For those of you who have read the book “Sweethearts,” or have read our “Mac/Eddy Today” journal about the hideaway house located at 1330 Angelo Drive, high above Beverly Hills–well, now you have a chance to see the property in a wonderful documentary about screenwriter Frances Marion.
It’s airing on Turner Classic Movies at 3 am Eastern time, this Sunday morning, December 17. It’s called “Without Lying Down.”
Frances Marion, as you may remember, is of some interest for a few reasons. First, she did one of the screenwriting drafts on “Maytime.”
Second, Nelson dated her after Jeanette’s engagement to Gene Raymond. Nelson proposed marriage to Frances Marion a number of times but she turned him down for the last time…just before he started filming “Girl of the Golden West” with Jeanette.
Third: Frances Marion no doubt introduced Nelson to “Mists,” as the property once belonged to her!
“Mists” was originally known as “Enchanted Hill”, built for silent cowboy star Fred Thomson and his wife, screenwriter Frances Marion. Frances Marion sold it after Thomson’s death and in 1937 Nelson leased the separate, smaller building on the grounds that originally housed the six stable hands. Nelson remodeled the place for himself and Jeanette in “knotty wood” and nicknamed it “Misty Mountain” or “Mists” for short.
In the excellent documentary, there is some footage of the property. Of course, it is about a decade before Nelson was there but at least you get a glimpse of the grounds. Remember that the “Mists” was a separate building from the main house.
I recall that when we did a driving tour of Nelson and Jeanette’s homes a few years back, a couple of Nelson/Ann Eddy fans dropped out when our next stop was “Mists;” they met up with us later. (I saw a picture of Nelson with his wife in one of the woman’s wallets.) Seems they didn’t want actually drive to this house because it would mean having to admit that it existed! Well, yes, it does indeed exist!
Anyway, thought you might want to set your VCR or DVR to record the show, since it airs in the middle of the night. NOTE: the photo was taken by Google Earth and shows 1330 Angelo Drive as it looks today. The elevation, by the way, is 908 ft above sea level.
I have received several emails asking me whether or not I recommend the newly-published, updated edition of Eleanor Knowles’ The Films of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. I ordered it awhile ago, just received it in the mail, and took some time to read through it before responding.
The answer is yes, I recommend the book. I have always praised the first edition of her book as a very thorough “Films of…” book. The 2006 edition is like the 1976 one, but expanded with more information, movie credits and discography. If you like browsing through the movie website IMDB.com, reading all the technical details of casts and crews, extensive synopses of the movie plots, trivia, bloopers or all the songs in a particular film, etc., you will enjoy this encyclopedic volume. This book provides all that, in hardback, with a smartly designed cover and better photo reproduction than in the earlier version. Many of the photos will be familiar to the readers of our magazine (including a reproduction of our Anna May Wong bust sculpted by Nelson) but there are a few that may be new to you. The book is basically a reference tool. You will probably find yourself looking up a certain film to learn the name of a character actor or the title of a song, or browse through a particular movie that interests you, rather than sitting down and reading the entire book cover to cover.
As with most books, there are a few minor errors here and there. For example, Dugan states that the only “surviving” prints of Jeanette’s Fox films Oh, For a Man and Don’t Bet on Women are at the Modern Museum of Art in New York. This is false. We have prints of both films available for fans who want to see these curiosities. We also have the one remaining reel of Jeanette’s otherwise “lost” film, Annabelle’s Affairs, which folks can view on our TV Tape II. In fact, these films are on sale this month at a 20% discount, just click on the blue links above! For the most part, though, the book is very meticulous.
Having recommended the book, I will answer the next question that has been asked by several fans. In fact, I’ll quote an email here from Diane R: “Is this book a “good” one? Does it align with Sharon’s book on our stars? Or, is it an antithesis to Sharon’s book? I [Diane] have been asked about this book and really need an answer from our club. If Knowles’ book is truthful about their relationship, I’ll tell others and may even purchase it myself. However, I do not want to read anything contradictory to what Sharon has already researched. Anybody can view any of the Mac/Eddy films and see the love light in both their eyes, then watch the solo films and see the difference. So, please let me know about the Knowles book. I notice that her last name is Dugan. Is that significant?”
Eleanor Knowles (Dugan) is not a believer in any Jeanette-Nelson romance. As her book is almost solely about the films and not their private lives, she spends only about 5 pages discussing “their offscreen loves and marriages” in a 636-page book. She states that any hint of romance between Jeanette and Nelson was “a constant source of amusement to them both, for, while they were friendlier than most teams, they each had a very separate private life.” Dugan later states: “Both Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy married only once. Both were still happily united to their respective spouses when they died after twenty-seven years of marriage.” In her bibliography, she calls my book Sweethearts “an expansion of the fictional Farewell to Dreams.”
