Nelson Eddy died 55 years ago today. Let’s take a moment to reflect and his life and work.
He began his professional career at age 20 as an opera singer.
Hollywood beckoned and because he fell in love with his co-star to be in eight films, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson ended his opera career.
In Hollywood, he won numerous awards and became a star on radio…
… and in concerts and records, which made him the highest paid singer at that time.
But the biggest challenge in his life was not his career but the fact that he loved Jeanette…
… but was forced to marry Ann Franklin or risk scandal and blacklisting.
The Jeanette MacDonald Nelson Eddy romance was fraught with heartache, lost babies and emotional ups and downs. Nelson found solace in his music, his art and in nature. Still, he wore the tragedy on his face…
… and was only 65 when he collapsed onstage with a stroke, just two years after Jeanette’s death.
Below, from “New Moon”(1940). Today we celebrate Nelson’s life and artistry with a few glimpses precious moments on-film with Jeanette MacDonald. We will remember…
On November 1, 1963, Jeanette MacDonald signed her last will (though she added a short codicil in June 1964) and headed to Houston Methodist Hospital for a months-long stay. Look carefully at her name on the above hospital paperwork as part of her medical records: Mrs. JEANETTE RANDALL.
The address provided was an office one.
While more complete hospital paperwork attached to this was sold at the auction of Jeanette MacDonald’s papers in recent years, very early on in the 1970s, I learned that among the aliases that Nelson and Jeanette used together was the last name RANDALL. Yes, Nelson once jokingly made a hotel reservation for Jeanette (to meet him while he was on tour) under the comical name of Lucie Glutzenheimer, an example of his sense of humor.
But in general, they used more nondescript names. I was told Nelson didn’t use his real first name because it was too obvious. Yet I was told that they had financial matters together under the last name of RANDALL, including bank accounts. The folks I interviewed back then were not sure of what first name Nelson used with RANDALL but they said it was likely one of three family names that he often used as aliases: ACKERMAN, KENDRICK or ISAAC.
Years later I found among Nelson’s papers the script he wrote about the life of Feodor Chaliapin, in which he planned to star as the great basso. The screenwriter was named as “ISAAC ACKERMAN.” (And these sources didn’t know the existence of that script, by the way.)
More years passed, this hospital record using JEANETTE RANDALL finally surfaced and it was confirmed to me that Nelson used the name ACKERMAN RANDALL. So here is visual proof that the Randall surname existed in their world…
Below, Jeanette’s signed and dated will page, the very day that she flew to Houston. Soon after this, Nelson had to cancel his Australian tour for “health reasons”, hop on a plane and rush back to the US, where he was subsequently spotted in the Houston hospital visiting Jeanette. One wonders why, if Nelson was having throat problems as told to the press, a local Australian doctor could not have treated him. Instead, Nelson rescheduled the tour for 1964.
An amazing find! More than a year before their marriages (and joint honeymoon) in 1937, Jeanette MacDonald appeared as a guest on Mary Pickford’s radio show. They remained friends through the years; Mary and Buddy Rogers are pictured below at Jeanette’s funeral.
Listen to the broadcast here:
Thanks to Angie Schneider for posting an informative article about the show on her blog as well as the YouTube video.