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Encyclopedia > Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald

Jeanette MacDonald (June 18, 1903January 14, 1965) was a singer and actress best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s with Maurice Chevalier (Love Me Tonight, The Merry Widow) and Nelson Eddy (Naughty Marietta, Rose Marie, and Maytime). In the 1920s, the petite redhead sang and danced in Broadway musicals. In Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s, she starred in 29 feature films, two nominated for Best Picture Oscars, and recorded extensively, earning three Gold Records. She also appeared in grand opera, concerts, radio, and television. A cropped image from the book cover of Jeanette MacDonald Autobiography: The Lost Manuscript, deemed fair use. ... June 18 is the 169th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (170th in leap years), with 196 days remaining. ... 1903 (MCMIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... January 14 is the 14th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1965 (MCMLXV) was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1965 calendar). ... French singer Maurice Chevalier with stars of Helizapoppin at Expo 67, in Montreal, Quebec. ... Nelson Eddy Nelson Ackerman Eddy (born June 29, 1901; died March 6, 1967) was an American singer and film actor. ...


In the first years of sound films, Jeanette MacDonald starred in sophisticated sex comedies, introducing hit songs like “Beyond the Blue Horizon” while displaying her ladylike charms in lacy lingerie and sunken marble bathtubs. But in the mid-1930s, two things happened simultaneously that threatened to put an end to her film career. First, the restrictive Motion Picture Code went into effect, banning boudoir comedies and scanty costumes. Second, the rise of Nazism in Europe began to close the lucrative overseas markets that Hollywood had always counted on for making their more urbane films profitable.


Jeanette might have headed back to Broadway except for a wonderful happenstance. To keep her earning her salary while new Code-approved vehicles were prepared, MGM quickly trotted out a time-filler, an old-fashioned lace-valentine operetta called Naughty Marietta. Perhaps they hoped its title might suggest a continuation of her risqué hits, and early posters showed her hoisting her ruffled 18th-century skirts to her knees.


It was to be a quickie affair. Victor Herbert’s 1910 operetta was utterly outmoded by cynical, hardboiled Depression standards. Jeanette’s leading man was an unknown young opera singer named Nelson Eddy. The director was W.S. Van Dyke, noted for fast-paced action and adventure films. This unlikely combination collided almost accidentally on a movie soundstage, and the sparks ignited a nation. Amazingly, the tumultuous critical and public reception to Naughty Marietta brought an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and launched a series of hit film musicals that would forever link Jeanette’s name to that of her costar, Nelson Eddy.

Contents


Early Years

Jeanette Anna MacDonald was born June 18, 1903 at her family's Philadelphia home at 5123 Arch Street. She was the youngest of the three daughters of Daniel and Anna Wright MacDonald. At an early age, the fledgling prima donna graduated from tap dancing in front of the mirror to dancing lessons with Al White, and from imitating her mother's opera records to singing lessons with Wassil Leps. She eagerly performed at church and school functions, and began touring in kiddie shows.


Broadway

In November of 1919, Jeanette joined her older sister, Blossom, in New York and managed to land a job in the chorus of a deluxe "tab show"—a mini-musical presented between showings of a feature film at first-run theatres—directed by prominent choreographer Ned Wayburn. (This revue introduced George Gershwin's song "Swanee.") During the next 10 years, she made the most of her assets—enormous determination and stamina, a sweet voice, a melting gaze, a dainty ankle, and a cloud of red-gold hair—and worked her way up from the back row of the chorus to starring roles.


1919 - Ned Wayburn's The Demi-Tasse Revue, a musical entertainment presented between films at the Capital Theatre on Broadway, a member of the chorus.


1920 - Jerome Kern's Night Boat, a chorus replacement.


1920 - Irene, on the road, as the second female lead. (Future film star Irene Dunne played the title role during part of the tour.)


1921 - Tangerine, as one of the "Six Wives." Julia Sanderson starred.


1922 - Fantastic Fricassee, as a featured singer in a Greenwich Village revue. Good press notices brought her a role in...


1923 - The Magic Ring. Jeanette played the second female lead in this long-running musical which starred the famous Mitzi [Hajos]. Reviewers picked Jeanette out for praise.


1925 - Tip Toes, a hit with songs by George Gershwin. Again, Jeanette had the second female lead, supporting star Queenie Smith.


1926 - Bubblin' Over, musical version of Brewster's Millions, starring Cleo Laine and Cecil Lean. Jeanette was still the second female lead.


1927 - Yes, Yes, Yvette, with Jeanette finally starring in the title role. Planned as a sequel to producer H.H. Frazee's No, No, Nanette, the show toured extensively but failed to please the critics when it arrived on Broadway. Nevertheless, when Jeanette was appearing in Angela the following year, film star Richard Dix spotted her and had her screen-tested for a film version, Nothing but the Truth. Unfortunately, the Shuberts wouldn’t let her out of her contract to appear in the film, which starred Dix and Helen Kane, the “Boop-boop-a-doop girl.”


1928 - Sunny Days, her first show for the producers Lee and J.J. Shubert. Jeanette played the lead and drew rave reviews.


1928 - Angela, in title role. Critics panned the show which costarred Eric Blore, later a frequent supporting player in Astaire-Rogers’ film musicals.


1929 - Boom Boom, with Jeanette's name above the title. (Cast included young Archie Leach, who later changed his name to Cary Grant.)


In 1929, the brilliant film director Ernst Lubitsch was looking through old screen tests of Broadway performers and spotted Jeanette. He cast her as the leading lady in his first sound film, The Love Parade, which starred the continental sensation Maurice Chevalier. Fortunately, both she and this first of her 29 feature films were enormous hits.


Hollywood

In the first rush of sound films, 1929-30, Jeanette starred in 6 films, the first 4 for Paramount Studios.


Love Parade, 1929, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, a landmark of early sound films. Jeanette played the virgin Queen Louise of Sylvania, who must marry for reasons of state. A handsome scalawag (Maurice Chevalier) wins her heart, but all does not go smoothly. The first recordings Jeanette made were two hits from the score: “Dream Lover” and “March of the Grenadiers,” music by Victor Schertzinger and lyrics by Clifford Grey. These songs that enjoyed great popularity at the time and were still used as background music in other Paramount films into the 1950s.


The Vagabond King, 1930. A lavish 2-strip Technicolor film version of Rudolf Friml’s hit 1925 operetta. Broadway star Dennis King reprised his role as 15th-century French poet François Villon and Jeanette was Princess Katherine. She sang “Some Day” and “Only a Rose.”


Paramount on Parade, 1930. A Paramount all-star revue. All studios issued similar mammoth sound revues to introduce their formerly silent stars, now talking and singing, to the public. Jeanette’s footage singing a duet of “Come Back to Sorrento” with Nino Martini was cut from the release print.


Let’s Go Native, 1930. A nonsensical desert island screwball comedy directed by Leo McCarey. Cast included Jack Oakie and Kay Francis.


Monte Carlo, 1930. Another highly regarded Lubitsch classic, with British musical star Jack Buchanan as a count who disguises himself as a hairdresser to woo a scatterbrained countess (Jeanette). Jeanette introduced “Beyond the Blue Horizon” by Richard Whiting and W. Franke Harling, which she recorded three times during her career.


The Lottery Bride, 1930. Jeanette went to United Artists to make this primitive misfire with music by Rudolf Friml. It was one of the glut of really bad musicals that turned the public against the genre, so that theatre marquees would proclaim: “This is NOT a musical!” Her leading man was English tenor John Garrick, who later starred in the UK film version of the popular British musical Chu Chin Chow.


Oh, for a Man!, 1930. The first of three films Jeanette did at Fox Studios. Jeanette portrays an opera singer who sings the Liebestod by Wagner and falls for an Irish burglar played by former silent comedy star Reginald Denny.


Don’t Bet on Women, 1931. Playboy Edmund Lowe bets his happily married friend Roland Young that he can seduce Young’s wife, Jeanette.


Annabelle’s Affairs, 1931. A delightful farce with Jeanette as a sophisticated New York playgirl who doesn’t recognize her own miner husband, played by Victor MacLaglen, when he turns up 5 years later. Highly praised by reviewers at the time, but now sadly only one reel survives.


One Hour with You, 1932, reunited Chevalier and Jeanette back at Paramount with director Ernst Lubitsch, although George Cukor took over when Lubitsch needed to finish another film. The title song by Richard A. Whiting and Leo Robin became a standard. Maurice and Jeanette are the happiest of married couples—until her best friend (Genevieve Tobin) comes to visit.


Une Heure près de toi (One Hour Near You), 1932. Simultaneously filmed French-language version of One Hour with You, with Chevalier and Jeanette doing their dialogue in French. French-speaking actors played the subordinate roles, with Lili Damita replacing Genevieve Tobin. Currently, there is no known surviving print of this film.


Love Me Tonight, 1932. Rouben Mamoulian directed this gem, considered by many film critics and writers to be the ultimate film musical. Chevalier is a humble tailor in love with Princess Jeanette. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote the original score, which included the standards “Mimi,” “Lover,” and “Isn’t It Romantic?” Much of the story is told in sung dialogue.


The Cat and the Fiddle, 1934. Louis B. Mayer lured Jeanette to MGM, which was just beginning to focus on musicals. Jerome Kern’s 1931 Broadway hit was purchased as a vehicle for their new diva and Ramon Novarro (Ben Hur) played her love interest. The score is wall-to-wall classics: “One Moment Alone,” “The Night Was Made for Love,” “She Didn’t Say ‘Yes’,” “I Watch the Love Parade,” “A New Love is Old,” and “Try to Forget.” Censorship mid-filming made the story very odd indeed.


The Merry Widow, 1934. Director Ernst Lubitsch reunited Chevalier and MacDonald at MGM in a lavish and superb version of the classic 1905 Franz Lehár operetta. Lorenz Hart wrote English lyrics for the ravishing Lehár melodies. Adored by critics and operetta lovers, the film failed to generate revenues in the American heartland, where it was deemed too sophisticated. In the kingdom of Marshovia, the womanizing Danilo (Chevalier) is ordered to woo and marry his country’s richest citizen, the Widow (Jeanette), so she won’t move to Paris and take her money with her. In a deft plot brimming with sexual tension, they spar, come together to the irresistible strains of “The Merry Widow Waltz,” separate, reunite, then separate again. Finally, the waltz works its magic for a happy ending. The film was highly regarded by critics and operetta lovers in major U.S. cities and Europe, but failed to generate much income outside urban areas.


La Veuve Joyeuse, 1934. Simultaneously filmed French-language version of The Merry Widow, with some minor plot changes. (The French version is less politically satirical.) Jeanette and Chevalier repeated their roles, with a different French-speaking supporting cast. Identical sets and costumes were used, with each scene filmed twice, first in one language, then the other. Non-speaking performers were identical, and a few actors, like the two stars, were able to do their roles in both languages. Otherwise, a French speaker was substituted, for example, Marcel Vallée for Edward Everett Horton.


Naughty Marietta, 1935, directed by W.S. Van Dyke. Jeanette’s first film teaming with newcomer baritone Nelson Eddy was a huge hit. Victor Herbert’s 1910 score, with songs like “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” “I’m Falling in Love with Someone,” “’Neath the Southern Moon,” “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” and “Italian Street Song,” enjoyed renewed popularity. To escape an odious arranged marriage, French princess Marie (Jeanette) flees in disguise to the New World, where she falls in love with a rugged frontier scout (Nelson). The themes of starting a new life in a new country and love triumphing over corruption struck a powerful chord with American audiences. The film won an Oscar for sound recording and received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It was voted one of the Ten Best Pictures of 1935 by the New York film critics, was awarded the Photoplay Gold Medal Award as Best Picture of 1935 (beating out Mutiny on the Bounty, which won the Oscar), and, in 2004, was selected to the National Registry of Films. Jeanette earned Gold Records for “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” and “Italian Street Song.”