Well, if you can get past that without choking, you will still enjoy the rest of the book. After all, it’s really just about the films. Yet even in detailing them she occasionally does her readers a disservice. For example, it’s admitted that Girl of the Golden West “was planned as a Technicolor production.” But there’s no explanation as to WHY the color was dropped. Also, rather than acknowledging that the two stars weren’t together much onscreen, or seeing some connection in the fact that Girl was filmed after Jeanette returned from her honeymoon, Dugan instead writes about Nelson: “He is clearly uncomfortable in the heavier, more melodramatic sequences, and his makeup is singularly unattractive. MGM was so sure of the appeal of their property that they no longer were careful to work around his deficiencies.” No, I think that the facts show that it had very little to do with working around Nelson’s “deficiencies” and everything to do with timing, circumstances and Nelson’s frame of mind. After all, no one complained about his acting in Maytime’s “melodramatic” sequences.
A sharp reader will note in the chapter called “The Finale That Never Was,” Dugan devotes only one paragraph to a couple of 1940s Jeanette-Nelson film projects that fell through. She neglects to mention Crescent Carnival, a book that Jeanette optioned for them, Nelson’s own movie treatments for them which are readily available to see at U.S.C., or the two-picture deal that would have returned them to MGM in the late ‘40s. In the section about Follow the Boys (which Jeanette filmed at Universal), Dugan neglects to mention WHY exactly Jeanette went to that studio (answer: she joined Nelson after he finished Phantom of the Opera because they were supposed to make a film there together).
Dugan also devotes a paragraph to Jeanette’s radio work in the later ‘40s, but it’s all about “The Railroad Hour” with Gordon MacRae. The fact that she worked with Nelson several times, both on his radio show “The Electric Hour” as well as “Kraft Music Hall,” “Lux Radio Theater,” “Here’s to Vets” and others…well, that’s curiously omitted in this paragraph. As in Turk’s biography of Jeanette (which Dugan quotes from a number of times), this whole period of togetherness and effort to find a new niche for themselves is conveniently written out of history. All the above details are easily documented so it’s a shame and a loss to readers that they don’t get a full accounting of Jeanette and Nelson’s professional aspirations—as a team—during this time period. Instead, readers get a select and limited version of facts.
That said, I still recommend the book for what it is, a very thorough and informative study of their films. If you’re a Mac/Eddy fan, you probably want every book that comes out about them and this will be no exception.
Here is the link to order the book. I have one caveat for you: Amazon.com says it takes 4-6 weeks for delivery. Don’t order it thinking it will arrive promptly. These hardback books are printed to order but their manufacturing time is far lengthier than a softcover book. I noticed that Dugan gave her own publisher negative feedback on Amazon’s website. A word to the wise: it does take a few weeks for this book to arrive.
PS: Having given an honest review as a professional researcher, as a person I must note that any time I have praised or defended Dugan, it recoils back on me. I defended her in the UK well over a decade ago when we were both there at a Jeanette-Nelson convention and there was some displeasure from certain fans over her choice of lecture topic (the difference between US and UK video formats). I liked her when I first met her years earlier and we had a seemingly friendly written correspondence. It was her suggestion to have centerfolds in the club magazine, which I thought was an excellent idea. But in 1994, when Sweethearts was published, Dugan was involved in a campaign to place notices in my books found in bookstores, claiming the book was all fiction. She also wrote to the American Film Institute, where my book launch party was held, and where I was guest lecturer during a week-long tribute to Jeanette and Nelson. Her letter slandered me and was a vain attempt to have my appearance at the AFI cancelled. When the Irving Stone letters surfaced a few years ago, she slandered me to the owner in an attempt to stop him from working a deal with me to publish them. When she started a Nelson group/mailing list online some years back, folks asked me whether they should join it and I said why not, it’s always great for fans to be in touch with each other. Well, eventually I received some upset letters and phone calls from said people who had signed up for her list; they were now receiving slanderous phone calls about me, courtesy of Ken Richards, a friend of hers who stated he was calling on her behalf. So, if this kind of behavior offends you, you have been duly forewarned. I liken it to someone who seems nice and benign enough on the surface, then secretly stabs you in the back. If you’ve ever had people like this in your life, you’ll know what I mean. But personalities aside, you will still enjoy her book. Several fans have told me that they bought other Jeanette or Nelson biographies, read them once and then threw them in the trash. You won’t throw this one out.
I wanted to tell you about a new DVD entitled: "A Scandalous Affair."
