Raymond (above) with Dolores del Rio in Flying Down to Rio* 1933.
His wife of 28 years, Jeanette MacDonald, was much more famous, but Gene Raymond (1908-1998) had a solid career as a leading man of stage, film and TV. He had a strapping physique with blond hair and blue eyes. He was also a singer and composer, writer, director and producer – and a decorated military pilot.
Louis B. Mayer of MGM studios arranged the marriage to prevent MacDonald from marrying her on-screen partner Nelson Eddy, which would have ruined her career. Mayer was concerned that a MacDonald-Eddy marriage would end in divorce, due to their temperaments, then he would lose his lucrative box office team. MacDonald had an affair with Eddy anyway, and Gene Raymond continued to have affairs with other men. In fact, on their honeymoon MacDonald caught Raymond in an embrace with actor Buddy Rogers.
Raymond and wife Jeanette MacDonald (below).
But it gets even messier. Raymond, whose career peaked during the 1930s and 40s, was arrested three times for having sex with men, the last of which occurred in England during WWII. In 1938 Raymond began sharing a house with a 19-year-old actor and was arrested on a morals charge following a raid on a homosexual night club, requiring MacDonald to bribe police in order to obtain his release. An enraged Louis B. Mayer ordered the couple to resume the appearance of a happily married couple. Although he had arranged the marriage, Mayer had Raymond blacklisted following his 1938 arrest for homosexual activity; he made only 7 films from 1940-1948, whereas he had averaged four movies a year prior to the 1938 arrest. Raymond also had affairs with Rock Hudson, Cesar Romero and Robert Stack.
He appeared opposite W.C. Fields, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Southern, Charles Laughton, Loretta Young, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Dolores del Rio, Fred Astaire, Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, Carole Lombard, Robert Mitchum and his own wife, who recorded “Let Me Always Sing,” which Raymond composed. Jeanette MacDonald also sang several of Raymond’s songs in her concerts. In 1948's Million Dollar Weekend, Raymond was also director and writer, in addition to being a cast member.
Raymond remarried after Jeanette MacDonald’s death but continued to attend meetings of the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club. He retired from the Air Force in 1968 as a colonel. For his contribution to the motion picture and television industries, Raymond has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: at 7003 Hollywood Boulevard and 1704 Vine Street, respectively.
Enjoy this clip from Flying Down to Rio (1933) with Delores del Rio. Raymond is very blond and a very young 25: