We will remember

Jeanette MacDonald – 44 years ago today…

Nelson Eddy the day Jeanette MacDonald died, January 14, 1965

Above, Nelson Eddy photographed the day Jeanette MacDonald died.

On January 18, 1065, Jeanette MacDonald was laid to rest after a funeral in which an approximate 6,000 fans paid respects to her at Forest Lawn, Glendale.

She died four days earlier, on January 14, in Houston. Many fans have written me over the years, telling me of the pain of hearing that news. Many Hollywood stars pass away only to have fans say, “Oh, what a shame, I remember seeing so-and-so in this film or that -. ” They feel a twinge of sadness, or nostalgia, for that usually happy, younger time in their lives.

But the death of Jeanette MacDonald caused huge grief worldwide. Fans that had been loyal for decades were invested emotionally in her life and wellbeing. There was that special “something” about her…and about Nelson Eddy, who followed her two years later, that made their fans care deeply.

I have heard from several fans that were so devastated at the news of Jeanette’s death, they cried for hours. Or couldn’t go to work that day. Or were told by their bosses (who knew of their caring for Jeanette) that they understood, just stay home and grieve.

There are very few movie stars in today’s arena that would elicit such a response among their fans. Perhaps young actors, cut down in the prime of life. Heath Ledger, for example…such a waste of talent.

But not a movie star long past middle age. In today’s world, only Paul Newman has recently been so publicly mourned. Not only because he was a gorgeous man and a fine actor, but because he was a generous, giving man off-screen.

I’m not sure that the general public was fully aware of the charitable work that Jeanette – and Nelson – did quietly, in their day. Some fans were aware of it because they were so ‘in their face’ and saw it up close. But the public did sense that same goodness and generosity in them, and so they felt (as with Paul Newman last year) that we had lost someone who had made the world a better place for having lived.

Anyway that knew Jeanette’s older sister Blossom was aware how close they were. Jeanette had few people she could speak with candidly about the personal issues in her life. Blossom had always been a trusted confidant, non-judgmental as their other sister Elsie was. So – when Blossom died thirteen years to the very day that Jeanette died – January 14, 1978 – it was not surprising to me. Ironic, maybe, and fitting.

Sharon

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald: first sang together 75 years ago this week…

11/8/1933 IDN Eleanor Barnes
Nelson Eddy, the young American baritone who was with the Philadelphia Philharmonic orchestra, and who has been under contract at MGM since last June, has been engaged for two concerts with the San Francisco symphony orchestra, according to announcement today. Eddy’s contract will expire at MGM the middle of December, after filling the western engagements he will make a concert tour of the principal cities of the United States. He will appear in San Francisco December 22 and 23.”

Note: between this time and the end of 1933, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald sang on a birthday tribute to Marie Dressler and also saw each other socially…and Nelson was tested Jeanette’s upcoming film, Naughty Marietta. By the beginning of January, suddenly his option was renewed and he was named as Jeanette’s co-star.

Here is another newspaper blurb showing that they worked together in November 1933:

11/8/1933 EHE Radio
A special National Broadcasting Co. program will be broadcast with coast-to-coast hook-up. From New York this program will be re-broadcast by short wave to Europe.
Louis B. Mayer, chief executive of MGM will be toast master, and will introduce such notables as May Robson, Lionel Barrymore, Governor James Rolph Jr., Norma Shearer, Mary Pickford and Polly Moran. Those who will contribute musically are: Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Jimmy Durante and Harry Jackson. Pete Smith, MGM publicity director, is in charge of the program.

And this:

11/9/1933 LAX MARIE DRESSLER BIRTHDAY FETE ON NBC TONIGHT
By Ray De O’Fan
Strike me pink, but I’d never imagine she could be so active at 62 years! Yet they say Marie Dressler reaches that milestone today in life today.

