Nelson Eddy, once the highest paid singer in the world, died 48 years ago today. A man who fiercely guarded his private life, he took his last bow in a most public manner and place. The night of March 5, he was in Miami performing his nightclub act. He was about to sing a solo number which, unbeknownst to his audience, was a “private moment” that he took in each performance to sing a number that was a special message to the woman he had loved and lost two years earlier, his 1930s co-star Jeanette MacDonald. This night, he tried to begin the song but according to the audience member eyewitness account as quoted in Sweethearts:
He…kept on talking and holding on to the left side of his face which I believe seemed to be getting numb. He said that he couldn’t seem to get the words out and that this had not happened to him before and would we, the audience, bear with him. All this time he held onto the mike and was slowly walking towards the band. He asked if there was a doctor in the audience as he felt sick…
Nelson asked his accompanist to play another song, saying that maybe the words would come back to him.
Those were the last words he spoke. A massive stroke felled him, he was taken to the hospital and died the next morning, March 6, 1967, without regaining consciousness.
Photos and newsreel footage of his funeral can be seen here.
Photo from the Maria Escano Collection