They were “America’s Singing Sweethearts” of the 1930s. They starred in classic movies like Naughty Marietta, Rose Marie, Maytime, New Moon, in live opera, on radio and in early television… And yes, Virginia, they did have an off-screen romance but because of MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer, were never allowed a legal U.S. marriage. If you are already a fan of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy or are just discovering them – Welcome!
So many people have asked me this week about Nelson’s nude drawing of Jeanette…so I will address it here and now.
One of the many “reveals” in the book A Will Of Evil, published this month on the 50th anniversary of Nelson Eddy’s passing, is his signed, colored pencil drawing of Jeanette MacDonald entitled “My Madonna.” (His handwriting can be seen on the left side of the paper.)
The typed manuscript is the closest thing to an “autobiography” Nelson would ever write. His novel is about a man whose beloved wife is lost to an early but unnecessarily cruel death and then buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale. The timing of its publication seemed right to share this drawing of the real-life inspiration for Nelson’s wife in the story.
This drawing is art. It shows beauty and serenity and poise and love and sweet intimacy. This is the early ’40s it would seem. Her hair is dripping wet. Nelson has highlighted her stomach area and with the drawing’s title, one can perhaps understand the extra pride and joy of his love for her, even though it had to be kept secret from the public.
Our thanks again to Linda Rogers-Knight for allowing this to be published. Yes, Nelson and Jeanette were private people and they lived in their own world out of necessity. But there was a side to each of them that at times longed to break out and flaunt their love to the world. And there is documentation, written and live audio and visual on film…that they did sometimes do exactly that. But as I pointed out to Linda, if only Nelson had the courage to come forward with a piece of art like this, it would have answered all the questions anyone ever needed to know about the truth of their relationship. And stopped cold the toxic people in their lives who sought to suppress and destroy them. There would have been a furor…but great relief and freedom afterwards.
The time to hide is long over. As a friend said to me, it’s time to open that gate and let the truth out. All concerned parties are dead and it’s only right the truth be told. Their story is part of history now and if you know someone who can’t quite grasp the reality of it then have them look at the drawing again for clarification.
Time to end off because it’s now close to 500 words that I’ve already written. Let the drawing speak for itself…and for them and their legacy of music, film and love. Real love, not just movie love.
You can see Nelson Eddy’s drawing of Jeanette MacDonald from the book’s back cover here.