Here is a photo of Nelson Eddy taken in Canada in February, 1965, about a month after the death of Jeanette MacDonald. I’ve had a small photo of this for many years but now seeing it larger, it has even more impact.
Despite the evident socializing going on – notice Gale Sherwood watching and gently smiling – Nelson is in his own world. His face looks vacant and terribly sad. He’s very thin. He looks lost.
I don’t know about you but I find it difficult to look at this picture. And yet it shows us visually what many fans and acquaintances commented about in the days or months after Jeanette’s death when they met or spoke with Nelson – when he wasn’t on show.
My screenwriter friend Judy Burns met Nelson around this time, she knocked on his door at the Ashdale house, he answered and invited her inside. Her observation on that short meeting: “Nelson Eddy was the saddest man I ever met. He had miles on him and you could see it in his face. Jeanette said he wouldn’t outlive her by long and he didn’t. He went down fast once she was gone and you could see his loss and his pain.”
Another account related by Angela Messino: “I was talking with an older gentleman who saw him in one of the famous and elegant Hollywood bars in the 1960s. Nelson was seated at a round table, all by himself with a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne in front of him and a single glass. He said he was the saddest man he’d ever seen.”
Photo from the Maria Escano collection