NBC thinks so much of the birthday party arranged for her that it will broadcast the ceremonies from MGM studios this evening over a nationwide hookup at 8:30 o’clock for one hour. KECA is the local outlet. Shortwave stations will pick up the program and rebroadcast it in foreign countries.

Jeanette MacDonald, whose voice has enthralled millions of motion picture goers, is going to pay her tribute and extend congratulations through song. Her number or numbers have not been announced, but they will be typically Jeanette MacDonald and that satisfies any demand.

Nelson Eddy also sings, as does Jimmy Durante, Polly Moran will be herself and Harry Jackson’s NBC orchestra will play.

Louis B. Mayer is toastmaster and speakers include Governor James Rolph, May Robson, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer and Miss Dressler.

Countdown to Nelson Eddy’s birthday, June 29! Join us in Studio City!

Tickets are still available for the get-together celebrating Nelson’s and Jeanette’s birthdays, both in June! This year our event falls on Nelson Eddy’s birthday!

We’ll have a special new film compilation to show and also a new guest speaker. The afternoon includes a luncheon at the famous Sportsmans Lodge Restaurant, book signing, Q&A session, memorabilia sale and a gift for everyone!

Don’t miss it! Tickets are $45 per person. Details at the jump, tickets at this link.

Or – you can purchase tickets at the door.

Happy Birthday, Jeanette MacDonald – June 18! TV showings…

Jeanette MacDonald from the film Sweethearts

Above: a gorgeous color shot of Jeanette MacDonald from the film Sweethearts. Her sister Blossom, by the way, kept an almost identical photo framed on her dresser during the last years of her life.

TCM is screening two of Jeanette’s films on her 105th birthday!

Smilin’ Through shows at 6 am Eastern Time, while Rose Marie with Nelson Eddy screens at 8 am.

Set your VCR, DVR or Tivo!

Nelson Eddy: 41 years ago today…

nelson_march_6.jpg

So many folks have written me over the years, telling me about that awful day when they woke up to hear the early-morning news that Nelson Eddy had died in Miami, at the too-young age of 65.

I have also heard from several people who reported that a framed picture of Nelson that they had hanging on the wall, inexplicably fell to the floor that day.

Face it, there are movie stars that we love…and then there are celebrities that truly touch our lives. For those of you who met Nelson, you have that personal moment to remember always. But for those of us who only “met” him through his films or his music, it still is a deeply emotional connection.

Only a handful of “stars” or celebrities seem to have that special something that transcends time and the generations. I get emails from young teens just discovering Nelson or Jeanette, and their bubbling enthusiasm just reaffirms the sense that there was something a little special, a little different, about Nelson and Jeanette. And it is timeless and “new” for each person who experiences their art … and “gets it.”

I was unable to post my thoughts on January 14, as we suffered a major computer problem that day…but for me, that date is more than just the date of Jeanette’s passing. It’s also the very same day that her sister Blossom died, in 1978. For me this was a rough year, being the 30th anniversary.  Blossom was my friend and the person who introduced me to Jeanette and Nelson. There are people who scoff at Blossom and try to downplay her efforts to get her sister’s story told. Only if they can try to discredit Blossom perhaps they can then persist with the whitewashed version of Jeanette’s life. The truth remains that without Blossom’s encouragement, no other sources would have likely stepped forward to dispute the “happy” Jeanette-Gene or Nelson-Ann marriages. Blossom was a very courageous gal, with a stubborn will – I am sure all three MacDonald daughters were similar in this regard.

At the last club meeting in Clearwater, Florida, my mother attended and I asked her point-blank to discuss and verify whether Blossom was indeed a family friend, was she “coherent” and able to communicate (despite a stroke that affected her speech) and did we indeed go shopping, hang out, discuss Jeanette’s life, etc., etc. My mom talked a bit about how it all came about and yes, this was actually all true.

I would love to hear from you today in regards to Nelson Eddy…and hope you enjoy the picture posted here.

Watch one of their films today…take a few minutes to think about them…and then have fun and celebrate their lives.

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