August 04, 2015

#SUTS - Raymond Massey

TCM's Summer Under the Stars features a star a day every day in August. August 8 features the films of Raymond Massey beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 6 a.m. the next morning. I'm pleased to be taking part in the 2015 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon. Please check out Journeys in Classic Film and read some great articles by Kristen and also follow the links to other interesting material on the classic stars featured this month on TCM.

Raymond Massey by James Hill


Raymond Hart Massey (August 30, 1896 – July 29, 1983) was a Canadian/American actor. He was the scion of one of Canada's great pioneering industrial families and one of the most talented actors of his time. He was an absolute actor who, in his career, had played numerous roles, including Hamlet, Ethan Frome, Prospero, the father in East of Eden, Professor Higgins in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and Jonathan Brewster in the film version of Arsenic and Old Lace. Other memorable film roles include the husband of Joan Crawford during her Oscar-nominated role in Possessed (1947) and the doomed publishing tycoon Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead (1949), opposite Gary Cooper. Massey also won high praise in a dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benet's John Brown's Body, with Judith Anderson and Tyrone Power.

The role which provided Massey the greatest exposure was as Dr. Leonard Gillespie, the senior staff physician in the television series Dr. Kildare, which appeared on NBC from 1961 to 1965. But the role with which he was most closely associated was as President Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

Massey was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Anna (née Vincent), who was American-born, and Chester Daniel Massey, the wealthy owner of the Massey-Harris Tractor Company. He attended secondary school briefly at Upper Canada College, before transferring to Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario, and taking several courses at University of Toronto, where he was an active member of the Kappa Alpha Society. He later graduated from Balliol College, Oxford.

Massey worked in the family farm implement factory for a short time before enlisting in the First World War. He served as a Lieutenant in that conflict. Massey rejoined the Canadian Army for World War II, though he was eventually released from service and returned to acting work. Following the war, Massey became an American citizen.

When he returned from overseas after World War I and announced his intention to renounce his $22.50-a-week job in the Massey enterprise in favor of England and the stage, his father prayed for him. His brother Vincent, who was to become Canada's first native-born Governor General, asked: "What name are you going to use?"

Massey's first role in London was in Shaw's St. Joan. From there, his career seemingly never faltered. His talent embraced stage, screen and television.

Massey was a man who was far removed from the saturnine, darkly villainous, occasionally benevolent roles he assumed as an actor. He was amiable, accommodating, a likable raconteur.

Massey reckoned he had delivered Lincoln's farewell speech on leaving for Washington nearly 700 times. In his elderly years, he was still able to recite it from memory without hesitation. In his remarkably resonant voice, he intoned, "I now leave, not knowing when or whether I shall return. I am called upon to assume the Presidency at a time when 11 of our sovereign states have announced their intention to secede from the union, and threats of war increase in intensity from day to day. It is a grave duty that I now face. In preparing for it, I have tried to enquire what great principle or ideal it is which has kept this union so long together, and I believe it was that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty to the people of this country..."

There were publications which expressed doubts editorially that the role of the Great Emancipator could be played by a Canadian. But Massey convinced them that he was Lincoln and his portrayal became definitive. "I still think of the character I played as Abe as a very friendly fellow." President Franklin Roosevelt, who sat at Massey's side when Abe Lincoln in Illinois was shown in Washington, had another impression. "And he wrote all those speeches himself," Massey heard the President mutter to himself.

Although he wrote two books about his career, When I Was Young and A Hundred Different Lives, he did not enliven them, as was the fashion in such books, with malicious gossip, scandal or sexual episodes.

Massey was married three times.

1. Margery Fremantle from 1921 to 1929 (divorce); they had one child, architect Geoffrey Massey.

2. Adrianne Allen from 1929 to 1939 (divorce); Allen was a London and Broadway stage actress. They had two children who followed him into acting: Daniel Massey (October 10, 1933 - March 25, 1998) and Anna Massey (August 11, 1937 - July 3, 2011).

