Massey, Raymond

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Massey, Raymond

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1896-1983

History

Raymond Massey was an internationally recognized actor, on stage and screen. Born in Toronto in 1896, he was the son of Anna (née Vincent) and Chester Daniel Massey, the owner of the Massey-Harris Tractor Company; his brother Vincent served as Governor-General of Canada, 1952-1959.

Raymond Massey received his schooling in various Ontario institutions, including Upper Canada Academy, before attending Victoria College in the University of Toronto. At the conclusion of the 1915-1916 academic year Massey joined the Canadian Army, serving as an artillery officer in France and Siberia. After attending Balliol College, Oxford, and briefly trying his hand in the family business in Canada, Massey set sail for England, with aspirations of becoming an actor. Massey produced and directed various plays on the London stage in the 1920's and early 1930's, in addition to honing his skill as an actor in a wide range of productions; his acting roles of increasing prominence led to high profile supporting parts in British and American films such as "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934), "Things To Come" (1936) , "The Hurricane" (1937) and "Prisoner of Zenda" (1937). Wide acclaim followed his portrayal of the title character in the play "Abe Lincoln in Illinois", which led to his starring in the 1940 film of the same name, a performance which was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Throughout the 1940's and 1950's Massey alternated theatrical roles in notable plays with work in popular films such as "Arsenic And Old Lace" (1944) and "East Of Eden" (1955); he also appeared steadily in television productions from 1948 on. Massey also starred in "Seven Angry Men", (1955) reprising his stage persona of John Brown. In the 1960's Massey received praise for his supporting role of Dr. Gillespie on the popular television drama "Dr. Kildare". After "Kildare" Massey's performances were limited, culminating in his last appearance in the play "The Night of the Iguana", 1975-1976. During his long and stellar career he received many honours for his acting, as well his philanthropic and charitable pursuits, which included fund raising for the Red Cross and World War II publicity and entertainment service.

Raymond Massey died in 1983, predeceased by one year by his third wife, Dorothy, and survived by children Geoffrey, Daniel and Anna - the latter two having established careers in the acting profession.

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Victoria University Library - Special Collections

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