NOTE: This book is out of print as of November 2017 and is no longer available to order.
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!
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.”
They were close in life and both died on the same day, January 14, but thirteen years apart.
In a world where Jeanette had very few confidants she could trust, much less any family members who supported her in her love of Nelson Eddy, Blossom was the caring, non-judgemental sister who only wanted to see her sister and Nelson happy.
Jeanette MacDonald died young in 1965, at age 61, after suffering for years with a bad heart.
Blossom MacDonald Rock passed in 1978 at age 82. She survived a stroke in 1966 and with her positive attitude toward life, was feisty and energetic for over a decade.
Is it ironic that the sisters died on the same day? Perhaps not; in the life story of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy one finds are many ironies, too many to be thought of as coincidence.
We remember them with love today.
January 13, 1946 was the date that Nelson introduced “My Wonder One” for the first time on radio. He wrote the lyrics, Ted Paxson put it to music. The fans were stunned at hearing him sing it as the lyrics were rather graphic, such as: “I feel your thrilling vibration.” We’re pretty certain Nelson wasn’t referring to Jeanette’s voice!
In fact, to understand what was happening in their relationship at that time, here are some events that directly preceded Nelson singing this very intimate song on national radio. As discussed in Sweethearts, on December 16, 1945 Jeanette was Nelson’s special guest on his radio show. He and Jeanette were also discussing returning to MGM to co-star in Reunion in Vienna. The following week just before Christmas, Nelson and Jeanette hosted a private dinner at their hideaway home on Angelo Drive with Gene Raymond and Jeanette’s PR gal, Helen Ferguson in attendance. From a letter quoted in Sweethearts (© 2014):
The night of the dinner, Jeanette was nervous and upset about something and was, for whatever reason, too high-strung to share in the meal. Nelson insisted that she eat and when she still wouldn’t, he cut up her food and spoon fed her like a child. Helen Ferguson watched this in silent amazement. After dinner she told Gene, “I’ll never get over that sight,” to which Gene replied, “Think nothing of it; that’s been going on for years.”
It’s likely that Jeanette was hoping to “soften up” Ferguson, who apparently disapproved of the current scene. Perhaps Jeanette and Nelson intended to make some upcoming public announcement; we don’t know these details.
For Christmas Day, they hosted another private party at the same location; Gene was there along with Jeanette’s sister Blossom and her husband Rocky, Nelson’s mother Isabel and “Aunt” Gertrude Evans, one of Nelson’s early benefactors who was visiting from the East. In another book excerpt, Isabel Eddy described the goings-on:
Blossom wore a blue gown, Jeanette one of the new dinner gowns Nelson had given her, a flowing affair with loose sleeves in a deep golden color that set off her hair to perfection. She was breathtaking. In her face this day was nobility, great courage and hope and she must now give it to this man who seldom could take his eyes from her face. At the end of the day, she asked me to leave her alone with her boy for the next two days. She must take him in her arms, must bring to him the promise of life, must give him the refuge he needed.
Nelson was apparently in a highly emotional and lovesick phase with Jeanette, so perhaps this sheds more insight on why he would sing about “My Magic You” not three weeks later.
In fact, you will note that his voice goes slightly sharp when he is most emotional in the song. We have come to recognize that pattern, listen to his “Symphony” (again with his own lyrics for her) sung on the Bob Hope Show, his “Rose Marie” from that show, etc.
Thanks to Anne Billingsley for posting this rare treasure. And thanks to Angela Messino for explaining that this is a longer version with better sound than we’ve heard before; Angela writes: “I believe the longer version is from the AFR recorded version which is clearer.”
