The beautiful, talented and beloved Hollywood icon, Jeanette MacDonald, born today in 1903.
Greetings! I’m wrapping up the next Mac/Eddy Today magazine in the next day or two and taking a look back at the 40 years – yes, 40 YEARS! – of our club’s existence. A few of you here have been with us for most or all of those decades….while some of you are newer friends. We’re all here because of our admiration for two very special people. If you would like to write something about them, what they mean to you, how their story has affected you, what this club has meant to you and/or anything else you’d like to say or share…please email it to me ASAP or post a comment here. We’ll have a special “Letters to the Editor” feature in the magazine and your input would be greatly appreciated. Be as brief or lengthy as you like! Sharon
Here are six mp3s (mostly from radio) for your listening pleasure:
By the way, Nelson’s introduction to the Easter medley is as timely today as it was back then… let us hope and pray for peace on this wonderful planet of ours!
…and yet I will write a few words anyway.
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.
Nelson Eddy rocks! A best seller on Amazon…until the “blizzard” hit and books cannot be ordered from Amazon at this time. “Out of stock,” it currently reads…but we can take and fulfill orders on this website.
Update: click on the book cover above to order this book.
March 6 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Nelson Eddy’s death. I posted that there was a surprise coming and by golly, with literally minutes to spare before midnight my time, I clicked the button and uploaded for publication the only book that Nelson Eddy ever wrote! Here you see the front and covers. Like so many other revelations in the Nelson/Jeanette world, it is a miracle that this typewritten manuscript was located and survived 50 years…and that we were able to present it to you. For that we owe a heartfelt “thank you” to Linda Knight. For five decades she has kept in safekeeping precious items from their years together…even some possessions from Twin Gables that Nelson liked (or gave Jeanette) or that Linda recognized from Isabel Eddy’s detailed descriptions in their hideaway home we know as “Mists”… certain picture frames, candle holders, books, Bibles and some of Nelson’s beautiful nude artwork of Jeanette as shown below on the back cover, a signed 1940s drawing entitled (on the left margin of the sketchbook page) “My Madonna.”
This has been an emotional and difficult process for all concerned. It’s been a “coming out” for Linda as she revealed in her foreword her role in Nelson’s life as his “emotional quilt of comfort” as he watched Jeanette slowly die and the aftermath. Because Linda could understand and deal with this, she was able to bring him a fresh, loving, hopeful look at a future without the “evil” people interfering in his life anymore… except for Ann Eddy. We know that Gene Raymond viewed Jeanette as more of an irritation cramping his style in the last years; from Jeanette’s 1963 diary, for example, we see that Gene was absent a lot and there were lots of arguments when he was home. But from Linda we learn new details of Nelson’s unwavering love for Jeanette despite active attempts from Gene Raymond, Jeanette’s secretary Emily West and Ann Eddy to block him from her. And for what reason, really? To try to destroy to the end a special kind of love they couldn’t understand or accept? All that I wrote about in Sweethearts about how things played out at the end of Jeanette’s life…guess what? This is the heart and core of Nelson’s plot in A Will Of Evil. In his own words, in his own typewritten book that I never even heard of until last year.
It seems that Nelson wrote this book as a way to confront, address and try to purge from his heart the hatred and disgust for people who had interfered in his life and in his love for Jeanette. It seems pretty much completed even though there are still a few crossed out lines and penciled-in corrections in the reproduced manuscript. In my introduction to our book I annotate through all the main characters and events to help point out who was who and what happened in real life that mirrors Nelson’s “novel.” Linda provides her background of watching Nelson work on the book and observing his interaction with Jeanette, as well as her own part of the story. When Linda mentions to me a time that Nelson was crying and distraught, having to get if off his chest and rattle off the names of many people he had to “forgive” starting with his father and moving forward with names of others who had so badly tortured him and Jeanette…he voiced the hurts and betrayals that had been inflicted and that he was still trying to forgive…well, you can see why writing this book was cathartic for him.
I want to speak candidly here. Over the years when certain women stepped forward, it has been hard at times for some to want to embrace their circumstances. I acknowledge that. But I have always shared their stories (if verified) if it helped our understanding. We seek to know and present the truth because in the end and still to this day, the story shakes out the same. Nelson per his own admittance, fell in love with Jeanette when he first laid eyes on her. He loved her to the end and Jeanette went to her deathbed calling for him; this Nelson verifies himself in A Will Of Evil. That love never changed or wavered despite life’s bumps or even as physical dynamics were challenged by her illness in the final years.
Linda Knight did not have to come forward or share any of this including showing us where the site was in Ojai where baby Daniel was buried and where Nelson and Jeanette wanted some of their ashes to be spread. That she chose to speak up took courage especially in subjecting herself to possible personal attacks. Other women that Nelson knew over the years walked away, not willing to emotionally have “three of us in this marriage.” One can presume watching Gale Sherwood in TV interviews with Nelson, that she got awfully tired of constantly hearing about how wonderful Jeanette was; she would cut it off and try to change the subject even though she hung in there with him. Even Linda tells me that the lawyer, Hollywood “fixer” and Nelson’s friend Dick Maddox (who assisted Nelson with writing and legal procedures in the courtroom parts of the book) commented, “You loved Nelson unconditionally knowing he loved Jeanette.” And because Linda did – and still does to this day – we are able to experience Nelson’s book in which he confirms so much under the guise of “fiction.”
