Gene Raymond dies at 89

H'wood leading man, husband to Jeanette MacDonald

Gene Raymond, a handsome blond film star of the 1930s, died of pneumonia Sunday nightat Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 89.

In his later years, Raymond was best known as the husband of Jeanette MacDonald. He was married to the singing star from 1937 until her death in 1965.

Beginning at the age of 5, Raymond’s career spanned theater, films, radio and television. His most notable films in the 1930s were “Red Dust” with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, “Ex-Lady” with Bette Davis, “Zoo in Budapest” with Loretta Young, “Sadie McKee” with Joan Crawford, “Brief Moment” with Carole Lombard and “Seven Keys to Baldpate.”

He also played the romantic lead opposite Dolores Del Rio in “Flying Down to Rio,” the first film to feature Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Born Aug. 13, 1908, in New York City, Raymond began his acting career playing children’s roles in stock companies. He attended New York’s Professional Children’s School and made his Broadway debut in 1920 under his real name, Raymond Guion. His longest run was two years in “The Cradle Snatchers,” with Humphrey Bogart.

Raymond was one of the legion of New York actors who came to Hollywood with the advent of talkies. His first film was “Personal Maid” with Nancy Carroll in 1931, under his new name, Gene Raymond.

He worked at several studios until he began a contract with RKO in 1935. His films there included: “Hooray for Love” with Ann Sothern, “The Bride Walks Out” with Barbara Stanwyck, “That Girl from Paris” with Lily Pons and “Life of the Party” with Harriet Hilliard, later of “Ozzie and Harriet” fame.

Following three years in the Army Air Corps as a first lieutenant during World War II, Raymond returned to Hollywood, but found his career on the wane, appearing in only a handful of films through the 1960s.

His last major film was the Henry Fonda-Cliff Robertson starrer “The Best Man” in 1964. He worked in summer stock and appeared on TV shows such as “Robert Montgomery Presents” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Raymond and MacDonald appeared in one film together, “Smilin’ Through,” in 1941. Their marriage was considered one of Hollywood’s most idyllic. Following her death, Raymond made regular appearances at conventions of the Jeanette MacDonald Fan Club.

In 1974 he married Nel Bentley Hees, who died in 1995.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Sanctuary of the Heritage, Forest Lawn in Glendale.