About Raymond Hart Massey
Raymond Hart Massey (August 30, 1896 – July 29, 1983) was a Canadian/American actor.
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-Ferguson Tractor Company. His branch of the Massey family immigrated to Canada from England . 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.
At the outbreak of World War I, Massey joined the Canadian Army, serving with the artillery on the Western Front. He returned to Canada suffering shell-shock and was engaged as an Army instructor for American officers at Yale. In 1918, he was sent to serve in Siberia, where he made his first stage appearance, entertaining American troops on occupation duty. Severely wounded in action in France, he was sent home, where he eventually worked in the family business, selling farm implements.
Drawn to the theatre, he first appeared on the London stage in 1922. His first movie role was in High Treason in 1927. In 1929, he directed the London premiere of The Silver Tassie. He played Sherlock Holmes in The Speckled Band, the first sound film version of the story, in 1931. In 1934, he starred in The Scarlet Pimpernel and, in 1936, he starred in H. G. Wells's Things to Come. In 1944, Massey played the District Attorney in "The Woman in the Window" with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett
Despite being Canadian, Massey became famous for his quintessential American roles such as the abolitionist John Brown in Santa Fe Trail (1941) and again in the low-budget film Seven Angry Men (1955 ). His second portrayal of Brown was much more sympathetic, presenting him as a well-intentioned but misguided figure, while in Santa Fe Trail he was presented as a wild-eyed lunatic.
Massey scored a great triumph on Broadway in Robert E. Sherwood's play Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and he repeated his role in the 1940 film version (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor). Massey again portrayed Lincoln in The Day Lincoln Was Shot on Ford Star Jubilee (1956), and, in a wordless appearance this time, in How the West Was Won (1962). A fellow actor is said to have remarked that Massey wouldn't be satisfied with his Lincoln impersonation until someone assassinated him.
On stage in a dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benét's John Brown's Body (1953 ), Massey, in addition to narrating along with Tyrone Power and Judith Anderson, took on both the roles of John Brown and Abe Lincoln in the same work.
Raymond Massey played a Canadian on screen only once, in 49th Parallel (1941).
Also in 1941, Massey starred in George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma, opposite Katharine Cornell, opening just one week before Pearl Harbor. During the war, he teamed up with Cornell and other leading actors in a revival of Shaw's Candida to benefit the Army Emergency Fund and the Navy Relief Society.
Massey portrayed the character of Jonathan Brewster in the film version of Arsenic and Old Lace. The character had been created by Boris Karloff for the stage version and the character was written to resemble Karloff (a running gag in the play and the film). Even though the film was released in 1944, it was shot in 1941, at which time Karloff was still contracted to the Broadway play, and could not be released for the filming, unlike his costars Josephine Hull, Jean Adair and John Alexander. Massey and Karloff had appeared together in James Whale's suspense film The Old Dark House (1932).
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. His memorable film roles after that included 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 became well-known on television in the 1950s and 1960s, especially as Doctor Gillespie in the popular series Dr. Kildare. He and his son, Daniel, were cast as father and son in The Queen's Guards (1961).
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: Anna Massey and Daniel Massey.
3.Dorothy Whitney from 1939 until her death.
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 ended up marrying the lawyer who represented him in court, Dorothy Whitney, while his then ex-wife Allen married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney.
Raymond Massey's older brother was Vincent Massey, the first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada. He too dabbled in politics, appearing in a television advertisement in support of the conservative Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, in which he denounced the burgeoning Vietnam War.
Massey died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on July 29, 1983, a month before he would have turned 87. That was the same day as the death of David Niven, who had co-starred with him in The Prisoner of Zenda and A Matter of Life and Death. Massey is buried in New Haven, Connecticut's Beaverdale Memorial Park.
Massey has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for movies at 1719 Vine Street and one for television at 6708 Hollywood Blvd. His achievements have also been recognized in a signature cocktail, the Raymond Massey.
Raymond Massey's Timeline
August 30, 1896
Toronto, Toronto Division, ON, Canada
October 10, 1933
City of Westminster, Greater London, UK
August 11, 1937
Thakeham, West Sussex, England
July 29, 1983
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA