Nelson Eddy: A life in pictures (June 29, 1901- March 6, 1967)
Nelson Eddy died 55 years ago today. Let’s take a moment to reflect and his life and work.
He began his professional career at age 20 as an opera singer.
Hollywood beckoned and because he fell in love with his co-star to be in eight films, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson ended his opera career.
In Hollywood, he won numerous awards and became a star on radio…
… and in concerts and records, which made him the highest paid singer at that time.
But the biggest challenge in his life was not his career but the fact that he loved Jeanette…
… but was forced to marry Ann Franklin or risk scandal and blacklisting.
The Jeanette MacDonald Nelson Eddy romance was fraught with heartache, lost babies and emotional ups and downs. Nelson found solace in his music, his art and in nature. Still, he wore the tragedy on his face…
… and was only 65 when he collapsed onstage with a stroke, just two years after Jeanette’s death.
Below, from “New Moon”(1940). Today we celebrate Nelson’s life and artistry with a few glimpses precious moments on-film with Jeanette MacDonald. We will remember…
Alias confirmed: Nelson and Jeanette… Randall?!
On November 1, 1963, Jeanette MacDonald signed her last will (though she added a short codicil in June 1964) and headed to Houston Methodist Hospital for a months-long stay. Look carefully at her name on the above hospital paperwork as part of her medical records: Mrs. JEANETTE RANDALL.
The address provided was an office one.
While more complete hospital paperwork attached to this was sold at the auction of Jeanette MacDonald’s papers in recent years, very early on in the 1970s, I learned that among the aliases that Nelson and Jeanette used together was the last name RANDALL. Yes, Nelson once jokingly made a hotel reservation for Jeanette (to meet him while he was on tour) under the comical name of Lucie Glutzenheimer, an example of his sense of humor.
But in general, they used more nondescript names. I was told Nelson didn’t use his real first name because it was too obvious. Yet I was told that they had financial matters together under the last name of RANDALL, including bank accounts. The folks I interviewed back then were not sure of what first name Nelson used with RANDALL but they said it was likely one of three family names that he often used as aliases: ACKERMAN, KENDRICK or ISAAC.
Years later I found among Nelson’s papers the script he wrote about the life of Feodor Chaliapin, in which he planned to star as the great basso. The screenwriter was named as “ISAAC ACKERMAN.” (And these sources didn’t know the existence of that script, by the way.)
More years passed, this hospital record using JEANETTE RANDALL finally surfaced and it was confirmed to me that Nelson used the name ACKERMAN RANDALL. So here is visual proof that the Randall surname existed in their world…
Below, Jeanette’s signed and dated will page, the very day that she flew to Houston. Soon after this, Nelson had to cancel his Australian tour for “health reasons”, hop on a plane and rush back to the US, where he was subsequently spotted in the Houston hospital visiting Jeanette. One wonders why, if Nelson was having throat problems as told to the press, a local Australian doctor could not have treated him. Instead, Nelson rescheduled the tour for 1964.
Jeanette on Mary Pickford’s “Parties at Pickfair”
An amazing find! More than a year before their marriages (and joint honeymoon) in 1937, Jeanette MacDonald appeared as a guest on Mary Pickford’s radio show. They remained friends through the years; Mary and Buddy Rogers are pictured below at Jeanette’s funeral.
Listen to the broadcast here:
Thanks to Angie Schneider for posting an informative article about the show on her blog as well as the YouTube video.
Jeanette MacDonald & Blossom Rock remembered
Today marks the anniversary of the passing of Jeanette MacDonald and her sister Blossom Rock. Blossom died 13 years to the day after Jeanette, having watched her sister’s success fade somewhat in the industry and in the younger generations who knew of Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and a handful of others still “hip” in Hollywood’s memory.
We now know the off-screen reality of the lives of both Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were so very different than the public ever knew (although many suspected). Thank you, Blossom, for speaking up, not wanting her sister “to be forgotten”.
Nelson Eddy’s reaction to Jeanette’s death:
An interview with Blossom some months after Jeanette’s death:
Jeanette and Nelson’s last TV appearance together:
We’ve uploaded several other youtube videos of Jeanette and Nelson in recent months with more to come, so please subscribe to our channel to keep updated!
We continue to remember… with love.
Betty White, 99, a lifelong Jeanette & Nelson fan
“I didn’t like Jeanette MacDonald, I WAS Jeanette MacDonald. She was my idol of all… and Nelson Eddy. They were as important in my world almost as my mother and dad.”
This quote is from beloved comedienne Betty White who passed away today, New Year’s Eve, just 17 days short of her 100th birthday. A devout Jeanette MacDonald fan, below is another quote from the 2018 TV interview: “Betty White: First Lady of Television.”
“With all performers, somebody comes along and makes them want to be a performer. In Betty’s own life, Jeanette MacDonald was everything to Betty. Betty actually began doing a test for television in 1939. She wore her dress from graduation in high school and Betty sang a Jeanette MacDonald song.”
She wasn’t shy about mentioning her admiration for them in interviews over the years. When our group first formed in late 1977, she was one of our first celebrity members and her letter to us was quoted in our magazine #2!
She wrote: “Was delighted to hear that you are working on behalf of all admirers of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. They were so important to me as I was growing up, and I am sure I wouldn’t have become interested in becoming a performer had I not been such a devout fan of theirs. Years later, I had the privilege of meeting them both on several occasions, and got to know Miss MacDonald quite well. They were both as fine in person as I had always thought them to be.”
She brought a lot of laughter over the years to each new generation! R.I.P. Betty White.
Jeanette & Nelson 2022 calendar released!
Our new 2022 calendar is now available at this link! The beautiful, glossy 11 x 8.5″ calendar includes new glossy photos not used before inside the calendar, as well as dozens of interesting, informative and fun dates, facts and events in the lives of Jeanette and Nelson! Once again, Don Schumann has designed a wonderful cover!
Poetic Memories – A new Nelson Eddy – Jeanette MacDonald book release!
Today, Thursday, July 15, 2021, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy film festival beginning at 6:30 am Eastern time, screening 7 of their 8 films together!
In honor of this event, we released a new 8-book series entitled Poetic Memories. It’s a Limited Edition, only available on this website, wire bound books, 11×8.5″, totaling over 300 pages, printed on glossy paper with unique cover photos for each book and color photos on every page. Click here for more details and to order the book series.
Here for example is a poem by Nelson to Jeanette:
“I shall perhaps want you to lose all prudence for awhile,
To give me the wine of the Gods many times.
Till I am drunk with its charm and sweetness.
That I may remember for all the ages, the fiery passion of you.
And never forget the passing of this hour.”
From the back cover blurb, copyright ©2021 by Sharon Rich, all rights reserved:
“He is waiting for you, out there on the cool night scented terrace, and you go to his arms aching for his love – this boy you once thought was not worth giving up a career for.” – Nelson Eddy
“Poetic Memories is a compilation of eight scrapbooks lovingly compiled in the 1940s by a fan with an inside connection to Nelson Eddy’s mother, Isabel. The original scrapbooks are reproduced in color. Each page features vintage magazine or greeting card clippings to complement a quote from the writings of Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald or his mother’s unpublished memoirs. If you have read the biography Sweethearts by Sharon Rich, you may recognize some of the quotes, but many more are revealed here for the first time.
“Most of Nelson’s quotes come from private diaries he wrote for Jeanette, often describing their intimate moments in graphic sexual detail, often in Victorian style. Nelson wrongly expected Jeanette to outlive him as he was seriously injured during WWII and later nearly died of pneumonia. He called his journals “insurance” to keep memories of their passion alive for Jeanette when he was gone. After his marriage to Ann Franklin in 1939, Nelson had kept a room at his mother’s residence and set up a “shrine” to Jeanette MacDonald, his singing partner and off-screen love. Over the years he filled the room with his own artwork: nude drawings, paintings and sculptures of Jeanette. In the mid 1940s, Isabel began writing her memoirs and snooped into her son’s private papers, including Jeanette’s letters to Nelson. Perhaps unwisely, Isabel shared much of this very intimate information with a close friend. Isabel was eventually caught when lengthy pages of Nelson’s writings were copied and leaked to the wrong people. While publicly forced to deny their veracity, Nelson was personally angry and felt betrayed. He moved his collection out of Isabel’s house and distanced himself from her as a confidante. From a historical perspective, even though the poetic memories were never meant for public view, they and hundreds of letters providing insight into these years were miraculously not destroyed.”
These books are scanned from the original scrapbooks, 75+ years old; some were in near-mint condition, others partially crumbled when opened to scan. Below is a sample page from Volume 5, which contains a quote from a Jeanette letter obviously written to Isabel Eddy, as Isabel shared the letter. It’s not clear whether the photo accurately reflects the bracelet Jeanette is referring to but we do have written documentation that, according to Isabel, Nelson gave Jeanette over a million dollars worth of jewelry over the years. Here is Jeanette’s quote:
“I think he feels a great happiness knowing that I will wear this gift of his for all the world to see – and yet not know – that it brings him so close to me that our love will live in every song I sing. ‘They have been wet with my tears,’ he said, “Touch them whenever you need me and I will be there.'”
Again, the link is here for the new book series.
Happy 120th birthday, Nelson Eddy!
Today marks the 120th birthday of Nelson Eddy, in his day the highest paid singer in the world and the biggest crossover singer from opera to movie star!
In honor of his birthday, here are four new YouTube videos. In the first interview, we hear Nelson say he loves Jeanette MacDonald and thinks she loves him. Even though it’s said in an offhand way, and he also says he sees Jeanette “all the time,” there’s a definite effort from Jack Paar to get more, even to (jokingly) ask about Jeanette’s legs.
In the second video, Nelson sings a duet with Dinah Shore then a wonderful rock ‘n roll duet of “Shortnin’ Bread” with Frankie Avalon. Even at age 60, Nelson’s voice overpowers both singers.
The third and fourth videos are sadder, from the last weeks of his life. Nelson helps usher in 1967 singing with Gale Sherwood on Guy Lombardo’s live show…
And then the final footage covers his last Australian tour, the first months of 1967. When he returned stateside, not even three weeks later he suffered a fatal stroke onstage while singing.
A curious comment was made by Gale Sherwood, Nelson’s nightclub act singing partner, of an observation just after Nelson’s death in the Miami hospital. She wrote: “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.” Gale said she felt shocked, surprised and wonderful at spotting the doves and just knew it was Nelson’s spirit leaving this world. There’s more of her comments in this magazine but one has to ask – why were there TWO doves flying away together?
Happy birthday, Jeanette MacDonald!
In honor of Jeanette MacDonald’s birthday today, below are links to two of her later interviews.
In the first one, she discusses the release of her record album with Nelson Eddy, “Favorites in Hi-Fi.”
In the second YouTube video, Jeanette discusses the frustrations of writing her ill-fated autobiography.
Note that the unfinished typewritten manuscript with Jeanette’s handwritten notes was finally annotated and published in 2004; more on the back story of what happened after this interview can be read here.