3. Dorothy Whitney from 1939 until her death in 1982.

His high-profile estrangement and then divorce from Adrianne Allen was the inspiration for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin's script for the film Adam's Rib (1949), starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and indeed Massey married the lawyer who represented him in court, Dorothy Whitney, while his then ex-wife, Allen, married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois: A Play in Three Acts by Robert Emmet Sherwood (1938)

The play covers the life of President Abraham Lincoln from his childhood through his final speech in Illinois before he left for Washington. The play also covers his romance with Mary Todd and his debates with Stephen A. Douglas, and uses Lincoln's own words in some scenes. Sherwood received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1939 for his work. Raymond Massey portrayed Lincoln; he repeated his role in the 1940 film version.

On Broadway

Plymouth Theatre, now known as The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, is a Broadway theatre located at 236 West 45th Street (George Abbott Way) in midtown-Manhattan and renamed in 2005 in honor of Gerald Schoenfeld.
Opening Date: October 15, 1938
Closing Date: December 1939
Total Performances: 472
Category: Play, Drama, Original, Broadway
Setting: In and about New Salem, Illinois, in the 1830s. In and about Springfield, Illinois, 1840s - 1861.
Produced by The Playwrights' Company (Maxwell Anderson; S.N. Behrman; Elmer Rice; Robert E. Sherwood; Sidney Howard)
Written by Robert E. Sherwood
Staged by Elmer Rice
Scenic Design by Jo Mielziner
Business Manager: Victor Samrock
Stage Manager: Elmer Brown
Assistant Stage Mgr: John Triggs
Press Representative: William Fields and Phil Stevenson
Casting: Jane Broder
Assistant to Mr. Rice: Paul C. Krebs

Raymond Massey ..... Abe Lincoln
Ora Alexander ..... Ensemble
Dorothy Allan ..... The Edwards' Maid
Frank Andrews  ..... Mentor Graham
Lloyd Barry ..... Tad Lincoln
Bette Benfield ..... Ensemble
Hubert Brown ..... Gobey
Everett Charlton ..... Bab, Cavalry Captain, Militia Captain
George Christie ..... Ben Mattling
David Clarke ..... Feargus, Donner
May Collins ..... Elizabeth Edwards
Glenn Coulter ..... Kavanaugh
Howard Da Silva ..... Jack Armstrong
Dearon Darnay  ..... Ensemble
Robert Fitzsimmons ..... Ensemble
Lillian Foster ..... Nancy Green
John Gerard ..... Barrick
Dorothy Greeley ..... Ensemble
Arthur Griffin ..... Judge Bowling Green
David Hewes ..... Ensemble
Alfred Jenkins ..... Ensemble
Walter Kapp ..... Ensemble
Muriel Kirkland ..... Mary Todd
Harry Levian ..... Trum Cogdal, Jed
Adele Longmire ..... Ann Rutledge
George Malcolm ..... Ensemble
Lewis Martin ..... Ninian Edwards
Kevin McCarthy ..... Jasp, Phil
Lex Parrish ..... Willie Lincoln
John Payne ..... Robert Lincoln
Albert Phillips ..... Stephen A. Douglas
Wendell K. Phillips ..... William Herndon
McKinley Reeves ..... Ensemble
Elizabeth Reller ..... Ensemble
Marion Rooney ..... Aggie Gale
Herbert Rudley ..... Seth Gale
Bert Schorr ..... Ensemble
Allen Shaw ..... Ensemble
Howard Sherman ..... Jimmy Gale
Lotte Stawisky ..... Ensemble
Anne Stevenson ..... Ensemble
Calvin Thomas ..... Joshua Speed
Thomas F. Tracey ..... Sturveson
John Triggs ..... Ogleby
Frank Tweddell ..... Crimmin
Iris Whitney ..... Judith, The Lincolns' Maid
Dolores Williams ..... Ensemble
Joseph Wiseman ..... Ensemble
Harrison Woodhull ..... Ensemble

The play was revived on Broadway with Sam Waterston as Lincoln, with direction by Gerald Gutierrez. The revival ran from November 29, 1993 to January 2, 1994 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center.

