Much to-do and speculation has been made, via our old reliable book Sweethearts, about the reason for Gene Raymond’s two year absence from the screen. According to Sharon Rich, it was because of an arrest incident, in January 1938. Why isn’t this on his record? Oh, naturally because Sandy Reiss said that Jeanette MacDonald paid the department $1000 in hush money, and MGM had the record fixed by changing the name from Mr. to Miss Gene Raymond. Mr. Mayer would then have Gene “blacklisted all over town for nearly two years.”
Mmkhey. Stolen Heaven, with Gene and “new star” Olympe, began filming in late December, 1937, and went on in to February of 1938. It was released on May 13, 1938, after which Gene embarked on a series of personal appearance tours. Now, pardon me, but those personal appearances were set up by the studio, which was in town, so… I’m confused at the contradiction presented, there. Gene’s supposed arrest was in January, he was still working, in February, and with the same two hands used to type that Mr. Mayer blacklisted Gene, Rich goes ahead and tells us that, well, he was still working. For Paramount.
So he does his personal appearance tour, which was noted in multiple magazines and papers. He turned down a contract because he wasn’t getting the types of roles he wanted. He decided to focus on music, which he did. The result of which can be seen in the December 1939 publication of his original song, Let Me Always Sing. (G. Schirmer) For those clever souls out there reading, saying to yourselves, “Well, that’s still over a year…” then please remember that writing music isn’t what Ann Sothern and Robert Young would have you believe it is, in Lady Be Good. You don’t just sit down with a phrase and have a hit on your hands 30 seconds later. I’m not saying that one single song took that long to write, but when one wants to go public with a thing, one wants to make sure one knows what one is doing, first. So, he’s working on music, no big deal. Jeanette encourages her stubborn husband every step of the way, because she’s a glorious human being and wife, and according to the accounts upon his comeback (various magazines, including the 1941 Photoplay that I have attached below), she was just glad that he learned the lesson he needed to learn, on his own. He wasn’t as foolishly stubborn about his career as before, and RKO welcomed him back with a contract offer, upon the success of his return picture, Cross-Country Romance. That began filming in April 1940, and was released in July.
The many discrepancies, not to mention contradictions, are obvious. Why would Mr. Mayer wait until at least the summer of 1938 to blacklist Gene? Actually, why would he blacklist him at all, if that would only make it known that the marriage of “his pet” to Gene Raymond was a fraud? The timeline is off, too, as we know that Gene was working professionally with G. Schirmer, to publish his song; it simply wasn’t in the movie profession. Shock, awe, movie people can do more than act. Granted, that’s a New York publishing house, but by God, they had phones, and Nicholas Schenck’s office was right there! I have no idea how long it takes to negotiate the publication of a piece of music, but even still, 24-16=8, which is 8 months short of two years, which is not nearly two years, but closer to a little over one year. Hooray for math, for it is your friend. Then we go from December 1939 to April 1940, which is way, way less than almost two years.
AND IT ALSO DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
As a post script, today, I want to thank the people who have stuck by these efforts, whether I’ve been so busy that I feel like I might explode, and can only post a picture, or have actual time to pour into 1000+ words, in a post.