Take comfort in knowing how Nelson kept Jeanette alive for himself spiritually after her death; by keeping their physical possessions at hand with Linda and trusting her with their protection when he was gone; by writing a “novel” about his love for Jeanette; by singing a special solo number for Jeanette at each performance of his nightclub act; by sharing places and experiences with Linda that were meaningful to him with Jeanette; by talking to and communing with Jeanette until his own death… and acknowledging that she was still present as a “guardian angel” not only with Linda or Ted Paxson but in his book.
These were unique people, folks. The special chemistry you see on the movie screen in their films together was something unusual and lasting. Movie audiences of the 1930s were no dummies and had it right, it wasn’t “acting.” And now we have another piece of the story.
Today we honor Nelson Eddy on the 50th anniversary of his passing, March 6, 1967. Hard to believe…Nelson burst on the silver screen in 1935’s Naughty Marietta…from his opening number as he marched onto the screen he was a STAR. That indescribable something…more than just good looks…someone there behind the eyes…an energy…a truth…a tremendous talent…an almost naive believe in the goodness of people… a tremendous capacity to love…a misfit really in Hollywood because he was genuine in an often phony world.
He died young at 65…having lived a life of the highest highs and the lowest lows…but always brought joy and beauty with his music.
We have been working on something special to mark and honor the half-century today since his passing. Perhaps more news tonight…if not, very soon. Stay tuned!
Our annual June club event celebrating the June birthdays of both Nelson and Jeanette will be held on Sunday, June 25 in Studio City at our normal meeting place, Sportsmans’ Lodge. Tickets are available at this link; we need reservations soon to be able to give an accurate headcount to the catering department. As always, these LA meetings are not to be missed!
Happy Valentine’s Day 2017!
And what a gift for you… I’m glad this is a secret no longer. At last you can watch a short clip of them on TV together. The film reel can is labeled that it was the 1957 Patti Page TV show, The Big Record. However, the actual clip looks to be from the previous year on The Lux Video Theater with Gordon MacRae. Either way… if you have read Sweethearts you understand what Jeanette and Nelson were like in public settings together where he got to “show her off.” Particularly in the 1940s when certain fans attended every radio show and scrutinized carefully every movement and catching of breath, every glance, every touch, Nelson’s attempts to kiss her in front of the fans. This tenderness and familiarity was obvious elsewhere, at parties or social engagements, when Nelson was giving a concert and pulled Jeanette on-stage with him, them just walking down the street together, or sneaking a kiss and embrace in a restaurant parking lot. Many eyewitness accounts are detailed in the book; now you have a chance to see for yourself what they were talking about.
And here I want to publicly give a HUGE shout out to Katie, Angela, Mary Lynn and Lynda who pulled off an amazing feat in obtaining this and whatever was left of the old Jeanette fan club holdings, including many personal items and record-keeping and files that had belonged to Jeanette. One has to wonder why Gene Raymond didn’t trash it all but shipped it instead to her fan club, presumably understanding that Clara Rhoades would bury any sensitive information forever that might have been overlooked. And he had already gone through it for “obvious” stuff that needed to be destroyed and done two rounds of purging from the storage units. I was told this by Clara Rhoades herself, when she asked my friend Diane Goodrich to secretly make copies of the 16 mm films Gene loaned her each year for their annual banquets. Gene was so ornery, Clara said, that she wanted back-ups in case Gene decided at the last minute not to let her screen Jeanette’s copies of her own films or other footage. And in the years I knew her, Clara particularly complained about The Big Record, which Gene held back despite her repeated requests to him to be allowed to show it. This was the case at least through 1977; after Mac/Eddy was founded Gene apparently had a change of heart about these TV shows because we were told by those still attending the Jeanette club meetings that the footage was screened at later events…but not frequently. If this indeed is Lux footage, it’s understandable why Gene held back with it and why Clara did not screen it very often. Just as with This is Your Life, you’d have to be totally oblivious not to see the electric current between them.
When these Jeanette auctions began, I saw quickly that there was much invaluable information to be had. We made a coordinated effort to obtain certain items since buying it all outright at the start seemed an impossible task. Some auction items looked innocent enough but stood out to me as necessary to win. This went on for many, many stressful months and was generally overseen for our group by Maria Escano. But many others helped safe-keep the collection and I am grateful to one and all who bid on and won auctions for our cause. There was only one item I learned of that I regret slipped past us, an outtake from Jeanette’s proposed autobiography in which she ‘fessed up to one failed pregnancy. But we have more than enough documentation about that and in the home stretch, Katie Gardner boldly pulled off a coup to seal the deal. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
I trust you appreciate the irony as once again, what others sought to cover up has come full circle and right back into the public eye where it belongs. Not hidden as though it’s something to be ashamed of, or to lie about. Once again it’s Nelson and Jeanette speaking from the grave, as it were. And those certain individuals who did loudly protest too much have had their legacy finally put into proper perspective. Yes, they were the keepers of the Jeanette-Gene, Nelson-Ann flame but maybe somewhere in the spiritual universe, even they – like criminals who willingly unburden by finally confessing their sins – are glad the charade is over. After all, they hoarded a house full of possessions so that in the end, the rest of the collection came into the hands of those who will properly care for it.
Katie posted the video and wrote her observations at this link. No reason to add more commentary; they say a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words then is a video worth, pray tell? Enjoy… you will want to watch it a few times… and bring kleenex!