as writer-director

1932

After having troubles finding film work in Hollywood, returned to England and successfully found feature work there

1932

First Hollywood film, James Whale's "The Old Dark House"

1937

Returned to Hollywood; first films, John Cromwell's "The Prisoner of Zenda" and John Ford's "The Hurricane"

1938

Began two-year run as "Abe Lincoln in Illinois", written especially for Massey by Robert Sherwood

1939

US short film debut in "For auld lang syne"

1941

Signed with Warner Bros.

1944

Became US citizen

1952

Authored play "The Hanging Judge"; staged by Michael Powell in England; later made for TV in both GB and US

1958

Final Broadway appearance in "JB"

1964

Campaigned for Barry Goldwater

1975

Final stage performance in LA production of "The Night of the Iguana"

Photo Collections

Things to Come - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of lobby cards from H. G. Wells' Things to Come (1936). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Arsenic and Old Lace - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, and Raymond Massey.
God is My Co-Pilot - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for God is My Co-Pilot (1945). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
How the West Was Won - Program Book
Here is the souvenir Program Book sold at Roadshow engagements for the 1962 epic in Cinerama, How the West Was Won.
East of Eden - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for East of Eden (1955), starring James Dean. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Old Dark House - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from the Universal horror film The Old Dark House (1932), directed by James Whale. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Things to Come (1936) - Stand to Arms The citizens of "Everytown" are both warned and reassured as they prepare for attack, while Cabal (Raymond Massey) and wife (Sophie Stewart) muse about their future in H.G. Wells Things to Come, 1936.
Things to Come (1936) - Opening, 1940, War The ominous credit and opening sequence from Things to Come, 1936, from H.G. Wells' screenplay and novel, produced by Alexander Korda and directed by famed production designer William Cameron Menzies.
Desperate Journey (1942) - Half American, Half Jersey City Nazi Major Baumeister (Raymond Massey) is telling the crew of the downed RAF bomber (Errol Flynn, Arthur Kennedy, Alan Hale, Ronald Sinclair) they have no prospects, but he has an idea to flip American Johnny (Ronald Reagan), who himself turns the tables, directed by Raoul Walsh, in a famous bit from Desperate Journey, 1942.
Woman In The Window, The (1944) - Some Psychological Aspects Of Homicide Opening doesn’t seem for a moment incidental, establishing Edward G. Robinson as composed professor Wanley, Dorothy Peterson his wife departing for the summer with the kids, Raymond Massey and Edmond Breon as his friendly colleagues, and a portrait of Joan Bennett, in Fritz Lang’s chilling The Woman In The Window, 1944.
Possessed (1947) - I'm Used To Difficult Patients Still in flashback constructing the events leading to her breakdown, nurse Louise (Joan Crawford), just spurned by her love interest on her day off down by the lake, is waylaid by her affluent employer Graham (Raymond Massey), whose troubled wife she cares for, early in director Curtis Bernhardt’s Possessed, 1947.
Possessed (1947) - Open, I Thought I'd Lost You Joining director Curtis Bernhardt’s intense opening, with some soundstage shots but also lots of downtown L-A and USC Medical Center, Joan Crawford as distraught nurse Louise has definite problems, in Possessed, 1947, also starring Van Heflin, from screenwriters Ranald MacDougal and Silvia Richards, and producer Jerry Wald.
Drum, The (a.k.a. Drums) -- (1938) - Sick Of This Darn Beard An aide advises the governor (Francis L. Sullivan) about the under-cover work of British officer Carruthers (Roger Livesey) in the northwest of what is now Pakistan, whom we meet exchanging info in the field, in Alexander Korda’s film from the A.E.W. Mason novel, The Drum (a.k.a. Drums, 1938.
49th Parallel (1941) - Bummin' A Ride? Nazi fugitive Hirth (Eric Portman) is discovered stowing away on a train by semi-deserter Canadian Andy Brock (genuine Canadian Raymond Massey) in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 49th Parallel, 1941.
49th Parallel (1941) - Opening, This Film Is Dedicated To Canada Prologue and opening credits to the second collaboration between director Michael Powell and writer Emeric Pressburger, 49th Parallel, 1941, featuring Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier and Raymond Massey.
Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1934) - Can You Never Rise Above Trivialities? Leslie Howard finds that he, the master-spy title character, is the topic, cranking up his bon-vivant act, as he comes upon his tormented wife (Merle Oberon), who doesn’t know his true identity, and whom he thinks is a willing conspirator for the French, and the French ambassador Chauvelin (Raymond Massey), who’s blackmailing her into another betrayal, in The Scarlet Pimpernel,1935.
Old Dark House, The (1932) - He's Only Stunned Margaret (Gloria Stuart) in her evening gown is pursued by drunken houseman Morgan (Boris Karloff) then rescued by husband Philip (Raymond Massey) in James Whale's The Old Dark House, 1932.
Old Dark House, The (1932) - Not A Very Good Chorus Girl Strangers waiting out a storm (including Raymond Massey, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart and Ernest Thesiger) learn about Sir William (Charles Laughton) and chorus-girl Gladys (Lillian Bond) in The Old Dark House, 1932.

Trailer

East Of Eden - (Original Trailer) James Dean had his first starring role in Elia Kazan's movie version of John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden (1955).
Abe Lincoln in Illinois - (Original Trailer) Raymond Massey portrays the rail-splitter in his journey from log cabin to the White House in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940).
Desperate Journey -- (Textless Trailer) Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan are behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Poland in the slam-bang adventure Desperate Journey (1942).
Dangerously They Live - (Original Trailer) Doctor John Garfield discovers a delusional patient convinced Nazis are chasing her isn't so crazy after all in Dangerously They Live (1941).
Santa Fe Trail -- (Original Trailer) Errol Flynn is the young Jeb Stuart sent out to stop abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey) in Santa Fe Trail (1940).
Arsenic and Old Lace - (Original Trailer) A young man (Cary Grant) about to be married discovers his two aunts are poisoning lonely old men in Arsenic and Old Lace, (1944).
Woman in the Window, The - (Original Trailer) Joan Bennett gets innocent professor Edward G. Robinson mixed up in murder in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944).
Mackenna's Gold - (Original Trailer) A group of men, lead by a questionable sheriff and a wanted bandit, descend upon the desert in search of a lost canyon of gold in Mackenna's Gold (1969).
God Is My Co-Pilot - (Original Trailer) God Is My Co-Pilot (1945), based on the true story of World War II fighter pilot Col. Robert Lee Scott, Jr.
Battle Cry - (Original Trailer) A group of Marines eagerly await deployment during World War II in Battle Cry (1955).
Naked and the Dead, The - (Original Trailer) A green lieutenant comes up against incompetent officers and a sadistic sergeant during World War II in The Naked and the Dead (1958), directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Aldo Ray.
Hotel Berlin - (Original Trailer) During World War II's final days, people with a variety of problems converge on Hotel Berlin (1945) starring Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre.

Family

Vincent Massey
Brother
Politician.
Daniel Massey
Son
Actor. Born 1933; mother Adrianne Allen.
Anna Massey
Daughter
Actor. Born 1937; mother Adrianne Allen.

Companions

Adrianne Allen
Wife
Actor. Married 1929-39.

Bibliography

"A Hundred Different Lives"
Raymond Massey (1979)
"When I Was Young"
Raymond Massey (1977)