Rose Marie, 1936, is probably one of Jeanette’s best-remembered films. She and Nelson Eddy sang Rudolf Friml’s “Indian Love Call” to each other in the Canadian wilderness (actually filmed in California) Eddy’s definitive portrayal of the steadfast Mountie became a popular icon. When the Canadian Mounties temporarily retired their distinctive hat in 1970, photos of Nelson in his Rose Marie uniform appeared in thousands of U.S. newspapers. Jeanette plays a haughty opera diva who learns her kid brother (Jimmy Stewart) has killed a Mountie and is hiding in the northern woods. She goes to help him escape and is followed by Eddy, who knows who she is. Ultimately, he must decide between his love for the sister and his duty to bring in the brother to hang.


San Francisco, 1936. W.S. Van Dyke directed this tale of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, with Jeanette as a hopeful opera singer, Clark Gable as the he-man proprietor of a Barbary Coast gambling joint, and Spencer Tracy as his boyhood chum who points up the moral messages. The earthquake footage remains unrivaled, even in this age of special effects. The title song by Bronislau Kaper and Gus Kahn remains popular today and is the official song of the city. Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Spencer Tracy), Best Director, Best Original Story (Robert Hopkins), Best Assistant Director (Joseph Newman). On the “Ten Best” lists of the New York Film Critics and Film Daily. Winner of Photoplay's Gold Medal Award, 1936.


Maytime, 1937, is regarded as one of the best film musicals of the 1930s. “Will You Remember” by Sigmund Romberg brought Jeanette another Gold Record. The New York Times thought Maytime “the most entrancing operetta the screen has given us….it affirms Nelson Eddy's preeminence among the baritones of filmdom.” Again, Jeanette is an opera diva. On the night of her greatest singing triumph at the court of Louis Napoleon, she agrees to marry her mentor (John Barrymore). But then she meets a starving voice student (Eddy), and, despite her resolve, they fall in love. They separate, and she becomes a dutiful wife. Then fate brings them together years later on an opera stage, where their passionate duet makes them realize their mistake in parting. Only a fiercely jealous husband stands in the way of their happiness—.


The Firefly, 1937. With real-life Americans rushing to fight in the ongoing revolution in Spain, this historical vehicle was constructed around a previous revolution in Napoleanic times. Rudolf Friml’s 1912 stage score was borrowed and a new song, “The Donkey Serenade,”added. Jeanette is a Spanish spy trying to prevent a French invasion of Spain. She encounters and falls in love with a dashing Spaniard (Allan Jones) who is actually a French spy. Who will betray whom? This was Jeanette’s first solo-starring film at MGM with her name alone above the title.


The Girl of the Golden West, 1938, had an original score by Sigmund Romberg and reused the popular David Belasco stage plot that was also employed by opera composer Giacomo Puccini for La Fanciulla del West. Jeanette is the chaste and spunky Girl who runs a Colorado saloon and looks after the miners and their gold like a sister. A notorious bandit in disguise (Eddy) comes to rob her and instead falls in love. When the sheriff (Walter Pidgeon) is going to hang the bandit, the Girl plays poker for his life—and cheats.


Sweethearts, 1938, was MGM’s first 3-strip Technicolor feature, integrating Victor Herbert’s 1913 stage score into a modern backstage story scripted by Dorothy Parker. Jeanette and Nelson are a husband and wife Broadway musical comedy team who are offered a Hollywood contract. How can their producer (Frank Morgan) keep them in New York? A delightful comedy, it won the Photoplay Gold Medal Award as Best Picture of the Year.


Broadway Serenade, 1939. Seeing that the recent operetta cycle was bound to end, MGM attempted to craft an entirely contemporary story for their diva. Jeanette and Lew Ayres (Young Dr. Kildare) play a musical couple who clash when her career flourishes while his flounders. Choreographer Busby Berkeley, just hired away from Warner Bros., provides a bizarre, almost risible over-the-top finale.


New Moon, 1940, was one of Jeanette’s most popular films. Composer Sigmund Romberg’s 1927 Broadway hit provided the plot and the songs: “Lover, Come Back to Me,” “One Kiss,” and “Wanting You,” plus Eddy’s rousing “Stout Hearted Men.” A French aristocrat, Marianne (Jeanette), returns to her home in New Orleans on a ship that is also carrying prisoners to be sold as bond servants. One of the criminals, Charles (Nelson), is actually an aristocrat who has escaped execution for sedition in France by being arrested and deported under a false name. Naturally, the couple meet and fall in love on the ship, but when they land, she discovers that the man she thought was a ship’s officer is actually a bond servant who has just been bought by her New Orleans overseer. Charles is now her slave for life. The bond servants revolt and escape, seizing the ship on which Marianne is trying to return to France. They all end up on a deserted island, where the proud lady must now learn to obey a new master, her former slave.


Bitter Sweet, 1940, was a Technicolor film version of Noël Coward’s 1929 stage operetta. A repressed English girl elopes with her Viennese singing teacher and finds both the bitter and the sweet in Vienna, where they are menaced by a Prussian officer (George Sanders). The love theme was “I’ll See You Again,” and Jeanette performed in a lavish production number of the haunting “Zigeuner.”


Smilin’ Through, 1941. This 1919 stage play had been filmed a number of times. Its theme of reunion with deceased loved ones was enormously popular after the devastation of World War I, and MGM reasoned that it should resonate with filmgoers during World War II. Jeanette played a dual role—Moonyean, a Victorian girl accidentally murdered by a jealous lover, and Kathleen, her niece, who falls in love with the son of the murderer. Jeanette’s real life husband, Gene Raymond, played the dual roles of the murderous rejected suitor and the murderer’s son who turns up a generation later to court the niece. Brian Aherne played the fiancé of Moonyean who becomes the guardian of Kathleen. Public domain music was used.


I Married an Angel, 1942, was adapted from the sophisticated Rodgers & Hart stage musical about an angel who loses her wings on her wedding night. The script by Anita Loos suffered serious censorship cuts during filming that made the result a muddle. Jeanette sings “Spring Is Here” and the title song. It was the final film made by the team of MacDonald and Eddy.


