January 14 is the anniversary of the passing of two MacDonald sisters. In life they were very close so it’s ironic that they both died on the same day but different years; Jeanette MacDonald in 1965, Blossom MacDonald Rock in 1978. Without Blossom’s friendship, we would not be here today. In the early 1970s when Hollywood secrets still could not be told, her viewpoint was: “My generation, we can’t talk about it. Your generation doesn’t care.”
Remembering them both today with love and respect.
What a difference in Nelson Eddy, so visible to see! In this short clip above of his appearance on November 30, 1952, we see a man who, as his mother used to comment when Jeanette was in his personal life, was “beaming like a headlight.” This is the change in his whole demeanor, voice and confidence when things were good between them.
Why is he so serene here? Let’s look quickly at the timeline. This show aired live exactly 18 days after Nelson had made a surprise last-minute appearance on Jeanette’s “This is Your Life” episode. Her reaction at seeing him was obvious to everyone, and her tears were probably even more obvious to him as it was to those viewing the episode.
But just before “This is Your Life,” this happened…
October 28, 1952. Nelson’s proposed TV pilot airs, “Nelson Eddy’s Backyard.” He has that weary sadness about him, being enthusiastic as he can be, but he doesn’t look happy. Watch it at the link below and notice Nelson’s own painting of Lake Tahoe on the wall behind him as he looks at the camera and sings “Wish You Were Here.” As we know, Lake Tahoe was so vital in his life with Jeanette; it’s where he proposed marriage to her before their relationship went south for a time.
November 12, 1952. Nelson is a surprise guest on Jeanette’s “This is Your Life” episode. For anyone under the impression that Nelson’s appearance was planned in advance, you can read the original script for this episode, reproduced in our Journal #72, that shows that Nelson was NOT planned to be part of this show. It was a last minute decision on his part.
As we have noted elsewhere in great detail, Jeanette struggles to keep her composure every time Nelson’s name is mentioned and she finally cries when he appears at the show’s end. They had been personally estranged and their separate personal lives stressful during this breakup. The complete show from Jeanette’s own collection, transferred from 16mm film is below. If you haven’t watched it, it’s necessary to view and see the various dynamics and different body language with both her husband and with Nelson. It tells you more about their personal lives than any written words could.
And next, on November 30, the video at the top of this page. Per Nelson’s interview comments, it was after their personal reunion in late 1952 that they sat down and tried to plan a professional (and personal) future together, ie, singing together in nightclubs. Nelson as we know went on to do this but it was too strenuous for Jeanette with her heart condition. Except for a short solo run, she bowed out of nightclubs. Whereas Nelson, of course, made a new career for himself, for literally the rest of his life.
In their films and now in their shows that have been surfacing in recent years, we see how they wore their hearts on their sleeves. It’s all there to see!
Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy rock! Their first film, “Naughty Marietta”, screened today on TCM and tonight the book “Sweethearts” is #1 on this Amazon best seller list! Amazon has it on sale and with Prime free shipping. It’s wonderful that folks are watching their films and learning more about their lives. Very humbling and thank you for your support! The Amazon ordering link is here. Those of you living outside of the U.S. should see similar sale prices on your Amazon websites as well. The book is always available from this website as well and can be autographed at your request.
Both Nelson and Jeanette were patriots and contributed heavily to the WWII war effort. But just before that, Nelson started in “Let Freedom Ring”, a story close to his heart. Originally they were scheduled to star together in this film as a sequel to “Naughty Marietta” in 1935! Great message, no overdone makeup, gorgeous voice, gorgeous hair. No Jeanette but the patriot in Nelson loved this and it’s one of his best solo films.
On June 29th, the 122nd anniversary of Nelson Eddy’s birth, some excerpts from an article in Progress Magazine, March 1937. “I want to live a good life gracefully, a life as nearly as possible in harmony with the universe, with life, with the Creator. I want to help others do the same. I want to seek and welcome the truth, no matter through whom it comes or how many times I am compelled to lay aside preconceived opinions. I want to do what good I can as I go along. I want to bring cheer, comfort or inspiration to someone every day. I want to find my own soul and fulfill my own destiny by using the capabilities that I find within myself.”
Hollywood Blvd, June 2023. It was a joy to meet old and new friends in person for the first time since 2018. Post-Covid, it was time to catch up and see the changes in the Jeanette/Nelson local landmarks. Fans came from as far away as Australia; several had never been to Los Angeles before. Over a long weekend, some of the landmarks and homes were visited including the following:
Lake Tahoe, an advance trip by 3 ladies who trekked to the location where “Indian Love Call” was filmed in 1935 for “Rose Marie”. The famous split tree has been cut down…
… and they only found 2 totem pole pieces remaining in town.
