Fifty Shades of Nelson Eddy

Note: this post includes some graphically sexual sketches drawn by Nelson Eddy so please be warned if you think you might be offended. The fourth photo shows sex with a woman with possibly the initials “JM” skillfully woven into the drawing!

Updated August 11, 2015:

In the candid mid 1940s photo above, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy are on a radio show together, Nelson in particular “beaming like a headlight” (his mother’s words) at the manilla folder with a heart drawing pierced by Cupid’s arrow and their initials N – J written inside. Very teenager-ish and telling…but Nelson’s arm is around her waist (visible in a different shot from this same show) and his relaxed, big ol’ smile shows that he doesn’t care “if the whole world knows.” This is a very interesting and telling moment for a man who craved privacy in his personal life.

And yet, here is a quote from Nelson Eddy’s 1948 letter to his mother, excerpted in Sweethearts, describing how the apparently very proper and gentlemanly Nelson Eddy slipped away unnoticed from his hiding place backstage at the Hollywood Bowl where Jeanette had just sung to a sold-out crowd:

“That night I left a pink rose tucked in her bag to tell her I had gone. Of course I could not be at the reception but I could well afford to have her public have her for a little while – soon she would be with me to open the portals of her plentiful love to me alone. All mine!”

Well, folks, we seem to have survived the recent post discussing Nelson’s obsessive and possessive sexual issues regarding Jeanette and his occasional losing his temper. While there is no documentation of him ever acting out like that in the 1940s or later, the subject of demonstrating “portals” and “plentiful love” is certainly something Nelson himself illustrated – by doodling on his sheet music!

Below is a closeup of some drawings Nelson made on his sheet music for “Captain Stratton’s Fancy.” This is a “drinking and debauchery” song that Nelson sang occasionally on the radio.  As was his habit, Nelson re-wrote the original lyrics a bit, in his radio version of August 1944, for example, his version substituted lines about a girl fond of dancing…red lips…and a pretty lass’s eyes. (You can listen to the song at this link.)

Below is a closeup of exactly what Nelson drew on his sheet music (stored with his sheet music collection at Occidental College in Los Angeles).

Since he drew this with a pencil and it’s difficult to see, Angela Messino was kind enough to “translate”  the five numbered points Nelson illustrates above:

(No, we don’t know what the thing is below the girl, it has a particular suggestive shape…but we’re not going there…)

But look VERY closely at the girl again. I darkened the photo (thanks for thinking of this, Angela!) and as you can see from the photo above, it appears there is a backwards or sideways letter “J” on top of her head. And her open legs have been drawn over again – clearly making the letter “M”.

I don’t think there’s any question as to who “JM” is, do you?

And Angela has just noted that that the “M” could also be a second pair of legs atop her although there doesn’t seem to be anymore to the second body if that is the case.

In the photo above, Nelson has drawn a satisfied, happy girl with a halo above her head.  And here too Nelson may have a double meaning (if this indeed is supposed to be Jeanette) – not only her bliss but the fact that Nelson often referred to Jeanette as “My Angel Wife”.

And by the way…the word written underneath her is: “This!”

Above, where the drawing was done on the sheet music. In our excitement, the four of us who were at Occidental took several closeup shots but no full cover shot.

There are some questions remaining…some have suggested that the unidentified item next to the girl in photo #4 is a swaddled baby and the word “This!” is showing what will result when they have sex. And Angela posted an interesting take on it:

I have a theory about the girl in the “hat” – drawing 2. To me, it looks like a closed flower or a bud. She is all closed up in her mind, the liquor loosens her inhibitions and she opens like a flower in drawing 3. Three is circled so that’s important and there is a faint line between 3 and 4. Everyone sees something a little different in 4 but we all agree is obviously sexual, the conclusion I came to is the girl opens her legs as a result of opening her mind and loosing her inhibitions. I don’t know what those circles are off to the side. I personally don’t feel he’d draw a baby here, it’s out of place and the rest of it is in a jokey/wry vein. I don’t think he’d joke about that. And if you really want to blow your mind, consider this – what if in drawing 4 the line represents not a halo and bed board or a reversed J but a threshold the woman passes (wink) which results in a halo/fully opened mind/bliss? That would be consistent with the having a thing over each person’s head. The circle in drawing 5 maybe the opened mind/threshold/happy guy = This! Maybe Nelson is illustrating how pleasing your woman will please yourself to some 1940s type guys who needed a lesson! Fifty ways to please your lover!

Alisa emailed me to add this comment: “It dawned on me today that the answer to the riddle can be found in Nelson’s letters:

“Our spirits met first and the ancient wine kindles a fire that can never die. When once that wine is tasted the soul cannot exist without it…” And, regarding Jeanette’s loss of a baby, “Not for nothing has God suffered you to be in pain and taken from you the tiny rose bud of his heaven…”

Alisa continues: “I think it is his declaration of love and eternal bondage between them. Nelson at least once in another letter written to JAM referred to “potential’ baby as “rose bud.”

Even with some of these questions unanswered, one thing is clear. Nelson’s drawings demonstrate yet again what we already knew, that this man was no “Singing Capon.” Quite the opposite, in fact!

Thanks to Angela Messino for elaborating on Nelson’s “Step by Step Guide,” Maria Escano for the photo of Nelson and Jeanette together, Katie Gardner for the closeup shot of Nelson’s drawings, Alisa for her comments and Lorraine Dmitrovic for identifying Jeanette’s initials! The book excerpt is from Sweethearts (© 1994, 2001, 2014 by Sharon Rich) with ordering details at the link above.