Cairo, 1942. Jeanette’s final film under her 7-year MGM contract was a snappy spy comedy, a victim of an unfortunate title because it was released just after an important war conference in Cairo. The audience expected a serious film. Robert Young (Father Knows Best) is a small-town reporter who (wrongly) suspects diva Jeanette of being a Nazi spy. Broadway star Ethel Waters played Jeanette’s singing maid. The score was borrowed from a failed 1937 Broadway musical, Hooray for What, by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.


Follow the Boys, 1944. Most musicals made during World War II were long on song and dance and short on plot. Universal put together an all-star extravaganza about Hollywood stars entertaining the troops. The more than 40 guest stars included the Andrews Sisters, Marlene Dietrich, W.C. Fields, Artur Rubinstein, Dinah Shore, Sophie Tucker, and Orson Welles. Jeanette is shown during an actual concert singing “Beyond the Blue Horizon” and in a studio-filmed sequence singing “I’ll See You in My Dreams” to a blinded soldier.


Three Daring Daughters, 1948. After 5 extremely busy years of “war work,” concerts, opera, and radio, Jeanette returned to MGM to play her first mother role in a delightful comedy produced by Joseph Pasternak. José Iturbi is her love interest. Jeanette plays a divorcée whose lively daughters (Jane Powell, Ann E. Todd, and Mary Eleanor Donahue) keep trying to get her back with her ex, while she has secretly remarried. The film was a social landmark in that, ignoring the restrictions of the Code, it depicted a happily divorced woman who was not required to return to her wayward husband or suffer and die. (The frequency of divorce following the millions of hasty World War II marriages undoubtedly contributed to this new attitude.) “The Dickey Bird” song made the Hit Parade.


The Sun Comes Up, 1949. MGM teamed two of their top female stars, Jeanette and Lassie, in a melodramatic enlargement of a touching short story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. A widow (Jeanette) who has lost her son becomes involved with a gangly orphan boy (Claude Jarman Jr.). Lloyd Nolan turns up late in the film to create an instant family. The final shot is of Lassie barking happily at the outcome.


An annual poll of film exhibitors listed Jeanette as one of the ten top box-office draws of 1936, and many of her films were among the top 20 moneymakers of the years they were released. During her 39-year career, Jeanette MacDonald earned two stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame (for films and recordings) and planted her diminutive feet in the wet cement in front of Graumann’s Chinese Theater.


After Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy left MGM in 1942, there were several unrealized films that would have reunited the team. Eddy signed with Universal in 1943 for a two-picture deal. The first was Phantom of the Opera and the second would have co-starred MacDonald, who had left MGM after him. She filmed her two scenes for Follow the Boys then both stars severed ties Universal, as Eddy was upset with how Phantom of the Opera turned out. Among their later other proposed projects were East Wind, Crescent Carnival, a book optioned by MacDonald, The Rosary, the 1910 best seller (which Nelson Eddy pitched for a 1948 team comeback at MGM), and two movie treatments written by Eddy, "Timothy Waits for Love" and "All Stars Don't Spangle." In 1954 Eddy pulled out yet another proposed team film to be made in England when he learned MacDonald was investing her own funds. He had invested in 1944's Knickerbocker Holiday, had lost money. The title character as depicted by Lon Chaney, Sr. ... The title character as depicted by Lon Chaney, Sr. ... East Wind Community, founded in 1973, is an intentional community located in the Missouri Ozarks. ... The Rosary by Florence L. Barclay, new introduction by Sharon Rich and comments by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy The Rosary is a book by Florence L. Barclay, originally published in late 1909. ... Knickerbocker Holiday was a Broadway musical written by Kurt Weill (music) and Maxwell Anderson (book and lyrics); it was directed by Joshua Logan. ...


Concerts

Starting in 1931 and continuing through the 1950s, Jeanette did regular concert tours between films. Her first European tour was in 1931, and she sang to great acclaim in France and England. Throughout the next three decades, she did frequent U.S. tours between films. She sang several times at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.


When America joined World War II in 1942, Jeanette was one of the founders of the Army Emergency Relief and tirelessly raised funds on concert tours. She would auction off encores for donations and raised over $100,000 for them. She also did command performances at the White House for both President Truman and President Eisenhower.


Recordings

Jeanette recorded more than 90 songs during her career, working exclusively for RCA-Victor in the United States. She also did some early recordings for HMV in England and France while she was there on a concert tour in 1931. She earned three Gold Records, one for an LP album that she did with Nelson Eddy in 1957.


Critic J. Peter Bergman writes of her work: “Whether singing the sophisticated, brittle, and edgy songs from her Paramount films with Chevalier or the romantic exercises from her MGM operettas, Jeanette could always be relied upon to provide a mini-masterpiece. There was no need to see her to be aware of her facial expressions. They were present in her voice. You can still see them now, listening to her recordings. Even if you’ve never seen a filmed moment, her smile can be heard. Likewise her frown. When she rolls her eyes, it is there in her voice. Her expressive vocal gestures are far more French and much more seductive than her Philadelphia upbringing would lead us to expect.”


Opera

Like Grace Moore and Rosa Ponselle before her, Jeanette was a Broadway star who yearned to enter the rarified world of grand opera. In 1940, she began training for this goal with her usual self-discipline and tenacity, studying with one of the leading opera divas of the day.


“When Jeanette MacDonald approached me for coaching lessons,” wrote famous diva Lotte Lehmann, “I was really curious how a glamorous movie star, certainly spoiled by the adoration of a limitless world, would be able to devote herself to another, a higher level of art. I had the surprise of my life. There couldn’t have been a more diligent, a more serious, a more pliable person than Jeanette. The lessons which I had started with a kind of suspicious curiosity, turned out to be sheer delight for me. She studied Marguerite with me—and lieder. These were the ones which astounded me most. I am quite sure that Jeanette would have developed into a serious and successful lieder singer if time would have allowed it.”


