We missed this one when it was published last year but it’s very complimentary to Jeanette and Nelson:
….While many moviegoers instantly fell in love with Greta Garbo’s husky, Swedish accent in her 1930 “talkie” debut Anna Christie, MGM and Garbo’s favored leading man, John Gilbert, didn’t fare as well. A combination of his flat, affected delivery, high tenor voice and subpar recording equipment of the time made this once celebrated sex symbol of the 1920s box office poison.
Two actors of the day who faced slightly different, yet equally challenging adjustments, were Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. The two were crossover acts — singers, who transitioned from the live venues of opera houses, to actors, starring in motion pictures; Eddy, an accomplished, classically trained baritone, and MacDonald, a stunning beauty and talented soprano with a three-octave range. Between 1935 and 1942, the two singers would star in eight successful movies together, each incorporating their vocal talent with a commanding screen presence as well as an exceptionally natural comedic ability.
It’s difficult to pin down a single production by either artist to spotlight as their “best”. Nelson Eddy had nearly 30 successful opera performances under his belt before his appearance in film, in addition to various TV/radio appearances and albums throughout his career. Jeanette MacDonald was quite accomplished in her own right, having a successful run on Broadway before her film career and, like Eddy, a noteable catalog of recordings. Furthermore, is there such a thing as a “bad” Jeanette MacDonald movie? In my opinion, there simply is not.
With many fans of Eddy and MacDonald, the movie Maytime remains an all time favorite. Taking into consideration the outstanding musical performances in this film, as well as the undeniable chemistry these two shared, it’s one of my favorites as well. ….The intimate connection these two shared was unmistakable. Scenes such as these would be fodder for Hollywood gossip, for decades to come. …This performance is one of Eddy and MacDonald’s best collaborations, and of great significance to anyone who’s familiar with Nelson and Jeanette’s real-life, 30-year, on/off again, alleged affair. In “Czaritza”, the two pour their hearts out to one another, lamenting a union which cannot be. As the number climaxes and comes to a close, a tear falls from Nelson’s eye as he embraces Jeanette. To whom did this tear belong, Nelson or the Czar? Was the Czarina grieving…or was Jeanette? This aspect of Eddy and MacDonald’s relationship is an entirely different story, an offshoot to two extraordinary careers of very interesting personalities. Movie buffs who’re interested, may find the book Sweethearts by Sharon Rich an intriguing read. Other notable performances in Maytime for suggested viewing would be Nelson Eddy’s comical rendition of Ham and Eggs, Jeanette’s interpretation of the Leo Delibes classic Les Filles de Cadix and the duo’s soulful Carry Me Back to Old Virginny. Whether you’re a fan of musicals, operettas, or movie classics in general, Maytime is a must-see. Young and old fans alike, may you always “remember the day”.