California Love: Celebrating Charles & Ray’s 78th Anniversary Posted June 20, 2019 by Ross Atwood

We’re celebrating Charles and Ray on their 78th wedding anniversary by taking you back to their wedding and first years together.

Charles and Ray Eames were married on June 20, 1941, in Chicago. It was a small, intimate ceremony, graciously hosted at a friend’s apartment. They were joined by Eero Saarinen and his wife Lilly, Maurice Kaiser (Ray’s brother) and his wife, as well as a few other guests.

In addition to the wedding being Charles’s first time meeting Maurice (thankfully Maurice approved), he also had to contest with a fun little prank by his good friend Eero. During the cake cutting, as the new bride and groom held the knife ready for the first cut, Eero, speaking as though he were an expert gifting great tradition upon the two, began giving out very precise instructions on how to properly cut the cake. As detailed in An Eames Primer, Eero protested: “No, no, no, you have to cut this way… Start at one edge, and you start in and cross…now get back, turn completely around and go back, and with a 30-degree angle ’til you meet the circumference of the cake, now turn 45 degrees and cross.” More and more instructions were given to the newlyweds, who must have been very confused, until, as Charles explained later, “Suddenly [Eero] says, ‘Oh, my God! It only applies to Finnish cakes!’”

Immediately after the wedding in Chicago, Charles and Ray enthusiastically began the next chapter in their life: California. With no jobs and no concrete prospects on the horizon, they loaded into a Ford—one of the only things owned by the pair—and drove cross country to begin their lives together. They arrived in Los Angeles on July 5, 1941. The Highland Hotel in Hollywood became their first home, and despite not knowing anyone in the city, they made friends and connections quickly. One such connection was Richard Neutra, who found the two a home in his newly built Strathmore Apartments.

On September 2, 1941, Charles wrote to friend Elliot Noyes describing their situation after arriving in Los Angeles and moving into the Strathmore Apartments: “Here we are in Hollywood, right. After many weeks of searching for work with some gleaming future I finally gave up and two weeks ago started work with Metro Goldwyn Mayer [MGM]—all hope for the future is lost but I get a regular paycheck. Ray (the gal that was with me the night at your apt) and I have just moved into an apartment built by Neutra and it is much fun—like the shoemaker’s shoeless children. We have no furniture (except some I have whipped up out of black iron pipe and that would have won the ‘competition with ease.’ At least the poor people could afford it).”

The Strathmore Apartments were home to Charles and Ray for eight years. It was through experimenting within this very space that they honed their craft, as well as their deep love and admiration for one another as partners in business and life. While the Eameses didn’t have money in 1941, they had each other and were armed with knowledge from experience that one didn’t need much to be happy. As Charles self-concluded from his Mexico sojourn prior to meeting Ray, “At least, damn it, you’re not afraid to be broke.”

Happy Anniversary, Charles and Ray!