Jeanette made her opera debut singing Juliette in Roméo et Juliette in Montreal at His Majesty's Theatre (5/8 & 5/10/43), quickly repeating the role in Ottawa and Toronto. Her American debut with the Chicago Lyric Opera (11/4/44, repeated 11/11 and 11/15) was in the same role. She also sang Marguerite in Faust with the Chicago Lyric Opera. In November 1945, she did two more performances of Roméo et Juliette and one of Faust in Chicago, and two Fausts for the Cincinnati opera. On December 12, 1951, she did one performance of Faust with the Philadelphia Grand Opera (Academy of Music).


Claudia Cassidy, Chicago’s high priestess of criticism, wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “Her Juliet [sic] is breathtakingly beautiful to the eye and dulcet to the ear. Her voice is slender, a little reedy, but sweet, and she uses it delicately with a sensitivity that accents the drama of the music.”


Radio & TV

Jeanette's extensive radio career may have begun on a radio broadcast of the Publix Hour, 9/28/29. She was on the Academy Awards ceremony broadcast in 1931. She hosted her own radio show, Vicks Open House, from September 1937 to March 1938, for which she received $5,000 a week. However, the time demands of doing a weekly live radio show while filming, touring in concerts, making records, and maintaining a happy home life with husband Gene Raymond proved enormously difficult, and she decided not to renew her radio contract with Vicks at the end of the 26-week season. Thereafter, she stuck to guest appearances.


Jeanette appeared in condensed radio versions of many of her films on programs like Cecil B. DeMille's Lux Radio Theatre, usually with Nelson Eddy, and the Railroad Hour which starred Gordon MacRae. These included The Merry Widow, Naughty Marietta, Rose Marie, Maytime, Sweethearts, Bitter Sweet, Smilin' Through, and The Sun Comes Up, plus other operettas and musicals like Victor Herbert's Mlle Modiste, Irene, The Student Prince, Tonight or Never with Melvyn Douglas, A Song for Clotilda, The Gift of the Magi, and Apple Blossoms. Other radio shows included The Electric Hour, The Prudential Family Hour, Screen Guild Playhouse, Kraft Music Hall, and The Voice of Firestone which featured the top opera and concert singers of the time. In 1953, Jeanette sang "The National Anthem" at the inauguration of President Eisenhower, which was broadcast on both radio and TV.


Jeanette sang frequently with Nelson Eddy during the mid 1940s on several Lux and Screen Guild Theater productions of their films together. She also appeared as his guest several times on his various radio shows such as "The Electric Hour" and "The Kraft Music Hall." He was also a surprise guest when she hosted a war bonds program called "Guest Star," and they sang on other WWII victory shows together. The majority of her radio work in the mid to late 1940s was with Nelson Eddy. Her 1948 Hollywood Bowl concert was also broadcast over the air, in which she used Eddy's longtime accompanist, Theodore Paxson. Nelson Eddy Nelson Ackerman Eddy (born June 29, 1901; died March 6, 1967) was an American singer and film actor. ...


Jeanette appeared on early TV, most frequently as a singing guest star. She sang on The Voice of Firestone on 11/13/50. This performance has recently been released on video. On 11/12/52, she was the subject of Ralph Edwards' This Is Your Life. Nelson Eddy appeared as a voice from her past, singing the song he sang at her wedding to Gene Raymond.


On 2/2/56, she starred in Prima Donna, a TV pilot for her own series, written for her by her husband, Gene Raymond. The initial show featured guest stars Leo Durocher and Larraine Day, but it failed to find a slot.


On Playhouse 90 (3/28/57), she played Charley's real aunt to Art Carney's impersonation in Charley’s Aunt.


War Work

The United States entered World War II in December 1941. It is hard from our perspective today to realize the enormous energy and dedication that most show-business people put into what was called “the war effort” over the next four years. Those who could not enlist in the armed forces instead donated their services to the government or to fund raising or to entertaining military personnel and workers in the factories that produced ships, planes, and weapons. Some even gave up their careers “for the duration.”


While Jeanette continued to sing in concerts and on radio, much of her time was devoted to war work. She was one of the founders of the Women’s Voluntary Services and was active with the Army Emergency Relief. She raised over $100,000 for them with benefit concerts throughout the country in the fall of 1943. She did extensive free concerts for the military through the U.S.O, and after each of her regular “civilian” concert, she would auction off encores and donated the money to wartime charities. She was surprised to find that the song she was most often asked to sing was “Ave Maria.” When she was home in Hollywood, she held open house at her home, Twin Gables, on Sunday afternoons for G.I.s. Her husband, Gene Raymond, enlisted in the Air Force and served during most of the war in England, rising to the rank of colonel. Jeanette proudly wore his pilot’s wings on her lapels and concert gowns.


On one occasion, at the request of Lt. Ronald Reagan, she was singing for a large group of men in San Francisco who were due to ship out to the fierce fighting in the South Pacific. She closed with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and 20,000 voices spontaneously joined in.


Musical Theatre

In the mid-1950s, Jeanette toured in summer stock productions of her old favorite, Bitter Sweet, plus The King and I (both originally written for Gertrude Lawrence, although Bitter Sweet turned out to be too musically demanding for Lawrence). Jeanette’s sensitive and warm portrayals of the two roles brought the MacDonald magic to new audiences.


She opened in Bitter Sweet at the Iroquois Amphitheater, Louisville, Kentucky, on July 19, 1954, and performed at various times and locations until 1959. Her production of The King and I opened August 20, 1956 at the Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri. While performing there, she collapsed. Officially it was heat prostration, brought on by the 90-degree heat, vigorous dancing, and the elaborate corseted costumes that the role required. Actually it was a heart seizure. She began limiting her appearances.


Jeanette and her husband, Gene Raymond, toured in Ferenc Molnár's The Guardsman, with Herbert Berghof. The leading role of “The Actress” was changed to “The Singer” to allow her to add some songs. The production opened at the Erlanger Theater, Buffalo, New York on January 25, 1951 and played in 23 northeastern and midwestern cities until June 2, 1951. However, it closed before reaching Broadway.


