Guy Raymond: From Niagara to Viagra

Some little attention paid today to dancer, comedian and actor Guy Raymond (Raymond W. Guyer, 1911-1997).

What a great stage name for a comedy dancer, right? Inevitably it reminds me of one of the best-loved legomaniacs Ray Bolger, whose sitcom was called Where’s Raymond? But that’s a Ray for another day. Today’s Ray guy, Guy Raymond, began dancing professionally circa 1926 when at age 15 he got a regular gig at Chin Lee’s restaurant in New York. He performed in night clubs and vaudeville and for many years (into the 1940s) he was in a team with Jimmy Shea in presentation houses, often on bills with big bands, touring Europe as well as America. The fact that Raymond was from Niagara Falls, leads me to wonder if Shea was a relative of Buffalo vaud mogul Mike Shea. No doubt the definitive answer will emerge some time before Doomsday.

In the early ’50s Raymond appeared on TV variety programs like The Ken Murray Show and Cavalcade of Stars and in the Broadway shows Hook ‘n’ Ladder (1952), Mrs. McThing (1954), and Pipe Dream (1955-56). In 1954 he began guesting on live TV dramas, which led to lots of bigger stuff. From 1961 to 1962 he was a regular on the series Ichabod and Me with George Chandler. From 1964 through 1965 he had the critical role of Cliff Murdock on a unique TV experiment called 90 Bristol Court on NBC. 90 Bristol Court was actually a bundle of several sitcoms all set at the fictional address, among them Harris Against the World with Jack Klugman, Karen with Debbie Watson, and Tom, Dick and Mary with Steve Franken, Joyce Bulifant, and Don Galloway. Raymond was the only one to appear on all of the shows. You could also see him in guest shots on shows like The Twilight Zone, Hazel, Gunsmoke, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Star Trek (as the bartender in the “Trouble with Tribbles episode), and many others.

For this alone he deserves a salute

Raymond was also the longtime TV spokesperson for Autumn Margarine, playing “Mr. Pruitt” in commercials. At the same time, he began appearing in films, ten of them over a decade: 4D Man (1959), Sail a Crooked Ship (1961), Gypsy (1962), It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963), The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1964), The Ballad of Josie (1967), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), Wild in the Streets (1968), Bandolero (1968), and The Undefeated (1969).

In 1969, Raymond married Ann Morgan Guilbert (then best known as Millie from The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Raymond had also appeared on). The pair of them frequently co-starred in regional theatre together in between film and TV engagements. Raymond was 58 when they tied the knot, nearly 20 years older than his wife, and I bet they both imagined the union would be a short one, but he lived to be 85. They were together nearly 30 years! “Autumn” is right!

Raymond’s last screen credit was a 1980 made-for-tv Disney film called The Ghosts of Buxley Hall with Victor French. He was acting onstage as late as 1986, when he won wide acclaim for his performance in The Immigrant at Mark Taper Forum.

At any rate, Raymond never took Viagra as I imply in the title. He passed away in 1997, just as it was coming to market. But I think you understand the drug’s relevance in view of his May-December marriage, and, well, it does rhyme.

For more on vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.