Paula Raymond, an MGM leading lady and supporting player in the early 1950s who later had a prolific career in early TV until she was seriously injured in a car accident, died Dec. 31 in Los Angeles. She was 79. The West Hollywood resident had been in ill health for the last year.
Under contract to Paramount and Columbia before signing with MGM in 1949, Raymond appeared in “Crisis” opposite Cary Grant; “Devil’s Doorway” opposite Robert Taylor; “Duchess of Idaho,” with Van Johnson and Esther Williams; and “The Tall Target,” with Dick Powell.
After leaving MGM, Raymond co-starred in the film for which she is best remembered: 1953 sci-fi classic “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.”
She also made many TV guest appearances, including “General Electric Theater,” “Perry Mason,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “The Untouchables,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Maverick” and “Wyatt Earp.”
Raymond’s acting career was sidetracked in 1962 by a near-fatal car crash that severely damaged her face and required extensive plastic surgery. She returned to work within a year, but her career never fully recovered.
Born Paula Ramona Wright in San Francisco, Raymond studied ballet, music, piano and voice. She made her film debut as a teenager in 1938 opposite Jane Withers in “Keep Smiling.” She attended Hollywood High School, but returned to San Francisco, where she went to college and appeared with theater groups.
A wartime marriage ended in divorce. To support her young daughter, Raymond returned to Hollywood and worked as a secretary and model. She relaunched her movie career, working first as an extra, then signed a contract at Par and was billed as Rae Patterson. She got small roles in several films; then in 1947, after a year at Par, she was signed by Columbia, where, as Paula Raymond, she spent two years appearing in B movies and had her first leading role, in “Challenge of the Range.”
Director George Cukor gave her a role in MGM’s “Adam’s Rib,” the 1949 comedy classic starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. She was signed to a contract with the studio that year, but despite good reviews and lots of attention, Raymond was released from her contract after less than two years, and thereafter worked independently.
She is survived by a granddaughter.
At her request, donations may be made to the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Woodland Hills.