“Mists”: The converted cowboy bunkhouse on the property set apart from the main property was remodeled by Nelson and used as a hideaway house for himself and Jeanette from the 1940s onward. It burned down in the 1961 Bel Air fire but the main house still remained until Paul Allen bought the property and demolished everything. In the years since we last visited, a new house was completed, the driveway redone and the old mailbox removed. The new look:
The old entrance, pre-Covid:
Twin Gables as it looks today; the empty pad is where the house once stood.
Below, Ann Franklin’s home at 718 N. Maple when she married Nelson. He technically moved in there until the house he had planned to build for Jeanette and himself on Halvern was completed. Back in the day, this house was shrouded from public view with all bushes as it still is today.
Meanwhile, since his mother and Ann did not get along, Nelson moved his mother into the former Lawrence Tibbett beach house on the same street as Thelma Todd’s nightclub. There was an upstairs studio apartment with a private entrance (on the right side of the photo below) and a 360 degree view and walkway around it. Nelson camped out there to get some space, peace, quiet and reflection on his new life. It looks the same today except the house, formerly a soft peachy pink, has been painted white.
Nelson’s last home with Ann, in which they had two separate wings plus Nelson had a detached artist’s studio, has continued to deteriorate. When we visited and spoke with the owner in 2018, he wasn’t certain whether to renovate, sell or raze the property, as it was worth more as a vacant lot than with Nelson’s home on it. As of 2023, it appears he reached his decision, per the notice on the front door.
The house itself, perhaps a last look:
This is just a sampling of the places visited, plus our luncheon at the Smoke House in Burbank proved to be an ideal new location for us, although we totally filled their largest meeting room!
We welcomed old friends like director Woody Van Dyke’s grandson and wife, and new guest speakers sharing insight into the lives of Jeanette and Nelson.
More on the events and guest speaker interviews in the next issue of the Mac/Eddy Today magazine.
Join us to celebrate the June birthdays of Jeanette and Nelson! We have a private room at the Smoke House in Burbank, new guest speakers and some interesting memorabilia none of us have seen before; luncheon includes a choice of 4 entrees and a special birthday cake! The restaurant opened in 1946 and is famous for prime rib and amazing garlic bread! Jeanette and Nelson ate there, as did most of the Hollywood stars of the day. It’s across from Warner Bros. studios so remains popular with industry folks today. Price includes food, our private room and everything except alcoholic drinks which can be ordered from your server. Details:
Date: Sunday, June 25, 2023
Location: The Smoke House restaurant, 4420 W Lakeside Dr, Burbank
Time: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm
Our entree choices include one of the following:
Pasta Primavera (vegetarian)
Click here to get your ticket(s)! There’s limited seating so please reserve now.
ALSO: those interested can join us the day before, on Saturday morning, June 24, for an all-day driving tour of Jeanette and Nelson’s homes (including “Mists”). There’s no charge for this but if you’re interested, please note that when you make your reservation in the “order notes” section.
For anyone coming from out-of-town and needing an affordable hotel for the weekend: We have reserved a block of rooms at a discount rate. You MUST mention that you’re with the Mac/Eddy group to get the special rate (give them the code “SNR” or “maceddy”) and it’s recommended that you make your reservation quickly before the rooms are gone. The hotel price includes a full breakfast:
Holiday Inn Express 22617 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills
Group code: maceddy or SNR
On June 18th, her 120th birthday… some interview quotes:
“I have worked terribly hard… maybe even much harder… than I should have. And you only find this out after you can look back at your experiences and see why you should have accepted things more instead of pushing, as I am sure I did. ”
“So much of my life zooms back at me as being a little ornery…. I guess there isn’t much I haven’t done. But … I think I missed having children. That’s the biggest order I never filled. It just wasn’t in the cards, I guess.”
“I never realized… how much … movie stars mean to people. Not what you do or what you say but just your presence, your being there. It makes you feel embarrassed and rather humble and happy all at once. To be able to bring that much pleasure to people makes me a very lucky woman. Very lucky.”
Nelson Eddy died on this day after suffering a massive stroke onstage the night before, while singing in Miami. He never regained consciousness. Gale Sherwood, his singing partner for 14 years during Nelson’s nightclub years, later detailed an unusual occurrence right after he passed, as she was leaving the hospital. “As I walked numbly into the sunlight, I looked up and saw two beautiful white doves soaring off into space. Nelson loved doves and as they flew above me, I said, “There he goes!” I’ll never, never see a small white bird and not think of dear Nelson flying away.” Question: Why TWO doves? Who was the other one?