Raymond Massey
Massey in a publicity photo for Adventures in Paradise, May 1961
Raymond Hart Massey

(1896-08-30)August 30, 1896
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedJuly 29, 1983(1983-07-29) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeBeaverdale Memorial Park in New Haven, Connecticut
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
Balliol College, Oxford
Years active1918–1973
Political partyRepublican
Margery Fremantle
(m. 1921; div. 1929)
(m. 1929; div. 1939)
Dorothy Whitney
(m. 1939; died 1982)
Children3, including Anna Massey and Daniel Massey
RelativesVincent Massey (brother)
Lionel Massey (nephew)
AwardsHollywood Walk of Fame

Raymond Hart Massey (August 30, 1896 – July 29, 1983) was a Canadian actor, known for his commanding, stage-trained voice. For his lead role in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Massey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He reprised his role as Lincoln on television and in How the West Was Won (1962). Among his other well-known roles were Dr. Gillespie in the NBC television series Dr. Kildare (1961–1966), John Brown in Santa Fe Trail (1940) and Seven Angry Men (1955), Abraham Farlan in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944).[1]

Early life

Massey was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Anna Vincent, who was American-born, and her husband Chester Daniel Massey, the wealthy co-owner of the Massey-Harris tractor company. He was the grandson of businessman Hart Massey and great-grandson of company founder Daniel Massey.[2] His branch of the Massey family immigrated to Canada from New England a few years before the War of 1812, their ancestors having migrated from England to the Massachusetts colony in the 1630s.

He attended secondary school at Upper Canada College in Toronto for two years before transferring to Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario.[3] He also took several courses at the University of Toronto, where he was an active member of the Kappa Alpha Society.[citation needed]

Military service

First World War

Massey joined the Canadian Army at the outbreak of World War I, and served on the Western Front in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. Lieutenant Massey returned to Canada after being wounded at Zillebeke in Belgium during the Battle of Mont Sorrel in 1916 and was engaged as an army instructor for American officers at Yale University.[4][5][6] In 1918, he was recalled to active service and joined the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force that went to Siberia during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. On the orders of his commanding general, he organized a minstrel show troupe with himself as end man in blackface to bolster morale of allied troops on occupation duty in Vladivostok.[7]

After returning home in 1919, he graduated from Balliol College, Oxford. He later went to work in the family business, selling farm implements, but he was drawn to the theater. He persuaded his reluctant family to allow him to pursue this career.[4]

Second World War

In 1942, during World War II, Massey rejoined the Canadian Army and served as a major in the adjutant general's branch.[5] After being wounded, he was invalided from the Canadian Army in 1943. He became an American citizen in 1944.[8]

Acting career

He first appeared on the London stage in 1922 in Eugene O'Neill's In the Zone.[4][5] According to his obituary in The New York Times, he appeared in "several dozen plays and directed numerous others" in England over the next decade.[4] The Washington Post credited him with performances in over 80 plays, including Pygmalion with Gertrude Lawrence; Ethan Frome with Ruth Gordon; and the George Bernard Shaw works The Doctor's Dilemma and Candida with Katharine Cornell.[5] In 1929, he directed the London premiere of The Silver Tassie. He received poor reviews in his debut on Broadway in an unorthodox 1931 production of Hamlet.[4]

The first movie he was in was High Treason (1928). In 1931, he played Sherlock Holmes in The Speckled Band, the first sound film version of the story. In 1934, he played the villain in The Scarlet Pimpernel, and in 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own speculative novel The Shape of Things to Come (1933). In 1944, Massey played the district attorney in Fritz Lang's classic film noir The Woman in the Window, which starred Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett. He portrayed the American Revolutionary War character Abraham Farlan, who hated the British for making him a casualty of that war, in the 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death (titled Stairway to Heaven in the U.S.).

