As the original choice for the role of Miss Kitty on ‘Gunsmoke,’ three adjectives describe Paula Raymond, beautiful, talented, with a great sense of humor.
Paula debuted as a child actress in 1938’s “Keep Smiling” opposite Jane Withers. Paula played a bratty Shirley Temple-type, complete with her brunette hair curled and dyed blonde.
Paula made her grown-up debut in a 1948 short, “Powder River Gunfire,” opposite Kenne Duncan. “It’s strange, I remember absolutely nothing about that, I hardly remember Kenne at all.”
Paula’s first leading role in a western feature was “Challenge of the Range” with Charles Starrett. “When I was a little girl, I used to go most every Saturday to a theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the Hitching Post; I loved westerns. However, when I saw “Challenge...” again recently, I thought to myself, ‘What trash barrel did I get my wardrobe out of!’ (Laughs). It’s a pretty cute little B picture; but they used to be good—the people were good. Nobody makes B pictures with a story anymore. Now it’s special effects and four-letter words; people swapping saliva, taking big bites out of each other. (Laughs) That looks awful!”
“I enjoyed every show I ever did, but I wanted to act, not just be a body, so I ate my way out of my Columbia contract. The films I did at Columbia featured horses, dogs and children; forget the adults. I was just filling space. I was not given many acting roles. I didn’t want to work, but I had a daughter to support. I became an actress because it was the only way I knew to earn a living. I wasn’t trying to be a glamour movie star.”
About studio head Harry Cohn, “I never met the man, thank goodness! I only met Louis B. Mayer once. I had to go to his office, and he said, ‘Your teeth are too straight.’ He also said Eleanor Powell was bow-legged—which she wasn’t. All I could think about was, ‘He’s going to make my teeth crooked!’ Luckily, I only saw him at parties after that.”
At MGM Paula was given the big buildup, the ‘star’ treatment. “My first western was ‘Devil’s Doorway,’ opposite Robert Taylor. When I was off screen, I would hide. The director was Anthony Mann. I had not-too-impressive credits from Columbia, yet I was co-starring with a big star. Anthony Mann didn’t want me because I was not a star, not an equal to Taylor. Mann made me do a screen test. He was always trying to put me down. During the test, he’d say, ‘Cut. No, do it this way.’ Then, ‘No, that way.’ I finally said, ‘Tony, when you make up your mind, I’ll do it that way.’ On location, I’d hide so no one would know this nobody was Robert Taylor’s lead. But, publicity was trying to build me up at this time…and now, Anthony Mann was trying to get me in bed! Jim Campbell, the publicity agent, was with us. When Tony asked me out, I’d say something to Jim and he would come along. The crew started making bets on who would win—Tony or me. I escaped from his cabin once—I never got near his door again. I was a priggish prude in those days.”
About Taylor, Paula recalls, “He felt inferior to his wife, Barbara Stanwyck. When he went to war, her career really took off. Once, Tony showed me a note Bob had sent. He signed it Mr. Barbara Stanwyck.”
On “The Tall Target” nothing exceptional happened. “Dick Powell was a doll, and this time, Anthony Mann left me alone!” (Laughs)
In 1951, there was another western, “Inside Straight,” with David Brian and Lon Chaney Jr. “You hear all these stories about Lon, yet, I saw no notice of his drinking when I was working with him. He was always there and never held up production.”
Paula’s last western for Columbia was “The Gun That Won the West.” “That was my favorite role there, but I did look a little plumpish. (Laughs) Dennis Morgan was the leading man.”
Asked about her co-stars, she says she had mainly working relationships. “George Sanders I dated. He was a delight until he said, ‘I won’t marry a woman I didn’t go to bed with.’ To which I replied, ‘So, you’re not going to marry me.’”