Over the years, many talented singers have put together musical shows featuring the songs we love most—those sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in their eight classic films together.
I personally have attended several of these performances, or listened to the CDs. We have had many singers perform “the songs” at club meetings around the country…and will continue to do so. Some of these singers are truly excellent and always, hearing our favorite songs sung live adds an extra dimension to a club event. One listens…and can become lost in the music and memories. Still, the comments I often hear after such events are along the lines of…”It was great but how can anyone compare to the real thing.”
True. But since we can’t have the Real Thing here again, live in front of us (for those of you who were lucky enough to see Nelson and/or Jeanette in person), we have new generations of singers to carry on the torch. To keep the songs and the stars who sang them alive and vital.
That’s what is so startling about “A Scandalous Affair.” This live performance, filmed on Nelson’s birthday in 2006 before a sold-out theater audience of 800 people, is not only beautifully sung but has a smart script that rivets the audience’s attention from beginning to end. In fact, the audience reactions—stunned silence, gasps, laughter, grief—attest to how powerfully affecting this performance was.
“A Scandalous Affair” stars Hallie Neill and Theodore Lambrinos. Both have extensive opera careers; Lambrinos sang with the Metropolitan Opera. Added to this, Neill wrote a script adapted (with permission) from my book “Sweethearts.” Now, others have utilized my book for “the plot” but Neill has truly done a remarkable job. She doesn’t cram the story down the audience’s throat yet the highlights are stated in a forthright manner. Some of the dialogue is taken directly from quotes from the book, from diary entries or letters. These are powerful on the printed page but even more so when spoken aloud on a stage. Most amazing to me personally was a quote that Jeanette made to the press in 1935 after the release of “Naughty Marietta,” about the qualities in Nelson that made him a star. Listening to Neill SPEAK those words packed a real punch! What movie star of that period ever praised a co-star in such an intimate, knowing manner?
Neill also did an excellent acting job, channeling Jeanette as a career-driven woman trying to juggle unwanted passions. The performance is done with humor, cleverly breaking up the poignant moments. My favorite Neill number was “Isn’t it Romantic” because she captured the spunky, flirtatious Jeanette from her Paramount days. Neill also played for comedy the fact that some people didn’t take Jeanette seriously as an opera singer; then she knocked ‘em dead (as Jeanette did) with an awesome rendition of “Sempre libera” from “La Traviata.” For Lambrinos, I loved “Dusty Road” from “Let Freedom Ring,” but my absolute favorite was his displaying the operatic side of Nelson with the aria “Nemico della Patria” from “Andrea Chenier.” Lambrinos’ voice was magnificent and full of emotion, and one can see why the Met signed him. Overall, the choice of music was excellent and moved the story along.
As the show came to a close, Neill wisely left the audience understanding that despite any personal heartbreak, their lives were truly about the music. The magnitude of what they had to overcome to keep performing was no doubt a shocker for some in the audience. But I’m certain that the majority of those 800 folks walked out of that show with a new appreciation for what Jeanette and Nelson achieved in their lives.
The technical aspects of this DVD are excellent. Theta Media Group did a great job filming the show, even utilizing some split screens that are very effective. Also, the audience participation was important to this performance, and the viewer has a sense of being there and experiencing it live. The accompanist, Sandra Rohr, was wonderful as well.
I highly recommend you get this DVD. I watched it three times in a row just to appreciate how and why it works on several levels.
Here is the link to the website where you can purchase it: www.jeanetteandnelson.com. There is an 8 minute demo video and sound clips. The sound fidelity on their website is fine if you have good computer speakers or headphones, but it’s excellent on the DVD itself.
Be sure to email me after you watch it; I’m interested in your feedback as well.
With the holiday season upon us, here are two special mp3 treats that we have long-promised to give you: Nelson’s "Willie the Whale" and Jeanette’s "Cinderella." They’re great for kids of all ages! 🙂 Seriously,
playing them for your children or grandchildren is a wonderful way to
introduce new generations to Nelson and Jeanette. NOTE: They are each
about 15 minutes long so it will take a minute or so to download each
file. When you go to the links, you can "save page as" to save the
music directly onto your computer.
If you would like to also download the original artwork from these releases, I recommend a wonderful website that not only has the artwork (and same music but split into several smaller files) from these two albums, but from many children’s records that you may fondly remember. Check out their site here. Jeanette’s "Cinderella" is on the 2005 page, Nelson’s "Willie" is on the 2006 page.
