I’ve been reading about Mary Astor’s battle for custody of her daughter. I now have a better understanding of the “moral climate” in the 1930s. Of course, there were many in Hollywood and elsewhere (especially in the arts) who simply functioned happily in their own moral climate — including the movie moguls who enforced the contractual morals clause. But it seems clear that the courts and much of public opinion and fandom were quite conservative. As I also consider the situations involving Fatty Arbuckle, Charles Chaplin and Ingrid Bergman, I recognize that Jeanette and Nelson were wise to stay under the radar with their affair, especially once they were stuck in their marriages.
Had they married each other, I suspect they would have stuck it out, despite their volatile natures. Look how they endured their dreadful marriages! My guess is that LB didn’t want them married to each other because he knew together they would resist his obsession with Jeanette — NOT that the partnership meal ticket would fail if they divorced.
I realize you haven’t time to respond to email messages, but wanted to give you a little something to help Mac/Eddy folks understand some of the reasons J and N behaved as they did. (Ego, pride and stubbornness of course being factors.)
Thanks, Karla; I emailed you back. I knew Mary Astor in her last years as she was at the Motion Picture Home. She kept much to herself, didn’t like to socialize with the others eating in the group dining room for those who had their own cottages. In “real life” her personality seemed more like her characters in The Great Lie or The Maltese Falcon. I still remember how silent comedienne Babe London tried to get Mary to laugh and socialize; she and her husband could get anyone to laugh but had little success with Ms. Astor.
Re: Jeanette and Nelson, they seemed to have an ongoing struggle with the “God’s laws” vs “Man’s laws.” They exchanged private marriage vows at Lake Tahoe while filming Rose Marie and considered themselves married in God’s eyes. They fully expected to follow that up at some point with legal paperwork and a legal marriage. That they could never totally achieve that within the laws of the United States, and that their love was viewed by many as “adultery” was very painful for them. As quoted in Sweethearts, Nelson wrote in 1946: “…our love is very different from other couples – partly because it is a holy thing and then it has been made perfect on an altar of suffering….Our marriage, to me, is a thing of such dignity and beauty that its lovely nights of sweet passion are a glorious string of pearls sent by the angels to bless us and I shall love you through all eternity.”