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|Born||March 15, 1891|
Jacksonville, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||November 23, 1943 (aged 52)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer, screenwriter|
(m. 1915; div. 1935)
(m. 1941; died 1942)
Charles Edgar Ray (March 15, 1891 – November 23, 1943) was an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. Ray rose to fame during the mid-1910s portraying young, wholesome hicks in silent comedy films.
Ray was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, and moved to Springfield as a child where he attended elementary school. He then moved to Needles, California, for a time before finally relocating to Los Angeles where he finished his education. He began his career on the stage before working for director Thomas H. Ince as a film extra in December 1912. He appeared in several bit parts before moving on to supporting roles. Ray's break came in 1915 when he appeared opposite Frank Keenan in the historical war drama The Coward.
Ray's popularity rose after appearing in a series of light comedy films which cast him in juvenile roles, primarily young, wholesome hicks or naive "country bumpkins" that foiled the plans of thieves or con men and won the heart of his dream girl. In March 1917, he signed with Paramount Pictures and resumed working with director Thomas H. Ince. By 1920, he was earning a reported $11,000 a week (approximately $142,000 today). As Ray’s success grew, so did his ego. By the time he left Paramount, he had gained a reputation for being difficult and egomaniacal. In 1920, he left Paramount after studio head Adolph Zukor refused to give him a substantial pay raise. Zukor later wrote in his autobiography, The Public Is Never Wrong, that Ray's ego and behavior had become problematic and that Ray "... was headed for trouble and [I] did not care to be with him when he found it." Ray soon formed his own production company, Charles Ray Productions, and used his fortune to purchase a studio on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles (now known as the KCET Studios) where he planned to produce and shoot his own films.
Ray's first independent production, 45 Minutes from Broadway, was released in August 1920 and was fairly successful. In February 1921, he produced and starred in The Old Swimmin' Hole, the only full length, American silent film that did not have intertitles to further the plot. The film drew critical acclaim for going against convention and for featuring a simple plot that was easy to follow without intertitles. Despite the acclaim, the film was only shown for a short time in theaters in larger cities (where more sophisticated audiences were more likely to accept experimental films and concepts) because the film featured Ray in a country bumpkin role. In February 1922, he signed a long term contract with United Artists.
By the time Ray signed with United Artists, he had grown tired of playing young country bumpkin characters in comedy films. In an effort to change his image to that of a romantic leading man, Ray decided to produce an epic historical drama film based on The Courtship of Miles Standish, a 1858 narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem centers around a love triangle between early American settlers John Alden, Miles Standish, and Priscilla Mullens. In November 1922, Ray announced that he would portray the lead role of John Alden in the film. He stated, "There will be immense satisfaction to me in playing a real character, not the puppet of some author's invention."
In her book Off With Their Heads!: A Serio-Comic Tale Of Hollywood, screenwriter Frances Marion wrote that numerous people attempted to dissuade Ray from making the film because lengthy costume dramas were not box office draws at the time. Ray chose not to listen to the advice and, after failing to secure financial backing from a major studio, he put up $500,000 (approximately $7,595,000 today) of his own money to finance the film. Ray began filming The Courtship of Miles Standish in January 1923 at his namesake studio on Sunset Boulevard. Production costs quickly rose as Ray spent money with abandon. In addition to the $65,000 (approximately $987,000 today) 180-ton replica of the Mayflower that was set on a mechanism to simulate it being on rough seas, Ray also had full sized log cabins built solely for exterior shots. By the end of filming, Ray had invested all of his saving, nearly $2 million (approximately $30,379,000 today), and borrowed additional funds at a 30% interest rate to finish the film. The film's final budget was estimated at $3 million (approximately $45,568,000 today).
Released to theaters on December 30, 1923, The Courtship of Miles Standish received some critical acclaim, mainly for its cinematography, but received generally lukewarm reviews and was a box office failure. Ray lost all of the money he invested in the film and, due to the film’s box office failure, his popularity quickly declined. Thomas Ince, who had worked with Ray early in his career, attempted to help Ray by casting him in the drama Dynamite Smith (1924), directed by Ince's brother Ralph. The film did little to help boost Ray's popularity. While he continued working in films until the 1940s, Ray never regained the popularity he once attained. For the remainder of his career, he was relegated to small supporting and uncredited extra work.
In December 1925, Ray was forced to file for bankruptcy after being sued by more than a dozen creditors for monies owed and back taxes. His production company also declared bankruptcy. Actress Jane Novak later recalled that Ray's wife Clara Grant (whom he married in November 1915) contributed to Ray's egomania and spendthrift ways. The couple lived in a lavish Beverly Hills home equipped with gold doorknobs, several lacquered pianos, black marble bathtubs with gold fixtures and a full sized tree made of semi-precious stones that sat in their bathroom. They employed a full staff of servants and owned a fleet of luxury cars. Grant bought expensive dresses that she refused to wear more than once and traveled in a Rolls Royce with an ermine floor rug. The day before Ray was to file for bankruptcy, the couple held a dinner party with a personal butler for each of their guests at their home that reportedly cost $30,000. Film executive Pat Powers attended the party and asked Ray, "... how can you do this if you're going bankrupt tomorrow? Who will pay the bills? And he [Ray] said, 'we thought it was the thing to do.'"
