Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Carey graduated from the University of Iowa in Iowa City with a bachelor’s degree in 1935, after attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison for a year where he was a member of Alpha Delta Phi. He first made his career starring in various B-movies of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He was known in many Hollywood circles as “King of the Bs”, sharing the throne with his “queen”, Lucille Ball. A successful radio actor, Carey’s work included playing Dick Grosvenor on the soap opera Stella Dallas and Ridgeway Tearle in John’s Other Wife, both in the early 1940s. As a stage performer, his credits include the hit Broadway show Lady in the Dark. Carey also appeared in the 1942 films Wake Island and Take a Letter, Darling, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt in 1943. Later that year, he joined the United States Marine Corps and stayed on active duty until 1947. In 1947 Carey returned to Paramount in Suddenly, It’s Spring. In 1949 he co-starred as “Nick Carraway” in Alan Ladd’s version of The Great Gatsby. He continued with Paramount into the 1950s, slipping into more noticeable character roles in Westerns, including Copper Canyon (1950), Comanche Territory (1950), The Great Missouri Raid (1951), Outlaw Territory (1953), and Man or Gun (1958). In 1955 he appeared as Fred Gaily in The 20th Century-Fox Hour remake of the 1947 film classic, Miracle on 34th Street, starring Teresa Wright and Thomas Mitchell. Carey played patriot Patrick Henry in John Paul Jones (1959). He appeared in Blue Denim (1959), The Damned (known as These Are the Damned in the US) (1963), Tammy and the Doctor (1963), and End of the World (1977).
In 1956 Carey took over the role of the kindly small-town physician Dr. Christian, a character created in the late 1930s by actor Jean Hersholt on radio and in films. Carey portrayed Dr. Christian on syndicated television for one season. Carey also starred as crusading Herb Maris in the 1950s syndicated series Lock-Up. A total of seventy-eight episodes were made between 1959 and 1961. In 1957 Carey appeared on NBC’s The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. On February 7, 1958 Carey appeared in the episode “License to Kill” of CBS’s Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater. Carey appeared on CBS’s Appointment with Adventure, and in the episode “The Incident of the Golden Calf” of CBS’s Rawhide. He appeared in “The Bill Tawnee Story” of NBC’s Wagon Train with Ward Bond. He guest starred in the 1964-1965 sitcom The Bing Crosby Show on ABC. He appeared as Mr. Edwards in the 1963 episode “Pay the Two Dollars” of the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus. In 1961 Carey played a starving artist in “The Devil’s Ticket”, an episode of Boris Karloff’s anthology series Thriller. In the first season of The Outer Limits, Carey starred in the episode titled “The Special One”.
For the remainder of his career, Carey played Tom Horton on Days of Our Lives, from 1965 until his death from lung cancer in Beverly Hills, California in 1994. During this time, Carey suffered from a drinking problem, and eventually joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1982. A longtime pipe smoker, he was seen in many films and early episodes of Days of Our Lives with it. He was ordered by his doctor to quit in September 1991 after having to take a leave of absence from Days in order to remove a cancerous tumor from one of his lungs. He returned to the show in November of that year. He is most recognized today as the voice who recites the epigraph each day before the program begins: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.” From 1966 to 1994 he would also intone, “This is Macdonald Carey, and these are the Days of Our Lives.” (After Carey’s death, the producers, out of respect for Carey’s family, decided not to use the second part of the opening tagline.) At each intermission, his voice also says “We will return for the second half of Days of Our Lives in just a moment”. Since the Horton family is still regarded as the core of Days of our Lives, his memory has been allowed to remain imprinted on the show by leaving the voice-overs intact. He also served as voice-over for the very first PBS ident, in which he said “This is PBS … the Public Broadcasting Service.” Carey wrote several books of poetry, and a 1991 autobiography, The Days of My Life. For his contribution to television, Carey has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6536 Hollywood Boulevard.
Carey was married to Elizabeth Heckscher from 1943 until their divorce in 1969. They had six children: Lynn, Theresa, Lisa, Steven, Edward Macdonald Jr., and Paul. Later, he dated Lois Kraines. The couple remained together from 1973 until Carey’s death. Theresa Carey is the mother of Survivor: Panama Exile Island winner Aras Baskauskas. Lynn Carey was a 1970s Penthouse Pet and singer of rock, blues and jazz music, providing lyrics and vocals for Russ Meyer’s legendary cult classic film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and The Seven Minutes as well as acting roles in other films and TV shows. She has fronted the bands Mama Lion and C.K. Strong in the 1970s, releasing albums and performing in world tours. He has a godson, Maurice Heckscher. He was a Roman Catholic, and a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, alongside a space already set aside for his daughter Lisa.
- March, 15, 1913
- Sioux City, Iowa
- March, 21, 1994
- Beverly Hills, California
- Holy Cross Cemetery
- Culver City, California