The above candid shot from Maytime certainly captures Jeanette at an off-moment but still the photo is fascinating as it shows the complexities of their relationship at that time. Jeanette was engaged to Gene; Nelson was miserable but here, just sitting and being close to her, his hand behind her, he is content; he is “at home”; she is still the center of his universe. Behind them is the famous tree that in December 1936 was the backdrop for a night of passion when both stayed late at the studio, confronted each other and Jeanette – forgetting all about her fiance Gene Raymond, threw herself at Nelson and demanded what they both craved. Nelson would still brag about her seduction of him years later; it’s detailed in Sweethearts. The blur between their onscreen characters and real life was at its height. But the aftermath was a few weeks of being “in lust” with each other while in-between they tried to plan a future together. She was willing to dump Gene and stop working such a grueling schedule so she could be the wife and mother Nelson envisioned for his family. But she didn’t feel it right for him to insist she give up her career altogether and it was on this point that stubborn Nelson lost her again. If you have read the book you know they lived to regret their decisions. But such was the drama of their lives.
It is easy to fix blame on one or the other and at different points of their story, I myself have been angered and tempted to reach back into history, grab each culprit by the scruff of the neck and shake some sense into them. Hindsight is useful to being objective as a biographer but to those who love one or the other or both, it can also be very painful.
This is where compassion is needed. Because one can be angry with Jeanette since she made Nelson’s life hell for four-plus years when all the poor guy wanted from Day 1 was to marry her. All the “good reasons,” her career, her mother, Mayer’s threats, Nelson’s quirks and human failings…in the end it all was meaningless to her after January 19, 1939.
And her rejection scarred Nelson so that he was emotionally needy and to some degree unstable in trying to work through it and forgive and continue on with the swings of their life and love.
As for Jeanette, she talks in her autobiography about Gene’s lousy childhood and how it scarred him, and how she had to deal with the effects of that…but of course, in that book much of what she says in a heartfelt manner could also (or instead) be talking about Nelson. Even in not being fully honest about Gene, we still learn a lot about how compassionate was her basic nature.
When I think of Jeanette in her last, failing years, I see a similarity to the recent Carrie Fisher-Debbie Reynolds tragedy. The documentary “Bright Lights,” released right after their deaths (one day apart), shows a mother-daughter relationship of very deep, obsessive love despite sometimes annoyance, hate and even estrangement. There are comparisons to the Jeanette-Nelson love relationship in the give and take. Debbie Reynolds was an over-possessive mother in that she wanted to oversee and orchestrate everything; Nelson could be over-possessive and smothering with Jeanette as well. Despite both their feisty personalities, Reynolds and Fisher were never able to cut the umbilical cord. This is how it was told me to me about Jeanette and Nelson; no matter what they were never able to cut the “umbilical cord”.
Looking at the last footage of Reynolds in that heartbreaking documentary, you see her very frail and ill, with barely enough strength to stand up and walk, her mind not as razor sharp although the fast wit is still there. She is more like a “normal” person in failing health, but it hurts to see her so because after all, she is Debbie Reynolds! She is not a mere “mortal” but an MGM star and damn it, she’s going to pull herself together and put on her makeup and gown, walk onto the stage and accept a SAG Lifetime Achievement Award! Manage to say a few words then walk off that stage with all the dignity, grace, energy and charm of a movie queen. It’s ingrained in her even as it was for Jeanette in trying to pull herself together for Nelson in those last years so he wouldn’t see her as old and sick (as she saw herself). Anyway, I highly recommend watching “Bright Lights”; it’s free to watch if you have access to HBO.
One must also have compassion in understanding Nelson particularly in the last years. While he initially thought Jeanette would outlive him (which is why he began writing up for her a journal of intimate details of their love life in the mid 1940s), by the end of the 1950s it was very apparent that would not be the case. He had to steel himself for that inevitability and also learn how to survive afterwards.
To better understand his challenges, in our upcoming two magazines (out soon, stay tuned!) we will feature some family history documentation possibly not familiar to you that helps us understand the background of Nelson’s emotional strengths and frailties. Such as the document below:
Knowledge is understanding. And when you study at this young man below, you can observe someone for whom life has already not been easy. And who would be inclined to have trust issues, family issues, a need for stability and constant proof of devotion. So…keep in mind that Nelson and Jeanette left an amazing legacy of art and love. I recommend that – hard as it may be at times – to keep a viewpoint of compassion for what these people went through to bring us these treasures.
Thanks to Maria Escano for the photo of young Nelson.