Jeanette also made a few nightclub appearances. She sang and danced at the Sands and the Sahara in Las Vegas in 1953, the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles in 1954, and again at the Sahara in 1957, but she never felt entirely comfortable in the smoky ambiance.


Marriage

On June 16, 1937, Jeanette MacDonald married blond film actor (and Nelson Eddy lookalike) Gene Raymond in a traditional ceremony at Wilshire Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Her bridesmaids included Ginger Rogers and Fay Wray. Gene was also a songwriter, and Jeanette introduced two of his songs in her concerts. In addition to the TV pilot Prima Donna that Gene wrote for her, they also did a few radio shows together and toured in The Guardsman on stage. The couple showed off their New York residence in a live TV interview on Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person (10/3/58. But even with their infrequent attempts to work together, including the film Smilin' Though, the public was indifferent to them as a team as evidenced by only fair box office receipts.



Inspite of the efforts of some one trying to prevent us to give you the real story of Jeanette's life, and keep removing this insertion--we will continue to post this article and state the facts. We realize their are those who have a monetary interests to push, and do not wish to have these facts posted. The JMFC shall stay true to this star and post the true facts to make them available to all. The topic of Jeanette's love life is one filled with hopeful wishing. But making the impossible come true can only happen in fairy tales and fictional writing. This is nothing new in Jeanette's life. Two examples bring this point home. The first is Walter Winchell who continued to write that Jeanette was married to Bob Ritchie, her agent. At every opportunity he would restate this, until Jeanette had had enough and quickly put an end to his silly nonsense by offering $5000.00 to anyone, anywhere who could bring forward a legal marriage license. No one ever did and Winchell, feeling like a fool, finally stopped. That was back in the 1930's. More recently, there is another person who claims that Jeanette was having an affair with one of her co-stars. She bases this on what Jeanette's sister Blossom "Supposedly" had told her when she was a young woman working at the Motion Picture Country Home. Again, like Water Winchell, another person comes along and lays claims that no one else in the world has ever claimed. But then, this young woman saw green and started to makes money off something that is not a fact. Her story is truly one for the medical records and Ripley's Believe or Not. FICTION: She claims that she had befriend Jeanette's sister, Edith Marie Blossom MacDonald (living in the Motion Picture Country Home) actually told her verbally all about Jeanette and Nelson. FACT: What is so interesting about her "supposed" converstaions with Blossom is the that Jeanette's sister, who suffered a debilitating stroke shortly after the demise of "the Addams Family" TV series in 1966, lost the ability to speak in her last years, and had to grunt or point to communicate. FACT: Checking the records at the Motion Picture Country Home, it is clear that Blossom was afraid of this strange person, and started throwing things to get the attention of the staff to help her. They came and removed her. They then called Gene Raymond, Jeanette's husband, who told them to make sure that Blossom was not to be pestered by the troublesome person. Being barred from seeing Blossom she neverrtheless persisted, and saw Blossom, scaring her to the point that she again had to throw things to get the staff's attention. This time they put a stop to the person. What so many people who knew Blossom at the time kept asking themselves when this her book came out talking about the "Supposed Affair" Jeanette and Nelson had, was--how could she possibly claim that Blossom actually spoke to her, when she was unable to talk. It is just never happened. Fact: Jeanette and Blossom were very close, and not once during Jeanette's lifetime did Blossom ever elude to such relations about her sister and any of her co-stars, except the one she was married to, Gene. Fact: Quite to the contrary, Jeanette never engaged in backstage gossip or non-business activities on the set or after shooting. She was a true professional who had wise guidence from her mother, Anna MacDonald, who was with her daughter all the time. Fact: The publishers turned down Jeanette's autobiography on the grounds that it was not spice, there was no "Tell-All", and no gossip. Fact: Only after these two people have passed away that we suddenly hear from only one person in the world "Claims" that there was an affair between Jeanette and Nelson. Strangely enough, Nelson's sister said that due to a childhood accident he was unable to have children, which makes the idea that these two people who could have conceived children not once but four times--this is one left for the comic books, which everything else this lone person's writings belong. She just writes what she imagines and then states her fantasies as being factual. The world is to believe that of all the people in the world, Blossom, who was unable to talk, chose this person she was afraid of to open up to and tell her that she seem fit to tell anyone else. To follow this reasoning, why didn't Blossom just tell Life or Look Magazine and make money off the hidden secret. The reason is simple, this make believe story never happened. There is a fact that has long been known for 28 years in Hollywood--and that is--that Jeanette and her husband, Gene had a wonderful marriage, but this could not be put in her book if she was going to make it spicy and money. Her whole story is filled with holes. She has Jeanette and Nelson together at time when they were at different parts of the country. She is the fly on the wall that could actually hear word for word what they supposed said to each other when they were supposed to be all alone. But she still claims to know their every word and action, and claims she has hundreds of people who give supporting evidence. But, who can believe anything one writes when from the beginning we know that the alledge conversation with Blossom never could ever have taken place. The author just shoots from the hip and says--they had a terrible marriage to make the book plausable. Fact: Gene was a true American war hero. There are the two people who knew Jeanette and Gene better than anyone else living today, and they are the presidents of the 70 year old Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club, voted in 1980 as the best Fan Club in the World. They have refuted everything this person has written, and know all about the Ralph Edward's matter. Fact: For 40 years Clara Rhoades and Tessa Williams hosted a fan get together in Los Angeles called the Clan Clave. During these 40 years, hundreds of stars who knew, worked with, and were life long friends of Jeanette and Gene, came to these wonderful banquets. These people who were really in the know, proudly proclaimed Jeanette and Gene's love for each other, and that Jeanette was always true to one man, her husband. There has never been any rumors of Jeanette carousing with anyone before her marriage, and after her marriage. And, today, outside of one person, there is still no one who has ever presented factual proof that this alledged romance ever occurred. It is facts and not hearsay that in the end will stand the test of time. There are many sources who have challenged the authenticity of this one writer, who has been refuted by reputable biographhers. The referral to Gene, allegelly being gay, is another one of those non-factual statements. Gene was going to sue the author three different times, only to be talked out of it by his attorneys. Through their wise legal advice, they pointed out that by doing so would only bring noteriety to the book. Thus he didn't; and the book never did anything. Edward Baron Turk, who worked with the presidents of the JMIFC, in doing his reasearh for his book on Jeanette called Hollywood Diva, had their assistance. And the very last page of his book he personally dedicates to Clara Rhoades and Tessa Williams. A true compliment and acknowledgement of the fact that they really knew Jeanette and Gene. As to Jeanette's autobiography--there are only three people who have actually read it, and just by reading the first page of this "Supposed autobiography" The Lost Manuscript, clearly indicates that it does not even come close to the real autobiography. Fact: Reputable reference sources who had bought into this fictional tale, once the facts were stated to them, withdrew any mention of any alledged affair in Jeanette's life. Jeanette, Gene, and Nelson are no longer with us, but it is important to preserve what they worked so hard in life to do, and that is to keep their good names untarnished. Lets hope the facts present here will stop the mud that has been dumped upon them.


