Raymond Massey, 86, the courtly and eloquent Canadian-born actor who was Abraham Lincoln to one generation and television's Dr. Gillespie to another, died of pneumonia July 29 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital near his Beverly Hills home.
With his hollow cheeks and dark hair, Massey was a natural for his most memorable role as Lincoln. His portrayal of the Civil War-era president brought him fame and satisfaction. He played Lincoln in plays, radio, television and road shows.
He was known to filmgoers for his long, melancholy face, his slow way of speaking and his loping gait that gave the appearance he had just walked out of the backwoods. It was written of Mr. Massey that he "took the face of Lincoln off the penny and put it into the hearts of millions of Americans."
Mr. Massey was playing "Hamlet" at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York in 1931 when playwright Robert E. Sherwood came backstage and suggested the idea of the Lincoln play. Six years later, he delivered the completed script to the actor. The play won a Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Massey played the role on Broadway for two seasons, then on a national tour and later in the movies.
Mr. Massey played the role of Lincoln in "Not In Vain" on TV's "American Heritage" program, after which he said: "I will continue to portray Mr. Lincoln even though the audience be but 10 people. Identification with the part is an accolade. It's like being given a title. I am happy and proud the public has accepted me as this man of the ages."
"Actually, I'd kill with my bare hands anyone who tried to get the part away from me," Mr. Massey once told an interviewer. "It's simply because the role is so overwhelming. I'd be glad to play the devil, if he gets enough good lines."
He appeared in more than 70 films. These included "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "East of Eden," "The Scarlet Pimpernel," "The Prisoner of Zenda," "David and Bathsheba," "Santa Fe Trail," "The Fountainhead," "The Desert Song," "God Is My Co-Pilot" and "Hotel Berlin."
From 1961 to 1966, he played the crusty old physician Dr. Leonard Gillespie in the 39 episodes of the NBC TV drama "Dr. Kildare." Viewers learned that there was a purpose behind his gruff manner -- to instill discipline in the young interns he supervised, particularly Richard Chamberlain in the title role.
He was born in Toronto and attended Oxford University. Mr. Massey first took an active part in dramatics in school days while attending Appleby School in Oakville, Ontario. He was enrolled in the Canadian Officers' Training Corps at the University of Toronto when World War I began. Commissioned as a lieutenant in the Canadian field artillery, he fought in France until being wounded at Ypres in 1916.
Following World War I, Mr. Massey, a member of the family that founded the Massey-Ferguson company, went into business selling farm implements in Toronto. The idea of becoming an actor was growing stronger in him, however, and a meeting with star John Drew decided him. Drew, impressed by his voice and appearance, encouraged his aspirations and advised him that England was the best place to break into the theater.
After applying at 28 stage doors, Mr. Massey finally landed a part in Eugene O'Neill's "In The Zone." In four years, he was firmly established -- and appeared in more than 80 plays in England. He also appeared with Gertrude Lawrence in "Pygmalion," with Ruth Gordon in "Ethan Frome" and with Katharine Cornell in "The Doctor's Dilemma" and "Candida." Other notable performances included two seasons in Stephen Vincent Benet's "John Brown's Body" with Tyrone Power and Judith Anderson and a year in Archibald MacLeish's "J.B."
He had been an citizen of the United States since 1944. During World War II, he served as a major attached to the Adjutant-General's branch in the Canadian Army.
The 6-foot, 2-inch Mr. Massey was still active in television dramas into his late 70s. He retired from acting to write the second volume of his autobiography, "A Hundred Different Lives," which was published in April 1979. The first volume was "When I was Young."
His brother, the late Vincent Massey, was Canada's first Canadian-born governor general.
His first two marriages, to the former Peggy Fremantle and then to the former Adrianne Allan, ended in divorce.
In 1939, he married Dorothy Massey. She died about a year ago. His survivors include a son by his first marriage, Geoffrey, of Vancouver, B.C., and two children by his second marriage, Daniel and Anna, both well-known actors in London, England.