In December, our friends (and sleuths) Angela and Katie returned to the Library of Congress to continue searching for documentation regarding the Jeanette MacDonald – Nelson Eddy love affair. What continues to be amazing is that more and more information and proof is surfacing and/or newly made available. And happily – they pounced on it!
I don’t know about you but it gives me goosebumps to have some new piece of information fall into our lap that verifies something I read in a letter (in a postmarked envelope) written in the 1940s – we’re talking like 70 years ago! To have these puzzle pieces fall into place in the 21st century is very rewarding on all levels.
Here’s the first interesting fact they discovered. Katie describes it in great detail on her blog. The setting is this: The movie “New Moon” went into production in late October 1939. This was their first film together after Nelson married Ann Franklin in January 1939. (We are talking about 9 months that they did not work together as a team…something that had never happened in the past.) It was a terrible year for Jeanette in particular, his marriage such a devastating blow that she refused to re-sign her MGM contract for many months. By mid-year she was no longer suicidal (thanks to her first national concert tour which kept her mind off her personal problems) but she wrote to Margaret Ritchie (Bob’s mother) that for the summertime she was still planning to try and get back her health and well-being.
During the late summer of 1939, both Nelson and Jeanette wavered back and forth on whether they could or would work together again. In the end, for a variety of reasons discussed in Sweethearts, they agreed to make the film. And once that decision was made, there seemed the inevitability (at least to Nelson) that they would have a personal reconciliation. We know from Isabel Eddy’s memoirs that her son wrote Jeanette the following note regarding the song “One Kiss” as they began the project:
Sing even if you don’t mean it – sing it just for me. You can take all the time you want, but you are coming back to me, you have to. Meanwhile, remember this, my love for you is indestructible. No matter what happens, nothing and no one in all the universe can change or hurt it. Remember that.
What I was unaware of was how Jeanette responded to that note. Katie notes that on October 23, 1939, Jeanette pre-recorded the song at the studio for the film (which had not yet begun shooting). From another report that I quote in the book, it is likely that Nelson was not present while Jeanette did her solo recording, as Jeanette avoided him. But – now it gets interesting. The following week, on October 29, Jeanette made her next appearance on a radio show and guess what she chose to sing? Yes indeed – “One Kiss.”
Note that it would make sense for her to sing this song on a show to promote the film – when it was released the following year. But to sing it now, when it had little apparent significance to radio audiences – that’s a totally different story.
This particular radio show has never available before…but you can now listen (at the link above on Katie’s blog). This would appear to be Jeanette’s first olive branch toward Nelson – an acknowledgement that she understood the circumstances of his marrying Ann, that she was still very hurt – as she described it, she could forgive but not forget – and that she still loved him despite herself.
It is an amazing fact that Nelson and Jeanette carried out their romance on a sub-level of their music – we have learned more and more that this was their “code” and way to send messages to each other and to re-affirm their feelings at that particular moment in time.
You now have the opportunity to hear Jeanette sing “One Kiss” in response to Nelson’s letter above…and to understand what radio audiences of that time missed.
Thanks to Angela and Katie for finding this treasure, and Katie for spelling it out in such great detail.
UPDATE: I suddenly realized that exactly one week prior to this event, Nelson hosted the Chase and Sanborn show on October 22 as well as sang as normal host Don Ameche was away. Nelson chose for his program three songs of great interest to us. Two numbers from the film Sweethearts, “Every Lover Must Meet His Fate” and “Sweethearts.” Remember that the summer of 1938 was when Jeanette and Nelson last sang those songs together and were last happy together. And the other number was “Danny Boy” which was a song that that meant a lot to him and Jeanette…note that Nelson was already trying to break down the “wall of icy pride” that Jeanette had toward him. Remind her of the love they had for each other…Amazing…