…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!
Two new magazines are shipping next week! Plus important news:
For those of you who last year paid for membership through issue #74 (or are Lifetime Members), you will automatically receive these in the mail. Depending where you live on the planet, you can expect to receive them around the end of this month. However: If you are a member and prefer to receive a digital magazine instead that you can immediately read on your tablet, computer or phone, please go to the Contact Us page and email us; this is an alternative option.
Any non-members wanting to purchase these magazines can buy them individually (shipping costs apply); click here or on the pictures above to reach the links. Again, if you prefer a digital edition and want to save shipping costs, this may be an option for you. Note this in the ordering “order notes” section at checkout and the shipping charges will be manually deducted before your card is charged for them (no matter what the shopping cart shows). The cover price is $20 per magazine whether printed or digital. You will need a free Kindle app to read it.
People are asking when they should renew for 2017. The time is now; technically for this year, 2017, we will be later issuing two magazines: #75 and #76. Anyone wanting to receive those should use this link which will provide your membership or renewal. Again, please note in your ordering “order notes” section whether you prefer printed or digital editions. You do not have to be a member to order anything from this website. The benefit is that you receive these two magazines without having to pay shipping; additionally, we will be setting up a “members only” section on this website later in the spring with special member benefits. Please note that our publishing two magazines per yearly membership will allow us to continue the high quality publication despite rising printing rates and shipping rates, particularly for our members outside of the U.S. (For example, flat rate global priority to ship two magazines is currently over $35 in some countries!) To keep the club self-sustaining, that is barely viable since printing costs + shipping today just about break even with a membership – and only in the US. It doesn’t take into account rising postage costs or other operating expenses, including this website.
So this year is a test to see how many of our readers still want printed magazines as opposed to digital; I welcome your feedback, not only on the magazines but as we tweak our website/membership to finally catch up with 21st century technology! It may be that going forward, a membership will include two digital editions per year plus some other benefits or discounts, and people can order printed magazines if they wish. Again, I ask for your feedback as we sort out the best way to adjust. If you have problems with ordering or using the site or questions about any of the above, please email us with the Contact Us link above. Since I have been traveling, that is the most efficient way to reach us at the moment.
Enjoy the new magazines!
As the numbers dwindle each year of those people who were alive to see the on-screen magic of Jeanette and Nelson when their movies together were first released, it’s interesting to note how many fans realized this wasn’t “acting” even then. Today, younger generations experiencing the films speak right up and say “of course!” But back then while a romance was rumored, it was loudly denied by both the studio. And later the tabloid press in the post-MGM years kept quiet, as reporters were paid NOT to leak the story. – Sharon
dear friends it is such a short time since i’ve been to your wonderful page and i miss u all so much. i just watched the jean and brian aherne love story [Smilin’ Through (1941)] that transcends almost all love stories except that of jean and nels our dear sweethearts who carry springtime in their hearts past life itself to beyond time. this is such a touching story and film that renders tears from even the hardest soul whether in heaven or hell. i guess my age makes me even softer than i was when a young boy reaching into manhood and saw this wonderful movie oh so very many years ago. you’re right, sharon, their love story far reaches in the very, very souls of any human who is both loving and understanding in life and its tribulations. i love them both he for singing and being so wonderful all those magical years of togetherness, and sadly the fruits of their love perished in a couple of ways, children and patience. it wasn’t till it was far too late that their minds and bodies were ready once again to venture into a final and lasting love that would have endured the essence of life itself. ah sweet mystery of life at last i found you, only to lose you due to sad mishaps and turmoil that besieged us. your essence still lives and will never be forgotten for as long as people and lovers exist throughout eternity, dear hearts. but take pleasure that your hearts live in all the hearts of warm-hearted people who, once touched by in your movies of stories, will never forget and never be the same. xo
I’ve been reading about Mary Astor’s battle for custody of her daughter. I now have a better understanding of the “moral climate” in the 1930s. Of course, there were many in Hollywood and elsewhere (especially in the arts) who simply functioned happily in their own moral climate — including the movie moguls who enforced the contractual morals clause. But it seems clear that the courts and much of public opinion and fandom were quite conservative. As I also consider the situations involving Fatty Arbuckle, Charles Chaplin and Ingrid Bergman, I recognize that Jeanette and Nelson were wise to stay under the radar with their affair, especially once they were stuck in their marriages.
Had they married each other, I suspect they would have stuck it out, despite their volatile natures. Look how they endured their dreadful marriages! My guess is that LB didn’t want them married to each other because he knew together they would resist his obsession with Jeanette — NOT that the partnership meal ticket would fail if they divorced.
I realize you haven’t time to respond to email messages, but wanted to give you a little something to help Mac/Eddy folks understand some of the reasons J and N behaved as they did. (Ego, pride and stubbornness of course being factors.)
Thanks, Karla; I emailed you back. I knew Mary Astor in her last years as she was at the Motion Picture Home. She kept much to herself, didn’t like to socialize with the others eating in the group dining room for those who had their own cottages. In “real life” her personality seemed more like her characters in The Great Lie or The Maltese Falcon. I still remember how silent comedienne Babe London tried to get Mary to laugh and socialize; she and her husband could get anyone to laugh but had little success with Ms. Astor.
Re: Jeanette and Nelson, they seemed to have an ongoing struggle with the “God’s laws” vs “Man’s laws.” They exchanged private marriage vows at Lake Tahoe while filming Rose Marie and considered themselves married in God’s eyes. They fully expected to follow that up at some point with legal paperwork and a legal marriage. That they could never totally achieve that within the laws of the United States, and that their love was viewed by many as “adultery” was very painful for them. As quoted in Sweethearts, Nelson wrote in 1946: “…our love is very different from other couples – partly because it is a holy thing and then it has been made perfect on an altar of suffering….Our marriage, to me, is a thing of such dignity and beauty that its lovely nights of sweet passion are a glorious string of pearls sent by the angels to bless us and I shall love you through all eternity.”