In the mid-‘50’s, Paula was free-lancing when her agent told her CBS wanted her—badly—for the role of Miss Kitty in a new series, “Gunsmoke”. “I didn’t want to play a woman who worked in a saloon, week after week. I have a freckle on my face, and I sometimes put a beauty mark over it. They even put it on Amanda Blake, who finally got the part—although it was put on the opposite side from mine. I wanted them to soften the character but didn’t think they’d do it. As it turned out, the character wasn’t a trashy woman at all. She was just the type I would have liked to have played.”
On TV, Paula was frequently seen guesting on shows such as “Bat Masterson”. “I got bruised on that one. They had done an over-the shoulder close-up of Gene Barry, and when I was doing mine he kept pulling at me, trying to get his face in profile. I had a black-and-blue arm as a result!”
Paula was also on “Have Gun Will Travel” with Richard Boone. “What a delight to work with. I was doing a documentary for American Friends Service Committee—the Quakers—on the Southwest American Indians. I asked Richard if he’d narrate it. ‘Of course I will.’ What a sweetheart of a guy! I went to Arizona. When I was in Globe I didn’t sleep because of the word ‘Apache,’ but they were
Before doing “Shotgun Slade” which starred Scott Brady, Paula says, “I had dated Scott…once he had me backed up to the kitchen sink, trying to get a little sex—my mother was upstairs. I got away and never went with him again. Then we did ‘Shotgun Slade’. Scott liked to embarrass ladies. There’s a scene where he’s lying in bed—wounded. Next to him was this hurricane lamp. He took the spoke off the lamp and put it under the cover—just to embarrass me. I ignored it. He chuckled to himself. The crew knew me from other things—they knew I was lady-like. Another time, Scott was late. Finally he arrived, after holding up shooting. He put his hand down his pants, pretending to fix his shirt. I said, ‘Don’t worry fellows, he’s just trying to see if it’s still there.’ Well, they started howling, and this delayed production even more! It seemed all the more funny, coming from the mouth of a lady.”
Appearing on the long-running “Death Valley Days”, Paula recalls, “Ray Danton was also in it and he came onto me. I didn’t appreciate that at all. I told him, ‘You’re married to Julie Adams and you have two sons. Why are you after me?’ He said, ‘All she cares about are her two boys.’ To which I said, ‘Well, who gave them to her?’ That stopped him.”
Paula remembers, “Before I was to do ‘Maverick’, I was up for a part in a movie where I would play twins. My double was so excited because the back of her head would be used in the picture when I would be talking to my ‘twin’. I was in the shower, stark naked and the phone rang. I stubbed my toe answering it. It turned out to be the casting director, reminding me to go for my cast insurance. The toe swelled so much I lost the film! It was still bothering me when I did ‘Maverick’. I had the podiatrist make me open-toe tennis shoes so I could walk without a limp. I had a 6am call for makeup—I was there all day long, doing nothing. It was 4 before they got to me. We rehearsed and everything was going wrong. They knew I had a painful injury, and to get even, I pulled a faint. (Laughs) I never did that before or since!”
Paula also worked on “Wyatt Earp” with Hugh O’Brian. “Bill O’Connor, my fiancee, died on the last day of shooting. I could not finish that day. Hugh gave a party on Saturday night to get my mind off of it, or so I thought. I attended the party and it did take my mind off of it. When he took me home, Hugh wanted me to play with his ding-ding. I called my mother, who was living with me at the time, and I never worked on a second ‘Wyatt Earp.’ (Laughs)
Regarding “Cheyenne”, “They should have saved the outtakes. Clint Walker is a good horseman, but not me. The director wanted us to ride into the camera, up a hill. They got me up on a horse. The director said it was just a little way. When Clint’s horse started off—mine did, too. I was screaming ‘HELP’ at the top of my lungs. I was bouncing up and down on the saddle in a gallop!”
Paula’s last western was “Five Bloody Graves.” “I played a madame—I don’t look like one, so I wanted some red spray for the hair. Something that could be washed out. Well, they brought henna!! I had to wait forever for that damn hair to grow out!”
