Paul Kelly, Killer Actor
Three of a Kind
Raymond, Mackaye and Kelly were three of a kind.
Raymond was born in San Francisco in 1888 with greasepaint in his blood. His family moved East when he was boy. He spent his formative years in Forest Hills, Queens.
Born Ray Cedarbloom, Raymond grew up to become an all-purpose comedic song-and-dance man, in style of Bob Hope. He was built like a hoofer, at five-foot, seven-inch and a wiry 135 pounds. He was working steadily in variety shows and vaudeville by age 18. He married another performer, Florence Bain, when he was 21.
Raymond and Mackaye met in 1921 during a run of the comedy "Blue Eyes" at the Shubert Theater. At age 33, he had a featured role. Mackaye, 21, was an understudy.
She was a vivacious redhead who could not be considered a conventional beauty, with a ski-slope nose and wide-set eyes. But she was a fetching young woman — quick with a smile and a wisecrack. She was born in Scotland in 1899, but her parents immigrated to the U.S. when she was a toddler. She spent her childhood in Denver and was drawn to the New York theater boards while still a teenager.
She made her Broadway debut in 1917 in a 15-performance flop, "The Very Idea." During that brief run, she became acquainted with Paul Kelly, a fellow teen actor who was working at a theater down the street.
Four years later, during the three-month engagement of "Blue Eyes," Ray Raymond winked at Mackaye, and she winked back. Raymond dumped his wife and replaced her with Mackaye. She claimed they eloped that Aug. 1 and were married by a justice of the peace in Gretna Green, Maryland. Their daughter, Mimi, was born 14 months later.
But the first Mrs. Raymond claimed that her husband had not bothered with a divorce. Bigamy may have been a moot point since no one could find a Gretna Green in Maryland, let alone a marriage license. Mackaye explained that the document was burned in a fire at her home in New York in 1923.
Whether married or not, Raymond and Mackaye became a well-known stage couple in New York during the Roaring Twenties. He worked vaudeville and an occasional Broadway show, while Mackaye became a comedic darling.
She won a series of ever-larger roles in musical comedies — including "Seeing Things," "Getting Gertie's Garter" and Jerome Kern's "Head Over Heels" — before landing the juicy role of "Lady Jane" in Arthur Hammerstein's "Rose-Marie," which enjoyed an 18-month run at the Imperial Theater.
In the spring of 1926, the couple and their daughter Mimi joined the parade of New York stage actors who headed west to cash in on the Talkies.
No one knows whether it was coincidence or conniving, but Paul Kelly made the same move just a few weeks later.