Despite a seemingly happy marriage, there is substantial evidence that Jeanette MacDonald had a lengthy off-screen relationship with Nelson Eddy. It began before she dated Gene Raymond and lasted, with a few breaks, until her death. Nelson Eddy proposed to her in 1935 but their studio boss, Louis B. Mayer, refused to sanction the marriage, fearing that with their temperaments they would ultimately divorce and he would lose his lucrative screen team. A biography authorized by Jeanette's widower Gene Raymond, Hollywood Diva by Edward Baron Turk (2000), ISBN 0-520-22253-9, denies there was any such affair. However, Sharon Rich, a close friend of MacDonald's sister Blossom, has written several books documenting the relationship with excerpts from letters, diaries and interviews. Sweethearts by Sharon Rich (revised edition, 2001), ISBN 0-9711998-1-7, is a comprehensive biography of MacDonald's ill-fated affair with Eddy, quoting contemporary sources such as Rise Stevens, baritone Theodor Uppman, U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson (recalling his early days MacDonald's chauffeur/butler) and Jeanette's sister and first cousins. Jeanette MacDonald: The Irving Stone Letters annotated by Sharon Rich (2002), ISBN 0-9711998-4-1, is a compilation and actual reproduction of Jeanette's many handwritten letters to a beau from her Broadway years (with whom she also discusses her Hollywood years, her health including a 1929 heart attack, and other beaux including Gene Raymond and Nelson Eddy), while Jeanette MacDonald Autobiography: The Lost Manuscript annotated by Sharon Rich (2004), ISBN 0-9711998-8-4 presents MacDonald's unpublished autobiography (with her own handwritten comments), in which MacDonald herself verifies a troublesome honeymoon with Gene Raymond and a problematic marriage that resulted in several separations over the years. The tone of their marriage is best understood by studying Gene Raymond's January 1938 arrest record, reproduced in Sweethearts, at a West Hollywood gay bar. Though the marriage was successful in its own way, MacDonald states in her autobiography that after her honeymoon she knew she would have no children with Gene Raymond. However, she had at least four documented pregnancies by Nelson Eddy that ended in miscarriage. Sharon Rich Sharon Rich has written eight books and edited and written over sixty magazines about 1930s singing stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. ... Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair Onscreen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, updated edition, by Sharon Rich Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair Onscreen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, updated edition, by Sharon Rich ISBN 0-9711998-1-7. ... Sharon Rich Sharon Rich has written eight books and edited and written over sixty magazines about 1930s singing stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. ... Sharon Rich Sharon Rich has written eight books and edited and written over sixty magazines about 1930s singing stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. ... Sharon Rich Sharon Rich has written eight books and edited and written over sixty magazines about 1930s singing stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. ... Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair Onscreen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, updated edition, by Sharon Rich Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair Onscreen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, updated edition, by Sharon Rich ISBN 0-9711998-1-7. ...


Death

Jeanette was especially careful of her health in later years because of heart trouble. She worsened in 1963 and underwent an arterial transplant at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Nelson Eddy, in Australia on a nightclub tour, pleaded illness and returned to the States at word of Jeanette's surgery. After the operation she developed pleurisy and was hospitalized for two-and-a-half months. Her friends kept the news from the press until just before her release. Instead of returning home to Twin Gables, she went to a newly acquired Los Angeles apartment that would not require so much of her energies. Gene Raymond had the adjoining apartment.


She was again stricken in 1964. Nelson Eddy was with her when she was admitted to UCLA Medical Center, where on Christmas Eve she was operated on for abdominal adhesions. She was able to go home for New Year’s, but in mid-January her husband Gene Raymond flew her back to Houston. It was hoped that pioneer heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, who had recently operated successfully on the Duke of Windsor, could perform the same miracle for her. She checked in on January 12, and a program of intravenous feedings was begun to build her up for possible surgery.


On Thursday, January 14, she seemed to be responding to treatment. That afternoon she awoke to find her husband beside her. “My feet are cold,” she said, and he began rubbing them as a nurse prepared an intravenous feeding. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you too,” he replied. She died a few minutes later at 4:32 PM.


Jeanette Anna MacDonald was interred on January 18, 1965 in a crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Nelson Eddy, who told Jack Parr on "The Tonight Show" that "I love her," broke down when interviewed by the press the evening of her death. He survived Jeanette by only two years.


A decade after Jeanette's death in 1965, Gene Raymond remarried. His second wife, a Canadian heiress, was the former Mrs. Bentley Hees. Her first name was, coincidentally, Nelson. "Nels," as she was called, died in 1995. Gene followed her on May 3, 1998. He was laid next to Jeanette at Forest Lawn, with Nels' family among the mourners.