Raymond Massey in the Broadway production of Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938)

Despite being Canadian, Massey became famous for playing archetypal American historical figures. He played abolitionist/insurrectionist John Brown in two films: Santa Fe Trail (1940) and again in the low-budget Seven Angry Men (1955). The character of Brown is a wild-eyed lunatic in Santa Fe Trail, whereas he is a well-intentioned but misguided character in the more sympathetic Seven Angry Men. Massey scored a great triumph on Broadway in Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Abe Lincoln in Illinois despite reservations about Lincoln's being portrayed by a Canadian. 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), a silent appearance in How the West Was Won (1962), and two TV adaptations of Abe Lincoln in Illinois broadcast in 1950 and 1951. He once complained jokingly that he was "the only actor ever typecast as a president."[9] His preparation for the role was so detailed and obsessive that one person commented that Massey would not be satisfied with his Lincoln impersonation until someone assassinated him.[10] 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 the roles of both John Brown and Lincoln.

Massey played a Canadian on-screen only once, in 49th Parallel (1941).

During World War II, he teamed up with Katharine Cornell and other leading actors in a revival of Shaw's Candida to benefit the Army Emergency Fund and the Navy Relief Society.[11]

Beverly Garland, Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey in the first episode of Dr. Kildare (1961)

Massey portrayed Jonathan Brewster in the film version of Arsenic and Old Lace. The character had been created by Boris Karloff for the stage version, and a running gag in the play and the film was the character's resemblance to Karloff. Even though the film was released in 1944, it was shot in 1941, at which time Karloff still was 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 earlier in James Whale's suspense film The Old Dark House (1932).

After Massey became an American citizen, he continued to work in Hollywood. Memorable film roles 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), with Patricia Neal and Gary Cooper. In 1955, he starred in East of Eden as Adam Trask, father of Cal, played by James Dean, and Aron, played by Richard Davalos.

Massey became well known on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He was cast in 1960 as Sir Oliver Garnett in the episode "Trunk Full of Dreams" of the NBC series Riverboat.

Massey is remembered as Dr. Gillespie in the popular 1961–1966 NBC series Dr. Kildare, with Richard Chamberlain in the title role. Massey and his son Daniel were cast as father and son in The Queen's Guards (1961).

Personal life

Richard Chamberlain, Daniela Bianchi and Massey in Dr. Kildare (1964)

Massey was married three times.

His high-profile estrangement and divorce from Adrianne Allen was the inspiration for Ruth Gordon's 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 former wife, Allen, married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney.[12][13]

Massey's older brother, Vincent Massey, was the first Canadian-born governor general of Canada. Massey also dabbled in politics, appearing in a 1964 television advertisement in support of the conservative Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. Massey denounced U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson for a "no-win" strategy in the Vietnam War, suggesting that Goldwater would pursue an aggressive strategy and win the war quickly.[14]


Massey died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on July 29, 1983, a month before he would have turned 87.[4] His death came on the same day as that of David Niven, with whom he had co-starred in The Prisoner of Zenda and A Matter of Life and Death. Massey is buried in New Haven, Connecticut's Beaverdale Memorial Park.[citation needed]