Perhaps the most amusing experience Miss Raymond had was on a “Temple Houston.” “I played a joke on Jack Elam. The producer, Jimmy Lydon, and the cast and crew were all in on it. It started when Jack turned around and said to me, ‘Happy Holiday Motel, Room Number 7.’ I asked what he was talking about and was told he says that to all the leading ladies. I then asked, ‘Has anyone ever given him his come-upppance?’ Jack taught me to play liar’s poker between takes, and I lost $10. On the last day of shooting, I was walking to the set and he said, ‘Four flusher.’ I hadn’t paid up, yet. I got a prop department female dummy and the wardrobe department gave me a chiffon tiger-patterned scarf. I put the dummy on the floor in his dressing room, with her hand positioned where I could stuff the $10 in the first two fingers. I was hiding in the closet with the lights off. I said, in a sexy voice, ‘Come on in, Jack.’ I jumped out of the closet with the Polaroid flash! (Laughs) He later said, ‘If she hadn’t come out of the closet, I’d have been on top of her—or rather the dummy—and hurt myself.’ But, there’s more to the story. I was in a dubbing room doing a ‘77 Sunset Strip’. Jack Elam was there—instead of standing, he was sitting down, with his feet in the area where you would sit to do the dubbing. Jack had a bottle of Scotch which he tied to the drapes. Later, when I was doing ‘Temple Houston’, I went up to the dubbing room and asked, ‘Does Jack still have his stash.’ I then took an empty bottle, filled it with water and tied it to the ropes just like he’d done. I told Jimmy Lydon to let me know what happened, which was this. Jack took out the bottle, took a sip, then another sip, and another. He was then told, ‘Paula Raymond was just here.’ Jack came in from the stage door, took off his hat—and flailing it at me hollered, ‘YOU, YOU, YOU.’ I got even for Happy Holiday Motel, Room Number 7.”
Paula’s career came to a halt August 20, 1962. “I was killed in an automobile accident. I was DOA, but a neurologist who said there was no pulse didn’t think I was quite dead. My face was gone, my nose was gone—my face looked like hamburger. They worked on me for five and a half hours to put a nose on my face. I no longer have a sense of smell. It took away the bridge of my nose—and they couldn’t put one back because it would make me look like a monster!”
The highly underrated Paula Raymond died December 31, 2003.
Paula’s Western Filmography
Movies: Powder River Gunfire (‘48 Univ. Int’l)—Kenne Duncan short; Challenge of the Range (‘49 Columbia)—Charles Starrett; Devil’s Doorway (‘50 MGM)—Robert Taylor; Tall Target (‘51 MGM)—Dick Powell; Inside Straight (‘51 MGM)—David Brian; Gun That Won the West (‘55 Columbia)—Dennis Morgan; Five Bloody Graves (‘70 Independent-Int’l)—Robert Dix; TV: Fireside Theatre: Three Missions West (‘54); Cavalcade of America: Petticoat Doctor (‘55); Californians: Shanghai Queen (‘58); Yancy Derringer: Gallatin Street (‘58); State Trooper: Hardrock Man (‘58); Rough Riders: Double Dealers (‘59); Lawman: Hoax (‘59); Shotgun Slade: Safecrackers (‘59); Bat Masterson: A Matter of Honor (‘59); Wyatt Earp: Paymaster (‘59); Bat Masterson: Mr. Four Paws (‘60); Bat Masterson: Last of the Night Raiders (‘60); Deputy: Backfire (‘60); Cheyenne: Home Is The Brave (‘60); Have Gun Will Travel: Lady with a Gun (‘60); Texan: unknown title (‘60); Maverick: Golden Fleecing (‘61); Rawhide: House of the Hunter (‘62); Death Valley Days: Wooing of Perilous Pauline (‘64); Temple Houston: Miss Katherine (‘64).