If there was one thing to know about Nelson Eddy, it was that the man had tremendous energy. He was known for his stamina in many areas. He was an Energizer type of guy who – up till literally the moment that he dropped while singing onstage – seemed indestructible.
This was a guy who sang 14 encores at a concert – no biggie.
In his last years, he would sing 2 shows a night and sometimes perform during the daytime at a charity or promotional event – no biggie.
There were times in Jeanette MacDonald’s last years, when she was upset or ill or he was worried about her, and he’d hop a plane in the morning and fly to her for a few hours, then fly back to wherever he was supposed to perform and go on that evening as though nothing unusual had happened that day.
He painted and sculpted and wrote songs and re-wrote lyrics…and penned who-knows-how-many pages of writings…so well-written and stylish that he could have had a fifth career after opera – films – concerts – radio – nightclubs – as an erotic romance writer. The man was a prolific artist. Plus he wrote his nightclub act, several movie treatments and scripts…there was no stifling the guy.
There are women who can attest to the stamina he had in other ways…well into his later years.
Despite his usually gentle nature and boyish enthusiasm which remained with him till his final day, he suddenly and rapidly began to age. This was after the death of Jeanette MacDonald. In two years, he went from hanging onto “middle age” into looking like an old, beaten man. He had always been so robust, the one person everyone could count on; he would have to practically be on his deathbed to cancel a performance, he was that much a consummate professional.
Which makes it all the more poignant to see this photo – a casket with his body in it being carried away from his funeral.
It seems so out of context and so wrong to imagine that Nelson Eddy could have finally fallen.
Jeanette MacDonald’s death was a long time coming; she had a bad heart and had a slow decline. Her sister Blossom said that the last 20 years of her life was borrowed time. But Nelson Eddy? His own father outlived him, his mother lived a long life too…for him to age almost overnight and to literally drop dead 2 years after Jeanette, he had to drive himself into a early grave. Which he did.
“He drank himself to death,” was Blossom’s take on it but it was more than that. Nelson drank… but his unhappiness, suffering and tragedy and a loveless, toxic marriage beat down his soul.
“He won’t outlive me by long, ” predicted Jeanette…and she was correct.
In this video footage you will see Gene Raymond speaking about Nelson’s great energy and the shock to realize that this life force is gone. Pallbearer Lloyd Nolan tried to put some truth there (and expressed genuine grief) by mentioning Jeanette and the magic that she and Nelson had together in their films. (Gene Raymond is pictured below.)
It is interesting to see a somewhat emotionless Ann Eddy and more emotional Gale Sherwood walking together to the car after the service, considering that Ann resented her husband’s “mistress. ”
By the way, some folks have asked me whether Jeanette’s sister Blossom was at the funeral. I checked with someone who was there and she said no. Obviously Blossom was still recovering from her stroke and probably would not have been able to attend.
In this final chapter of Nelson’s story, we once again owe a huge thank you to Katie and Angela who arranged to get this archive video footage and make it available for your viewing pleasure. Unless you have worked hard on finding and procuring research of this type, it may difficult to understand how much time, money, effort, sweat and tears go into a project like this. Angela took on the task of preparing the videos and also adding one of their songs to each of them to top off sad footage on a high note, you might say. And once again Katie has done a great job voicing the outrage that any decent human being would feel when presented with facts such as we have in the Jeanette/Nelson story. Katie’s blog link is here and the video is below.