Massey has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for films at 1719 Vine Street and one for television at 6708 Hollywood Boulevard.[15] His achievements have also been recognized in a signature cocktail, the Raymond Massey.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1928 High Treason Member of Federated States Council Uncredited
1929 The Crooked Billet Undetermined role Uncredited
1931 The Speckled Band Sherlock Holmes
1932 The Face at the Window Paul le Gros
The Old Dark House Philip Waverton
1934 The Scarlet Pimpernel Citizen Chauvelin
1936 Things to Come John Cabal / Oswald Cabal
1937 Fire Over England Philip II of Spain
Dreaming Lips Miguel del Vayo
Under the Red Robe Cardinal Richelieu
The Prisoner of Zenda Black Michael
The Hurricane Governor Eugene De Laage
1938 The Drum Prince Ghul
Black Limelight Peter Charrington
1940 Abe Lincoln in Illinois Abraham Lincoln Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Santa Fe Trail John Brown
1941 49th Parallel Andy Brock
Dangerously They Live Dr. Ingersoll
1942 Reap the Wild Wind King Cutler
Desperate Journey Major Otto Baumeister
1943 Action in the North Atlantic Captain Steve Jarvis
1944 Arsenic and Old Lace Jonathan Brewster
The Woman in the Window District Attorney Frank Lalor
1945 Hotel Berlin Arnim von Dahnwitz
God Is My Co-Pilot Major General Claire L. Chennault
1946 A Matter of Life and Death Abraham Farlan
1947 Possessed Dean Graham
Mourning Becomes Electra Brigadier General Ezra Mannon
1949 The Fountainhead Gail Wynand
Roseanna McCoy Old Randall McCoy
1950 Chain Lightning Leland Willis
Barricade Boss Kruger
Dallas Will Marlow
1951 Sugarfoot Jacob Stint
David and Bathsheba Nathan
Come Fill the Cup John Ives
1952 Carson City A. J. "Big" Jack Davis
1953 The Desert Song Sheik Yousseff
1955 Prince of Players Junius Brutus Booth
Battle Cry Major General Snipes
East of Eden Adam Trask
Seven Angry Men John Brown
1957 Omar Khayyam The Shah
1958 The Naked and the Dead General Cummings
1959 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Sam Pine Season 5 Episode 11: "Road Hog"
1960 Wagon Train Montezuma IX Season 4, episode 6, "Princess of a Lost Tribe"
1961 The Great Impostor Abbott Donner
The Fiercest Heart Willem Prinsloo
The Queen's Guards Captain Fellowes
1961–1966 Dr. Kildare Dr. Leonard Gillespie
1962 How the West Was Won Abraham Lincoln
1969 Mackenna's Gold The Preacher
1971–1972 Night Gallery Colonel Archie Dittman
Doctor Glendon
Season 1, episode 4, second segment: "Clean Kills and Other Trophies"
Season 3, episode 4: "Rare Objects"
1972 All My Darling Daughters Matthew Cunningham TV movie
1973 The President's Plane Is Missing Secretary of State Freeman Sharkey TV movie
My Darling Daughters' Anniversary Matthew Cunningham TV movie

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1941 Philip Morris Playhouse Wuthering Heights[16]
1942 Philip Morris Playhouse The Man Who Played God [17]
1944 The Doctor Fights Narrator
1945 Inner Sanctum Mystery Death Across the Board[18]
1952 Cavalcade of America With Malice Towards None[19]
1952 The Endless Frontier Only One to a Customer[20]

See also


  1. ^ "Raymond Massey - Classic Movies". classicmovietreasures.com. Archived from the original on 2020-08-06.
  2. ^ Cawthra Square House Archived 2008-09-06 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ northernstars.ca Profile of Raymond Massey Archived 2006-02-09 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Raymond Massey, Famous For His Portrayal Of Lincoln". The New York Times. Associated Press. July 31, 1983.
  5. ^ a b c d "Raymond Massey, Noted For Lincoln Roles". The Washington Post. July 31, 1983.
  6. ^ "Lieutenant Raymond Hart Massey". Canadian Great War Project.
  7. ^ "Raymond Massey, the Canadian-born actor who was Abraham Lincoln..." United Press International. July 30, 1983.
  8. ^ "Lieutenant Raymond Hart Massey". www.canadiangreatwarproject.com. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  9. ^ Foster, Charles (2003). Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Dundurn. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-55002-997-0.
  10. ^ Fisher, James (2011). Historical Dictionary of Contemporary American Theater: 1930–2010. Scarecrow Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8108-7950-8.
  11. ^ Tad Mosel, Leading Lady: The Word and Theatre of Katharine Cornell, Little, Brown & Co., 1978
  12. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Adam's Rib". American Movie Classics. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  13. ^ Eagan, Daniel (2010). America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in The National Film Registry. London: the Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0826429773.
  14. ^ Massey's ad for Goldwater
  15. ^ "Raymond Massey". Hollywood Walk of Fame. 25 October 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  16. ^ "Raymond Massey and Sylvia Sidney in 'Wuthering Heights'". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 11, 1941. p. 26. Retrieved July 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  17. ^ "The Short and Long of Radio". The Evening News. Harrisburg. April 17, 1942. p. 16. Retrieved August 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  18. ^ "Radio's Golden Age". Nostalgia Digest. 37 (1): 40. Winter 2011.
  19. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 10, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 2, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  20. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 17, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon