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!
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 was labeled that this was the 1957 Patti Page TV show, The Big Record. However, the actual clip is from the previous year on The Lux Video Theater with Gordon MacRae.
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 this TV show 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. Now having watched this 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. Kudos to her for the sheer guts it took to make this happen! We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the footage (and a myriad of other items) is safe with those who will share it with the world rather than hide it.
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; her analysis is spot on. 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!