It’s been confirmed that both The Merry Widow and San Francisco will be released on commercial DVD! I don’t have the exact dates but it appears to be soon! I will keep you posted as soon as I have a firm release date…as well as news regarding the 8 films together which certainly should follow…
Plus, there is an online petition that was set up in January. It allows you to sign up to urge Warner Home Video (who currently would hold the DVD rights) to release ALL the Mac/Eddy films on DVD. Thanks for Ashley Phipps for setting this up! Here is the link:
We have also set a new online petition to get an official MacDonald-Eddy postage stamp. Maybe this new tactic will be more successful??? You can sign it at the link below:
Jeanette’s song is, in our opinion, the one and only song about "San Francisco!" Listen to it <a style=”color: rgb(0, 0, 255);” href=”http://www.maceddy.com/san_francisco.mp3″>here at this link.</a><br />
Please note that Turner Classic Movies TV host and author Robert Osborne has interviewed dozens (maybe hundreds) of the older Hollywood stars, filmmakers and crews, and has his own sources for verifying data. Therefore, I share the excitement of those who have forwarded me the following from the recently published March TCM guide:
“March 2006 marks the first time in TCM’s 12-year history that we’ve celebrated two Stars of the Month in a single 31-day period but–considering the duo we’re honoring–how could it be otherwise? It would be virtually impossible to salute Jeanette MacDonald without her perennial singing partner Nelson Eddy, or stalwart Nelson without lyrical Jeanette. Their names became as inseparable to the public as cheese and crackers, champagne and bubbles, beer and pretezels; they’re certainly one of the handful of great teams from Hollywood’s golden age, right up there with Astaire & Rogers, Bogart & Bacall, Powell & Loy, Tracy & Hepburn…
Before and after the films I’ll also be talking about some of the stories that have always circulated about our Stars of the Month. it’s been said that Jeanette and Nelson were, at best, chilly friends in real life and, at worst, constantly feuding. Yet a recent book offers considerable proof they may have been secret lovers for years, only pretending to be happily married to others. To further cloud the picture, Jeanette’s been described by many as a charming beauty with a delightful sense of humor; others say she was the original Iron Butterfly; larky on the surface but with ice cubes running through her veins. One thing, however, is unmistakably true: few have held the interest or the enthusiasm of fans longer than these two. For years, a large and enthusiastic ‘Jeanette & Nelson Fan Club’ has existed, with regular annual meetings…
If you’re someone wholly devoted to Snoop Dogg, Beyonce of LL Cool J, you may wonder about the longevity and deep devotion of fans over the years aimed at the pair in our March spotlight. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if, once you’ve seen and heard them, you feel the magic and catch the Jeanette & Nelson fever yourself. Millions have.”
<br /><font size=”2″ style=”font-weight: bold;”><span style=”font-style: italic;”>Rise Stevens with Anna Moffo at the Metropolitan Opera Tribute!</span><br /><br />Our CafePress boutique has a new sale, free shipping on your order. Coupon code is: VDAYSHIP. To take advantage of it, <a href=”http://www.cafepress.com/maceddy”>click here or on the boutique link on our home page</a>. NOTE: If you order Mac/Eddy postage
stamps now, you will get the 39c stamps even though the picture still
shows the 37c stamps (the photos should be updated in the next day or
so). Apparently CafePress is still transitioning over to the new stamps and they are showing "temporarily out of stock" as of today.<br /><br />And
finally, due to several requests, we are going to try out an "easy pay"
system for the Nelson and Jeanette busts. If you pay by credit card and
note "easy pay" in the comment section, we will divide the cost into
three payments; only the first payment will go through when you
intially place the order, even though it shows the full purchase
price. This is a trial, so if you’re interested please take advantage
of it right away. I know I’ve said it before, but photos don’t do these
busts justice–they are quite startling "in person!" I’m reminded of
the time I actually lugged one of them to England for a meeting there,
and the people were so amazed at how lifelike Nelson was, some of them
lined up to give him a kiss! <br /><br />Now, other good news! If
you live anywhere near Washington, D.C. or can get there for the meeting, it’s
going to be super! And–if you’re coming from out-of-town, make it a
weekend and stay overnight so you can see Darryl Winston’s excellent
production of "The Merry Widow" Saturday evening after the club
meeting! Darryl can help you get an affordable hotel room in the area,
so call him if you need help with this at (202) 783-7600. You can
purchase tickets online for the club event at this <a href=”../index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=13&products_id=161″>link.</a><br /><br />And finally… Rise Stevens, Nelson’s co-star in <span style=”font-style: italic;”>The Chocolate Soldier</span>, is alive and well at 92, and was honored last week at the Metropolitan Opera. She’s pictured here (in a wheelchair but looking fabulous) with another opera diva, Anna Moffo. Thanks to Darryl Winston for sending this to us.</font><br /><a href=”http://www.maceddy.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=3_15&products_id=143″> </a>