Here is the June 2017 LA meeting video honoring Jeanette and Nelson. Thanks as always to Tracy Wilborn for putting our event video together so beautifully! We’ve come such a long way over these years, haven’t we?
We received an email from Joe Kennedy that you should find informative. Thank you, Joe!
Dear Ms. Rich,
I have followed your writings for some years and am always impressed by the diligence and dedicated research that you and your colleagues have made into the lives and careers of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. As someone who has done research for authors, I appreciate the difficulty of tracking down often-obscure sources.
I recently came across some information in a biography of Wilfred Jackson, a Disney director, that may be of interest to you. As I am sure you know, in 1946 Nelson Eddy recorded all the voices for a Disney short cartoon “The Whale who Wanted to Sing at the Met,” which was part of a compilation feature, Make Mine Music.
In 1959, Disney planned to use this short in an episode of the Disneyland television series on opera, and Wilfred Jackson was the director of the program. At some point in the planning stage, it was suggested that they bring in Nelson Eddy to host the show.
Jackson’s personal notes are reproduced in the book, and he records his excitement at the idea of working with Eddy. Mr. Eddy was apparently very busy in early 1959, and as a result, he was not able to meet with the Disney team for some months.
Finally, a date was set, and Nelson Eddy came to lunch at the studio with Walt Disney and the director. And after all the months of buildup, Walt Disney suddenly decided after lunch to drop the idea of using Eddy altogether, for reasons unspecified. He instructed the director to come up with another concept.
It’s too bad that it did not happen, as I imagine Nelson Eddy might have demonstrated the multi-channel recording equipment that enabled him to sing in harmony with himself.
In any event, I though you might like to have a copy of Jackson’s notes, which are transcribed in his biography and also reproduced in their original form. You will be amused at Jackson’s growing excitement and ultimate disappointment. it is a very slight bit of anecdotal information, but perhaps it will add to your existing knowledge about Eddy’s later career.
There is also another story about Disney and Nelson Eddy, which dates back to the 1946 recording sessions for the film. (I’m sorry but I do not have the source for this story handy. However, I will try to find it if you are interested.)
The director of the sequence, Ham Luske, was known to be completely tone deaf. He and Nelson Eddy played a joke on Walt Disney. When Disney sat in on one of the recording sessions, Nelson Eddy sang perfectly, but Luske kept interrupting him, telling him he was off-key, or that he hadn’t hit the right note. Eddy would apologize and do another take, again perfectly, and Luske would again ‘correct’ him.
Walt Disney sat watching this interaction with growing indignation, and finally stopped the director, telling him that Nelson Eddy is a great artist, and he had no right to try to criticize his performance. Everyone in the room burst into laughter, and Walt was furious that he had been made the butt of this joke. Supposedly he never forgave the director, and who knows, maybe that was an unconscious part of his decision to drop Nelson Eddy from the television program!
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.