Gene Raymond — I Work in a Factory (1935) 🇺🇸

Gene Raymond — I Work A Factory (1935) |

April 18, 2023

The first time Gene Raymond and I met, we slid down the side of a snow-covered ravine together, balancing trays of hot dogs in our hands. Recently we met again in New York with a blizzard raging outside!

by Elizabeth Ellis

Waiting for him in the hotel lobby, I wondered what Hollywood had done to him. It was more than possible that it had spoiled Gene for he is one of the most engaging young men I have ever met and I knew Hollywood must have turned upon him all the flattery and adulation that it bestows upon personable young male stars.

Suddenly, in the midst of my pessimistic musings, the revolving door whirled around gustily and snow flew about the lobby as a ruddy cheeked gent divested himself of his trappings. It was obvious that Mr. Gene Raymond had been wading through every drift he could find without benefit of warm limousine or taxicab. No Hollywood fanfare in the traditional manner, certainly.

"Hello, swell weather, isn't it?" he called across to me. Then shaking my hand vigorously in an icy clasp, "So sorry to be late but I had to walk in this snow. You don't know what a treat this is after months of California's well-known sunshine."

At lunch we went into the snowy reminiscences of our first meeting at the ravine weenie roast, several years ago.

Gene was then Raymond Guion and had just made his first big stage hit in Young Sinners. He had been acclaimed the promising juvenile of the season. Every matinee was sold out to ga-ga girls and fluttery old ladies who thought he was too, too handsome and thrilling. Hollywood wasn't even in his thoughts those days and he was too shy to admit he had matinee idol potentialities. His great aim then, as it is now, was to become a really fine dramatic actor.

Mutual friends of ours, who had a charming house perched on the edge of a deep ravine, had invited a great crowd for this Sunday weenie roast. The snow was drifted high but the hardy guests were not daunted by the feat of carrying hot dogs and other ingredients from the warm house, down the side of the ravine, to a cleared place below where an outdoor fireplace was built. No one was invited who would be subject to sissy chilblains or such. Virility was the order of the day. The host had thoughtfully twined a rope around the trees for guests to use as hand support on the slide down — but Gene and I had been such dopes that we had loaded ourselves down with food and couldn't have held onto anything even if an escalator had been provided!

Gene lugged the firewood, cut off frozen twigs to use as roasting spears and got himself unromantically blackened by smoke. Later, he stuffed me and everyone else with charred hotdogs and finished off the afternoon by literally pushing several larger female guests back up the side of the ravine to the house. No posturing young actor stuff at all.

Hollywood success hasn't changed the Raymond Guion I met then. It has made Gene Raymond a little older and wiser, perhaps, but it hasn't stripped him of his enthusiasm or his general likeableness. There's no posing about Gene — he hasn't delusions of importance — he's what your small brother would term a "swell guy."

I asked him how different he found his life, as a young-man-about-Hollywood, to his former mode of living in New York.

He laughed. "You can't call me any young-man-about-Hollywood. My social life is practically nil. It has to be. Hollywood is a factory! Your whole life is wrapped up in work from early morning until late at night. The little time there is for recreation is spent "talking shop" — everyone does, you have to join in, regardless of how tired of it all you may be.

"Why, you wouldn't believe it, if I described to you a typical evening of relaxation in Hollywood. It goes something like this. You've been invited to a dinner party. You race home from the studio, dog-tired — you manage to get a shower, get into a dinner jacket and sprint to your hostess' house before the butler announces dinner. If you arrive in time for a cocktail, you down two or three to get yourself into a slightly festive frame of mind. Dinner is announced and you sneak your cocktail to the table with you in the hope of sustaining the little animation you now feel. The minute you are seated, your partner asks you how production is going on your new picture. Wearily you tell her, then politely ask her how are tricks on her set. In no time, everyone (they've all been waiting for their turn) is launched into their own song and dance on work.

"As the dinner wears on, your glow wears off — and so does that of everyone else. By the end of dinner conversation is at a standstill so the hostess hurries you into her projection room to show you the rushes on her newest picture — or someone else's newest picture. This starts Hollywood's conversational ball rolling again. After you've seen the picture, you return to the living-room and sit about discussing its merit or lack of it. Your hostess serves highballs and soon everyone starts saying good-night because he or she has to be at the studio in the morning."