In 1928, Ray appeared in his final silent film, The Count of Ten, in which he had a supporting role. From 1929 to 1931, he appeared in stage roles in off-Broadway productions but found little success. He returned to the screen in 1932's The Bride's Bereavement; or, The Snake in the Grass, a comedy short and his first sound film. In July 1934, Ray filed for bankruptcy for a second time. He and wife Clara Grant, from whom he had been separated since 1930, divorced in May 1935.
In an attempt to earn money and revive his career, Ray began writing. In 1935, he released a collection of short stories entitled Hollywood Shorts. In September 1936, he began publishing a magazine called Charles Ray's Hollywood Digest. The magazine featured a mixture of humorous stories and jokes, film reviews and industry news and editorials and articles written by actors and directors including Melvyn Douglas, Groucho Marx and Cecil B. DeMille. In the magazine's first issue, Ray wrote a story which poked fun at then popular and influential gossip columnist Walter Winchell entitled “Is Winchell a Heel?” (“Heel” being slang for a contemptible person). The magazine folded in 1937 after just two issues due to a lack of public interest.
Ray returned to film work again where he earned a reported $11 a day as a featured extra. On June 4, 1941, he married for a second time to French actress Yvonne Guerin. Guerin died the following year. During his final years, Ray struggled with poor health but continued to work in bit roles. He ended his career in uncredited bit roles in Slightly Dangerous (1943) and An American Romance, which was released a year after his death.
On November 23, 1943, Ray died of a systemic infection caused by an impacted wisdom tooth at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles for which he had been hospitalized six weeks prior. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in an unmarked grave in Glendale, California.
|1911||The Fortunes of War||Letty Roberts||Lost film|
|1913||The Favorite Son||Jim King||Short|
|1913||The Sharpshooter||Jack Krone - a Young Blacksmith||Short|
|1913||The Barrier||Wade - the Young Lieutenant||Short|
|1913||The Witch of Salem||John Hastings||Short|
|1914||For Her Brother's Sake||John Frye - the Brother||Short|
|1914||Shorty's Sacrifice||Tom Simms||Short|
|1914||The Curse of Humanity||Roger||Short|
|1914||The Fortunes of War||Carlos Romez||Short|
|1915||In the Tennessee Hills||Jim Carson||Short|
|1915||The Wells of Paradise||Tom Dolan||Short|
|1915||The Conversion of Frosty Blake||Reverend Horace Brightray||Short|
|1915||The Ace of Hearts||Jean Desmond||Short, Credited as Charles E. Ray|
|1918||A Liberty Bond Plea||A farm boy||Short|
|1932||The Bride's Bereavement; or, The Snake in the Grass||Short|
|1934||Stolen by Gypsies or Beer and Bicycles||Elmer Updike||Short, Alternative title: Beer and Bicycles|
|1915||The Cup of Life||John Ward|
|1915||The Coward||Frank Winslow|
|1915||City of the Dead||Cecil Weatherby||Alternative title: The Forbidden Adventure|
|1915||The Painted Soul||Barnard||Alternative title: The Straight Road|
|1916||The Deserter||Lieutenant Parker|
|1916||The Honorable Algy||The Honorable Algy||Lost film|
|1917||The Millionaire Vagrant||Steven Du Peyster|
|1917||The Pinch Hitter||Joel Parker|
|1917||The Clodhopper||Everett Nelson|
|1917||His Mother's Boy||Matthew Denton|
|1918||The Claws of the Hun||John Stanton|
|1918||The Law of the North||Alain de Montcalm|
|1918||String Beans||Toby Watkins|
|1919||The Busher||Ben Harding|
|1919||Hay Foot, Straw Foot||Ulysses S. Grant Briggs|
|1919||Bill Henry||Bill Henry Jenkins|
|1919||Red Hot Dollars||Tod Burke|
|1920||Alarm Clock Andy||Andrew Gray|
|1920||The Village Sleuth||William Wells|
|1920||An Old Fashioned Boy||David Warrington||Director, producer|
|1921||The Old Swimmin' Hole||Ezra||Producer|
|1921||Scrap Iron||John Steel||Director, writer|
|1921||A Midnight Bell||Martin Tripp||Lost film|
|1921||Two Minutes to Go||Chester Burnett||Director, producer|
|1922||Gas, Oil and Water||George Oliver Watson||Director, producer|
|1922||Alias Julius Caesar||Billy Barnes||Director, producer|
|1923||The Girl I Loved||John Middleton||Producer|
|1923||The Courtship of Miles Standish||John Alden||Producer|
|1924||Dynamite Smith||Dynamite Smith|
|1925||Some Pun'kins||Lem Blossom|
|1925||Bright Lights||Tom Corbin|
|1926||The Auction Block||Bob Wharton|
|1926||The Fire Brigade||Terry O'Neil|
|1927||The American||Unreleased film|
|1927||Getting Gertie's Garter||Ken Walrick|
|1927||Vanity||Lt. Lloyd Van Courtland|
|1928||The Garden of Eden||Richard Dupont|
|1928||The Count of Ten||Johnny McKinney|
|1934||School for Girls||Duke|
|1934||Ladies Should Listen||Henri, the porter|
