L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gene Raymond, Buddy Rogers, and three rather odd Hollywood marriages



Gene Raymond (August 13, 1908, New York City – May 2, 1998), born Raymond Guion, was a popular film actor in the early Thirties, most often cast as the second lead.  He also acted on stage and television, and was a composer, writer/director, and decorated military pilot.

I find Gene Raymond really rather attractive - in a freakishly blond, peppy, happy-puppy sort of way.


Yeah, but that's not the point right now.  The story, here, involves older wives and gay husbands, marital blackmail, alcoholism, and impossible, crazy love.  I'll try and keep this brief.

***


It's always difficult to rewrite history.  People become very attached to the things they've always fondly believed, and often don't take kindly to new and "inconvenient" information.  And it's true that among those who care about such things, there are many who are unhappy to find that Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy weren't just costars, weren't "just friends".  They were actually crazy in love with each other.  A little too crazy.  On again, off again lovers, wrenching fights, miscarriages - drama.  Eddy wanted to marry MacDonald, but he also expected her to give up her career - then at its height - to become a wife and mother.  She wasn't keen on that idea and, needless to say, neither was M.G.M.  In one of her breaks from Eddy, she began dating Gene Raymond, an actor five years her junior.  The studio, thinking he would be safer husband material, encouraged the relationship, and they married on June 16, 1937, with full studio coverage and thousands of fans flocking outside the church, followed by a lavish reception hosted by Basil and Ouida Rathbone.  Among her bridesmaids were Fay Wray and Ginger Rogers, and her dress was designed by Adrian.  Nelson Eddy sang.  (And was miserable.)

The wedding party; Nelson Eddy is at far left.

Less than a year after their marriage, Raymond was arrested, caught having sex with another man.  The studio hushed up the affair.  (It appears there are at least three documented arrests for similar incidents, one in England during the war.)  And the tempestuous MacDonald/Eddy love affair - including another pregnancy, apparently - continued after her marriage to Raymond, even after Eddy eloped in 1939 with Ann Franklin - seven years his senior - the former wife of director Sidney Franklin.  The new Mrs. Eddy was described as "emotionally unstable" and as having "blackmailed" Eddy into the marriage.  Not surprisingly, it proved to be a very unhappy union that, nonetheless, lasted twenty-seven years, until his death in 1967; on more than one occasion, Eddy plead for a divorce, but his wife, who knew everything and held all the cards, firmly replied "no".

Nelson and Ann Eddy.

And yet, even with his "indiscretions", the MacDonald and Raymond marriage seemed far from unhappy.  They, too, were married for twenty-seven years, until her early death in 1965.  And there are countless photographs of them together, through the years, looking quite sincerely happy.  Could she have had a contented marriage with one man, while continuing her relationship with another, the great love of her life?  Who knows.  People are strangely adaptable.


***


Charles Edward “Buddy” Rogers (August 13, 1904, Olathe, Kansas – April 21, 1999, Rancho Mirage, California), actor and musician most remembered for his role in the silent film Wings, 1927.  In later years known for his humanitarianism, in 1986 he was awarded the Jean Hersholt Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Sharing a birthday with Gene Raymond (who was born four years later), he had a rather similar kind of healthy, boyish beauty; the soft, dark opposite to Raymond's metallic blondness.

Pardon my gif!  The always surprising farewell kiss in "Wings".

Similar to Raymond, he is also better known now less for his career, than because of the woman he married.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were the silent-era king and queen of Hollywood.  But their careers were on the wane by the early Thirties; he turned to another woman, she to alcohol.  They separated, and in 1936 divorced, a decision they both apparently very much regretted.  A year later, though, Pickford married Buddy Rogers, twelve years her junior, in a ceremony as quiet as the MacDonald/Raymond's had been grand.  They seemed to have a happy marriage and he was always very attentive to her during her ever increasing post-career isolation and her deepening alcoholism.  They were married for forty-one years, until her death in 1979.

Pickford and Rogers on their wedding day, June 26, 1937.
The Pickford/Rogers wedding reception.
Rogers and Pickford at the Academy Awards in 1941.

***

And how do these marriages tie together?  MacDonald and Raymond were married June 16, 1937.  Nine days later, Pickford and Rogers were wed.  That same night, both couples left aboard the liner Lurline to honeymoon in Honolulu.  Their respective cabins were adjacent, and Raymond and Rogers seem to have already been quite well acquainted. 

Wedding reception (?) for MacDonald and Raymond (at center); Pickford and Rogers are seated at left.

According to reliable sources, somewhere out at sea the two grooms commenced a honeymoon of their own. 



10 comments:

  1. Wow, so interesting. I watch a youtube clip of Eddy/MacDonald singing "Sweet Mystery of life" and it seems you can see the passion they had. Sad how manipulated everyone was.jd

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    1. Thanks, JD! Yeah, the studio and then the long term fans were very invested in the idea that they were - not - anything more than coworkers. And then their image - separate and together - was squeaky clean, and didn't allow for the reality of the messiness that is often the case in people's private lives. So often people make the wrong choices and then can't find their way out of them....

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  2. I always wondered - i've loved Eddie / MacDonald movies since I was a kid and was surprised that they weren't married. I have biography's of each of them sitting unread from my grandma's house but I'm sure they gloss over the facts. Was your reliable source in print that I could read?

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    1. I gathered things from several places, but I believe all of them lead back to the book "Sweethearts" by Sharon Rich, who manages a website devoted to the two: http://maceddy.com/ The book was published in 1990 and reprinted in 2001, I believe, and looks to be available from the website - and certainly on Amazon. The book caused quite a ruckus when it came out, but the author had amazing access to previously unseen materials - letters, diaries, unpublished memoirs, etc. - and had a long, close friendship with MacDonald's sister. It makes a major revision of Hollywood history but, considering her sources, I feel very confident she got the story right.

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  3. Hi Stephilius, As an update, let me recommend Sharon Rich's 20th Anniversary edition of "Sweethearts", June 2014. She has added an amazing amount of updated material, and as ever, it's a real page turner. Sharon also has a FaceBook page for her club: Jeanette MacDonald Nelson Eddy Mac/Eddy Club, which has many very active members. It's a fun diversion - check it out!

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  4. Now my crush on Gene Raymond has only deepened! What a beauty. Thanks for the backstory.

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  5. My goodness, was Buddy Rogers beautiful or what? Did Mary know he had sex with men?

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    1. I don't know. So many things from the past that we'd love to know more about....

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  6. The second wife Buddy Rogers married--and stayed married to until his death--was beautiful and more than twenty years younger than himself. By that time he had no career of any sort and could have lived the gay lifestyle if he wished. But it looks like he preferred being a husband. What's the point in trying to make people "gay" on the flimsiest of evidence?

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    1. I would argue that the evidence isn't really all that flimsy. More importantly, we can't make too many assumptions - either way - about people's lives. People are so complicated - their psychology, their life choices, their relationships - that someone's married state - even when it's very happy - can only tell us so much about their inner self. Also, the - opportunity - to come out doesn't ever mean that someone will; consider the recent very-late-in-the-game disclosures of Joel Grey and Barry Manilow, for example. And Rogers' second marriage came about way back in 1981, when he was already in his seventies. Lastly, many people are not just one thing or the other - many would argue that NO one is - and you only need look at my own history - pretty much spent my life as a "gay man" and, in my forties, married a woman (and VERY happily) - to see that there's an infinite variety when it comes to people's particular sexuality and to what constitutes a successful marriage.

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