"But what of romantic interests for the eligible Hollywood bachelor, such as you?" I asked. Gene has been rumored interested in this one and that one, but never seems to get himself committed seriously.

"Hollywood ruins friendships! You can't be seen with a girl more than a few times before every gossip column has you headed for Yuma. You never get to find out," he continued, "whether or not you might feel romantic about any particular person because you or she are scared off before you have had two dates together. There were several girls that I liked tremendously and would like to have felt free to call up now and then, but after I had gone out with them a few times, everybody was calling it a match. Then when I called back, they began to be very busy. They didn't want to be linked romantically with me anymore than I did with them. They would have enjoyed a good average friendship but Hollywood never gave us a break!"

I remembered how often Janet Gaynor's name had been linked with Gene's and I wondered if she was another good friendship gone Hollywood!

"Don't you miss the stage?" I asked.

"Yes, very much. In fact, I have had a play in mind for sometime that I have wanted to do but no opportunity has presented itself as yet. Perhaps next year, at least, I hope so."

No amount of picture success will ever wean Gene from his first love, the stage. And it is quite understandable when you realize that he had been on the stage ever since he was five years old, up to the time he went out to Hollywood. His first work was with a stock company.

His first important stage appearance did not occur until 1924 when he appeared in The Potters. This play ran for two years in New York and on the road, and by the end of its run, Raymond Guion's name was known. He played parts in a number of hits between the closing of The Potters and the opening of Young Sinners. The latter was his play; for the first time he didn't have to share the spotlight with any veterans of the stage, he was a full-fledged star and he made the most of his chance. It was during the two years that this ran along, that Hollywood noticed him.

Gene has turned in consistently good performances in his past few years in Hollywood; he's one of the most popular of the leading men. However, he has some interesting viewpoints on his career.

"The reason I want to get back to the stage soon is because I don't want to lose ambition. Hollywood does that to young stars. You see, the psychology is all wrong. You make, say, a hundred thousand dollars for a year, but instead of returning to the stage for awhile, you figure that you better wait until next year, when you can probably make two hundred thousand dollars. That would leave you in better shape to take a flop on Broadway, should it turn out that way.

"You know," Gene continued, "an actor needs to get away from his work at the studio when a picture is finished. It's bad business to hang around Hollywood when you're at leisure. You have to get away to get some perspective on yourself. You know a chap who manages to do it to perfection? That's Clark Gable. Clark finishes a picture, goes home and packs his stuff for a trip. He doesn't linger around, he gets just as far away as he can and I tell you, he is one of the most regular people in the industry.

"I'll never forget the riot he let Ria, his wife, and me in for on a trip West one time. I was returning to the Coast and discovered that Clark and Mrs. Gable were on the same train. They were going to stop off in St. Louis for a personal appearance that was scheduled for Clark. I kidded Clark all the way out about having to interrupt a vacation with stuffy personal appearances. He just grinned good-naturedly.

"And then, when we reached St. Louis, I discovered that my baggage was following theirs. Clark had quietly arranged for me to be shanghaied into an appearance with him!

"After St. Louis had been treated to a personal appearance of two stars for the price of one, Clark was mobbed by the fans. So in going back to the train, Mrs. Gable and I walked nonchalantly along with one policeman as guard, while a whole force was trying to quell the riot around Clark. Ria and I were chuckling at his discomfort and in no way trying to aid him Well, everything was swell, until the fans and police had pushed Clark safely inside the train gates. Then, in turning around, they recognized me. With shouts of "There's Gene Raymond and his wife!" The gang turned on us and our one lone police escort. The last glimpse we had of Clark was a hand gingerly raised to the nose, as he loped down the platform and into our car, leaving us to fight our way after him with no help from his departed police guard!"

Gene was dashing off to see Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest, so we gulped down the last of our lunch and raced for a cab. "Good-bye and I hope to heaven that I haven't sounded like the earnest young actor or something. It was great seeing you again and let's be sure to get together on my next trip back. Maybe I'll be sending you orchestra seats to my playing opening by then, who knows?"

Gene relaxes between pictures. He has just finished The Woman in Red with Stanwyck.

Collection: Modern Screen Magazine, May 1935