|1934||Ticket to a Crime||Courtney Mallory|
|1935||Welcome Home||Andrew Carr|
|1935||Just My Luck||Homer Crow|
|1936||Hollywood Boulevard||Charlie Smith, Assistant Director|
|1940||A Little Bit of Heaven||Uncle Wes|
|1941||Wild Geese Calling||Undetermined Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1941||A Yank in the R.A.F.||American business executive||Uncredited|
|1941||Married Bachelor||Man in Lounge Room Getting Bagpipes||Uncredited|
|1941||Appointment for Love||Butler||Uncredited|
|1941||Harvard, Here I Come!||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1942||Rio Rita||Hotel Guest||Uncredited|
|1942||Mrs. Miniver||Man getting on Bus||Uncredited|
|1942||The Magnificent Dope||Uncredited|
|1943||Slightly Dangerous||Opera Patron||Uncredited|
|1944||An American Romance||Extra||Uncredited|
- O'Hara, Kenneth (1915). "Tom Ince's New Wonder-Boy". Photoplay. Photoplay Magazine Publishing Company. 6: 107.
- Soister, John T. (2012). American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913–1929. McFarland. p. 389. ISBN 978-0-7864-8790-5.
- "Charles Ray, Ex-Star, Dies". Youngstown Vindicator. November 23, 1943. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Taves, Brian (2012). Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer. University Press of Kentucky. p. 266. ISBN 978-0-8131-3422-2.
- "Charles Ray, Vet Actor, Succumbs". The Evening Independent. November 20, 1943. p. 1,6. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Slide, Anthony (2002). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 325–326. ISBN 0-8131-2249-X.
- Alleman, Richard (2013). Hollywood: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-8041-3777-5.
- Neale, Steve, ed. (2012). Classical Hollywood Reader. Routledge. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-135-72007-0.
- "Ray Joins "Big Four"". The Atlanta Constitution. February 12, 1922. p. C6.
- Motion Picture, Volume 45. Macfadden-Bartell. 1933. p. 86.
- "Charles Ray To Film Courtship of Miles Standish". The Meriden Daily Journal. November 7, 1922. p. 2. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Charles Ray Rebuilds 'Mayflower" For his Miles Standish Picture". The Southeast Missourian. January 20, 1923. p. 4. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Marion, Frances (1972). Off With Their Heads!: A Serio-Comic Tale Of Hollywood. Macmillan. p. 107.
- Beauchamp, Cari (1998). Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood. University of California Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-520-21492-7.
- Rasmussen, Cecilia (August 1, 1999). "Film Pioneer Griffith Rode History to Fame". latimes.com. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
- Cozad, W. Lee (2002). Those Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Golden Years 1911–1939. p. 95. ISBN 0-9723372-1-0.
- Parsons, Louella O. (June 29, 1941). "Comeback Trail Isn't So Rough, Charlie Ray Finds". St. Petersburg Times. p. 15. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Mrs. Charles Ray Divorces Old Star". The Pittsburgh Press. May 3, 1935. pp. 1–2. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Charles Ray Now Becomes Bankrupt". Times Daily. December 20, 1925. p. 7. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Charles Ray Film Company Bankrupt". The Atlanta Constitution. September 26, 1925. p. 1.
- "Charles Ray's Gold Doorknobs Set Pace For Hollywood In Old Days". Lewiston Morning Tribune. November 28, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Lee, Mary (September 26, 1936). "Hollywood's On the Wire". The Miami News. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Bankruptcy Papers Filed By Actor". Reading Eagle. July 7, 1934. p. 6. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Charles Ray, Wife to Part; Ex-Star Broke". The Milwaukee Sentinel. August 20, 1930. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Charles Ray, Ex-Film Star, Weds". The Los Angeles Times. June 5, 1941. p. 1A.
- "Thousands Mourn Death of Actor". Spokane Daily Chronicle. November 24, 1943. p. 8. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Charles Ray Of Films Dies". Berkeley Daily Gazette. November 23, 1943. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 68. ISBN 0-786-40983-5.
- Boyle, Hal (June 30, 1947). "Forest Lawn Cemetery Is One Of Glendale's Big Industries; Great of Film World Lie Here". San Jose Evening News. p. 7. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
- "Charles Ray | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- "Hollywood Star Walk: Charles Ray". latimes.com. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
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