Raymond Massey Left Oxford to Fight, Discounts College Influencing Career
Star Of "Abe Lincoln In Illinois" Admires Lincoln's Stand On Slavery
"I really shouldn't like Harvard a great deal, since I went to Oxford for a year and our ancient rival, Cambridge, gave a degree to John Harvard," declared Raymond Massey, star of "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," after a recent matinee performance of the New York hit.
"I never really got much of a chance to absorb the true Oxford angle on Cambridge," continued Mr. Massey, "for the war came along, forcing me to leave before the end of my first year. For that reason, college didn't have a great deal of influence on my career.
"I think if you examine the field of first team actors, now appearing on Broadway, you will find that very few attended college. From a close examination it would seem that college makes very little difference to a star, but four years of University training means a great deal to a bit player."
Massey said that although it might seem paradoxical that the stars could be comparatively uneducated compared to the bit players, it really heralded a new movement in the theatre. The next generation of stars, claimed Mr. Massey, will be college trained, almost without exception.
The critics' choice for the finest actor on Broadway was very enthusiastic about the research he had to do for his present role. "I spent several months reading every bit of available material I could find on Lincoln," he said, "for I had a very difficult task before me in trying to convince the critics that a Canadian could successfully undertake so American a role.
"In the process of my research I found a great many conflicting opinions from Mencken's violent denunciation to hero-worshipping biographies like Billy Herndon's. The most important point of controversy always seemed to rest on the real force behind Lincoln's agitation for abolition.
"He was never a violent abolitionist, and many biographers claim that his proclamation of freedom during the Civil War was just a political move. I do think, however, that though he was not one of the violent pre war abolitionists that he really pitted the plight of the slaves and that he welcomed the chance to free them during the war."