In addition to the 1940 film, there were five television adaptations - in 1945, 1950, 1951, 1957, and 1964. Massey repeated his stage role in the 1950 and 1951 adaptations. The 1964 production in the Hallmark Hall of Fame featured Jason Robards in the title role.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois - The Film

Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a 1940 RKO biographical film which tells the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln (Raymond Massey) from his departure from Kentucky until his election as President of the United States.

The movie was adapted by Grover Jones and Robert E. Sherwood from Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It was directed by John Cromwell, produced by Max Gordon, edited by George Hively, with music by Roy Webb and cinematography by James Wong Howe.

The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Raymond Massey) and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (James Wong Howe).

The film recorded a loss of $740,000, making it one of the biggest financial disasters in RKO's history. Its failure moved one Hollywood wise-guy to collar Max Gordon at a party and say, "I can't understand it, Max. Lincoln was so kind to everybody but you."

Latter-day critics have complained about Massey's stolidity in his signature role, but even the most stone-hearted viewer will be moved by such scenes as Lincoln riding through the ruins of what once was the village of Salem; Abe's heated election-eve quarrel with his spiteful wife Mary; and his climactic speech from the observation car of the train that will carry him to Washington...and immortality.

After his success playing Lincoln in the film and on Broadway, Raymond Massey began to assume the character in real life. He often appeared at social gatherings dressed in Lincoln-esque attire, assuming a Lincoln-like manner and speech. His friend, the playwright George S. Kaufman, observed, "Massey won't be satisfied until someone assassinates him."

Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln

Film Cast
Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln (Reprising his role from the original Broadway production).
Gene Lockhart as Stephen Douglas
Ruth Gordon as Mary Todd Lincoln (Her screen acting debut).
Mary Howard as Ann Rutledge
Minor Watson as Joshua Speed
Alan Baxter as Billy Herndon
Harvey Stephens as Ninian Edwards
Howard Da Silva as Jack Armstrong (Reprising his role from the original Broadway production).
Dorothy Tree as Elizabeth Edwards
Aldrich Bowker as Judge Bowling Green
Maurice Murphy as John McNeil
Louis Jean Heydt as Mentor Graham
Clem Bevans as Ben Mattling
Harlan Briggs as Denton Offut
Herbert Rudley as Seth Gale (Reprising his role from the original Broadway production).
Andy Clyde as Stage Driver
Roger Imhof as Mr. Crimmin
Edmund Elton as Mr. Rutledge
Leona Roberts as Mrs. Rutledge
Florence Roberts as Mrs. Bowling Green
George Rosener as Dr. Chandler
Trevor Bardette as John Hanks
Syd Saylor as John Johnston
Elisabeth Risdon as Sarah Lincoln
Charles Middleton as Tom Lincoln
Alec Craig as Trum Cogdall
John Cromwell as John Brown (uncredited)

Movie Trailer

Raymond Massey as Lincoln on the Radio

"Abraham Lincoln in the War Years" on Cavalcade of America: February 13, 1940 with Raymond Massey

"Abe Lincoln in Illinois" on The Ford Theater: February 8, 1948 with Raymond Massey

Raymond Massey as Lincoln on Television

Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln - November 20, 1949 - Chesterfield Supper Club

A segment from NBC's Chesterfield Supper Club starring Perry Como. Perry introduces a sketch with Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln and Denise Alexander as Perry's "daughter." Massey reads the Gettysburg Address.

Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln - February 10, 1960 - Kraft Music Hall

The final segment of Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall live broadcast on NBC. Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln is joined by the Ray Charles Singers with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The credits roll, but the show is running short! Perry and cast scramble to fill in two minutes. A rare look at live television.

TCM is showing 12 of Raymond Massey's films on August 8, 2015 as part of the Summer Under the Stars event. Abe Lincoln in Illinois, featured above, is on at 10:15 p.m. I'm not including it below.

6:00 AM - Things to Come (1936)

Things to Come is a 1936 British black-and-white science fiction film from United Artists, produced by Alexander Korda, directed by William Cameron Menzies, and written by H. G. Wells. The film stars Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Pearl Argyle, and Margaretta Scott.

