I finally bit the bullet and did it. A MacEddy blog. Lord knows that these two fruitbats (gentle teasing of our two subjects is A-OK, kids, relax) take up a truly ridiculous amount of my time and space in my head. No day is complete without some sort of MacEddy discussion with someone on some level. So, really, it’s not all that surprising that I’d be here, doing this. The thing is, if you’re an old movie person like I have been since before I can remember, sooner or later you’re doing to discover MacDonald and Eddy, MGM’s Singing Sweethearts of the 1930s and early 40s. Eight glorious, romantic musicals (lots of operettas), lots of frilly costumes with huge skirts for Jeanette and uniforms and marching songs for Nelson. Something or someone always tries to keep them apart but you know before you even begin that they belong together and will end up thus, on some level (shut up, Maytime. Nobody asked you, Bitter Sweet.). Now, either that’s your thing or it isn’t. It’s totally my thing. I have a penchant for the “teams” — Astaire and Rogers, Tracy and Hepburn, Powell and Loy, Bogart and Bacall, Mickey (but my God he’s annoying, RIP) and Judy….you get it. Bonus points if said team happens to be, erm, a team in real life. That is the stuff that makes my little heart go pitter-pat.
Nelson and Jeanette were very much a team, for eight movies, and very much a “team” for over thirty years (there were a few bad years in the mix here and there, but overall, they sort of never got out of each other’s heads once they met) behind the scenes. True Life: They also each were married to other people: Jeanette to second-stringer Gene Raymond who was never quite as cool anywhere as he was when wearing Jeanette on his arm, and Nelson to silent film director Sidney Franklin’s ex, Ann, about whom nobody seems to have anything nice to say, including people who knew her.
The thing is, there are these “official” fan clubs for each star; the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club (JMIFC) and the Nelson Eddy Appreciation Society (NEAS), who are both very much by the book about the marriages of their subjects. Everything was hunky dunky (does anyone else love Christmas in Connecticut?) and here are some pictures just so everyone sees that everything is awesome. Jeanette and Nelson made movies together AND THAT’S IT. Crazy how both of these people had these long perfect marriages in such a scandal-ridden town, eh? I mean, it’s not impossible, but the odds are not in their favor. But I digress. These groups have really not let up, even though these two people have been dead for half a century, and so there’s still a raging war going on between the people who insist that they had these perfect marriages and nothing between them (those are called “Saints” in MacEddy language)….and the rest of us (“Sinners”) who are totally on board with the fact that they dug each other, even though their lives were a couple of hot, complicated messes.
I guess I just want to say that while I make no secret and never have of which side of the fence I’m on here, I’m not going to try to force anyone to believe anything. I am hoping to write a collection of essay-style posts (supplemented with photographs and audio files) that just ask questions. I want to point out the curious, the interesting, the noteworthy. I’m not trying to play like I was right there in the dressing room with them, but there is certainly a mountain of evidence that would point in the direction that they did, in fact, love each other. I’m not naive enough to think I’ll get the multi-decade crusty old Saints to jump on the MacEddyinLove bandwagon (even though I would lay money that at least two of them are reading this! Hey, guys!)—and I fully acknowledge that we have our fair share of crazy over here in Sinner Land, too. I live it, kids. And there are days when I just am like, “Please stop talking.” But ultimately, you can’t control anything but you. What pisses me off beyond all recognition, though, is when I ask some of the aforementioned Saints LEGIT QUESTIONS (“Why did it take a court summons for perfect husband Gene Raymond to pay for Jeanette’s funeral?” “Why did Nelson Eddy move into the same (Comstock) apartment complex as Jeanette RIGHT AFTER SHE MOVED THERE?” Etc, etc) and I have yet to get a straight answer or even an “I don’t know” from any of them! The replies go from being horribly offended that I would even dare to make such vile insinuations with my questions to “I can’t bear to think about her/him being unhappy.” (So….are you saying you acknowledge that this is possible and it hurts your head to think about it? Or…? I mean, people are unhappy all the time. I’m unhappy that my DVD of The Cat and the Fiddle didn’t come in the mail today. Welcome to the real world, sweet cheeks. Sometimes we are unhappy. Buck up.) and finally, the ultimate cop-out of, “Their personal lives are none of our business.” AKA “I don’t have a good answer so I’m saying this.” I mean, okay, maybe it’s not our business but biography of historical figures happens when people know stuff that isn’t their business, because it’s intriguing and interesting.
So I imagine I’ll be posing a lot of “riddle me this” type questions. Hell, at least I’m getting them off my chest. And maybe somebody in the privacy of their home will read some of this sometime and think that maybe they haven’t got this 100% right. Or maybe people will find this blog who have not previously cared about this story and hop on board. It’s really a fascinating tangle. It really is. You find yourself loving these two people so fiercely that you’d sell organs to go back in time and crack their heads together and be like, “NO, THIS IS BAD. DON’T DO IT.” You find yourself perplexed and alternately elated when little pieces fall into place at unexpected times (say, after your biographer friend has already sent off the revised book to the publisher and then has to GET IT BACK to put the new info in. This has been a fun afternoon.) and sometimes you sit and feel like you’re right back where you started.
I dunno. Look at Jeanette’s face in this picture. She doesn’t look like she’s hearing a word of Woody (that’s W.S. Van Dyke, their favorite director and beloved pal) and Nelson’s conversation, but she sure is looking all piney at Nelson. Sigh. They are cute.