Epilogue

An editorial tribute to Jeanette in the San Diego Evening Tribune perhaps said it best: “Songs like ‘Rose Marie’ and ‘Indian Love Call’ espoused no great causes. There was no profound social, economic or political significance to be extracted from Maytime or Sweethearts. That was part of their appeal. They simply hinted that love and beauty and honor, however ethereal, had value and meaning...and that anyone could, for a moment at least, taste something of the ‘Sweet Mystery of Life.’”


References

  • Castanza, Philip, The Films of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, Citadel Press, 1978. 220 pages, 400 photos. Reprinted 1991 as a paperback, unfortunately without allowing corrections of some erroneous cast listings.
  • Hamann, G.D. (Ed.), Collections of contemporary newspaper and magazine references in the following: Jeanette MacDonald in the 30’s. (141 pp.), Jeanette MacDonald in the 40’s (100 pp.), Nelson Eddy in the 30’s and 40’s (128 pp.), and Filming Today Press, 2005, Hollywood, CA (www.GDHamann.com).
  • Parish, James Robert, The Jeanette MacDonald Story, Mason/Charter, New York, 1976. Hardcover, 182 pages including 32 pages of photos.
  • Privat, Maurice, Jeanette MacDonald? Les Documents Secrets, Impr. E. Ramlot et Cie, 52 *Av. du Maine, Paris, 1931. 60 pages. A sex fantasy paperback in French. No photos.
  • Rich, Sharon, Jeanette MacDonald: The Irving Stone Letters, Bell Harbour Press, 2002. 220 pages, many photos, over one hundred handwritten letters by MacDonald are reproduced and fully transcribed, unedited, by Sharon Rich, who also annotates. MacDonald dated Stone in 1927-8 and remained friends afterwards, so many of these are love letters. MacDonald also provides fascinating truths about her Broadway career, Hollywood career and personal news in letters and telegrams that continued until 1938. In one letter from August 1929 she tells Stone she is recovering from a heart attack.
  • Rich, Sharon, Jeanette MacDonald Autobiography: The Lost Manuscript, Bell Harbour Press, 2004. 455 pages, many photos with some in color and Jeanette's entire manuscript (circa 1960) reproduced and with hand-written corrections and comments by MacDonald. Annotated by Sharon Rich.
  • Rich, Sharon, Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair Onscreen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, Bell Harbour Press, 2001. 560 pages, about 100 photos, 50+ pages of source notes. A candid biography in which Eddy's graphic love letters to MacDonald are startling, but their relationship is meticulously documented at times on a near-daily basis. Using eyewitness accounts from contemporary letters, this biography provides needed insight into why MacDonald made certain professional decisions, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. (Rich, who was close friends with MacDonald's older sister Blossom Rock, received a Dame of Merit from the Knights of Malta after publication of this book.)
  • Stern, Lee Edward, Jeanette MacDonald, Harvest/HBJ Book, Jove Publications, New York, 1977. Part of the Illustrated History of the Movies series. A small 160-page, 5” x 8” paperback with 150 photos.
  • Turk, Edward Baron, Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald, University of California Press, 1998. 450 pages, 60 photos. A scholarly social-biography by M.I.T. professor Turk (who previously was knighted by the French government for his highly acclaimed biography of film director Marcel Carné).

Filmography

The Love Parade is a 1929 musical comedy film. ... Monte Carlo is a very wealthy section of the city-state of Monaco known for its casino, gambling, beaches, glamour, and sightings of famous people. ... One Hour With You is a 1932 film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. ... Love Me Tonight is a 1932 musical comedy film which tells the story of a penniless nobleman who moves a tailor to whom he owes money into his chateau and passes him off as nobility. ... For the ballet, see The Merry Widow (ballet). ... Naughty Marietta is a musical comedy, with libretto by Rida Johnson Young and music by Victor Herbert, which opened on Broadway on November 7, 1910: one of its best-known songs is Ah! Sweet Mystery Of Life. ... Rose Marie (born August 15, 1923) is an actress who had a career as a child star under the name Baby Rose Marie, but is best known for her adult role as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... ... Sweethearts may be: Sweethearts, a theatrical production Sweethearts, a heart shaped candy This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... The lunar phase depends on the Moons position in orbit around Earth. ... Bitter Sweet was an operetta written by Noel Coward and first produced in 1929. ... Smilin Through is a 1932 film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. ... I Married An Angel is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart and book by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. ... Cairos location in Egypt Coordinates: Governor Dr. Abdul Azim Wazir Area    - City 210 km²  - Metro 1,492 km² Population    - City (2005) 7,438,376  - Density 35,420/km²  - Urban 10,834,495  - Metro 15,200,000 Time zone EET (UTC+2) EEST (UTC+3) Cairo (Arabic: ‎ translit: , transl. ...

Links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Jeanette MacDonald - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (766 words)
Jeanette MacDonald (June 18, 1903 – January 14, 1965) was a singer and actress best known for her film duets with Nelson Eddy, in films such as Naughty Marietta (1935) and Rose-Marie (1936).
Jeanette died in Houston, Texas of heart disease, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Jeanette MacDonald was given two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Recordings and Motion Pictures.
Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald (553 words)
It is primarily an homage to Jeanette MacDonald, the dancer, singer, Broadway and Hollywood star, who entertained troops during World War 11, hobnobbed with the Eisenhowers and Nixons, but who never fulfilled her life's ambition of singing opera at the New York Metropolitan.
Jeanette MacDonald is a significant figure for film history, but that isn't Turk's focus and much of his book is useless from that point of view.
Jeanette MacDonald is also an extremely interesting figure from the point of view of the high/low culture split in US culture.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

COMMENTARY     

Hollywood Insider -
16th May 2010
Goodness, the "saints" want the world to believe that Jeanette MacDonald was happily married to an abusive, alcoholic man who had many affairs with other men.

She and Nelson Eddy had a life-long, beautiful love affair. You cannot hide the truth, it ALWAYS reveals itself. You don't have to believe everything in "Sweethearts", but STILL, the evidence is there.

If you really respect Jeanette MacDonald, you will respect her relationship with the love of her life, Nelson Eddy. Two talented individuals who finally deserve the truth to come out about their lives.

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