8:00 AM - Drum, The (1938)

The Drum is a 1938 British Technicolor film from the book The Drum by A. E. W. Mason. The film was directed by Zoltan Korda and produced by Alexander Korda. It starred Sabu Dastagir, Raymond Massey, Roger Livesey, and Valerie Hobson.

9:45 AM - Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1935)

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1934 British adventure film directed by Harold Young and starring Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey. Based on the classic adventure novel The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, the film is about an eighteenth-century English aristocrat who leads a double life, appearing as an effete aristocrat while engaged in an underground effort to free French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror. The film was produced by Alexander Korda.

11:30 AM - Santa Fe Trail (1940)

Santa Fe Trail is a 1940 American western film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey and Ronald Reagan. Written by Robert Buckner, the film is about the abolitionist John Brown and his fanatical attacks on slavery as a prelude to the Civil War. Subthemes include J.E.B. Stuart and George Armstrong Custer as they duel for the hand of Kit Carson Holliday.

1:30 PM - Seven Angry Men (1955)

Seven Angry Men is a 1955 American western film directed by Charles Marquis Warren and starring Raymond Massey, Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter. Written by Daniel B. Ullman, the film is about the abolitionist John Brown's fanatical fight against slavery which ends with his 1859 arsenal raid at Harpers Ferry, (West) Virginia. The title refers to Brown and his six sons. Raymond Massey had previously played abolitionist John Brown in Santa Fe Trail (1940).

3:15 PM - Naked and The Dead, The (1958)

The Naked and the Dead is a 1958 widescreen film based on Norman Mailer's World War II novel The Naked and the Dead. It was filmed in Panama and stars Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson and Raymond Massey. Filmed by RKO just before its demise, the film was released by Warner Brothers and was the last film Raoul Walsh directed for that studio.

5:45 PM - Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1944 American dark comedy film directed by Frank Capra, starring Cary Grant, and based on Joseph Kesselring's play Arsenic and Old Lace. The script adaptation was by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. Capra actually filmed the movie in 1941 because of star Cary Grant's availability, but it was not released until 1944, after the original stage version had finished its run on Broadway. Boris Karloff played Jonathan Brewster, who "looks like Karloff," on the Broadway stage, but he was unable to do the movie as well because he was still appearing in the play during filming, and Raymond Massey took his place. The film's supporting cast also features Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton and Peter Lorre.

8:00 PM - East of Eden (1955)

East of Eden is a 1955 film, directed by Elia Kazan, and loosely based on the second half of the 1952 novel of the same name by John Steinbeck. It is about a wayward young man who, while seeking his own identity, vies for the affection of his deeply religious father against his favored brother, thus retelling the story of Cain and Abel. The film stars Julie Harris, James Dean (in his first major screen role), and Raymond Massey. It also features Burl Ives, Richard Davalos and Jo Van Fleet.

12:15 AM - Desperate Journey (1942)

Desperate Journey is a 1942 American World War II action and aviation film starring Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan, directed by Raoul Walsh. The supporting cast includes Raymond Massey, Alan Hale, Sr., and Arthur Kennedy. The melodramatic film featured a group of downed Allied airmen making their way out of the Third Reich, often with their fists.

2:15 AM - God is My Co-Pilot (1945)

God is My Co-Pilot is a 1945 American black-and-white war film from Warner Brothers, produced by Robert Buckner, directed by Robert Florey, and starring Dennis Morgan, Raymond Massey and Dane Clark. The screenplay by Abem Finkel and Peter Milne is based on the autobiography of the same name by Robert Lee Scott, Jr. and tells the story of Scott's involvement with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma during World War II.

4:00 AM - Chain Lightning (1950)

Chain Lightning is a 1950 American aviation film based on the story "These Many Years" by blacklisted writer Lester Cole (under the pseudonym J. Redmond Prior); the screenplay was written by Liam O'Brien and Vincent B. Evans. During World War II, Evans had been the bombardier on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Memphis Belle. The film stars Humphrey Bogart as a test pilot, Eleanor Parker and Raymond Massey.

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