On the set of Sweethearts, 1938, where the “feud” rumors officially got started. This picture is one in a whole series that they did showing them “fighting” — to prove it was all a load of crap. Didn’t quite work. Even today, there are people who say, “I heard they hated each other.”
This won’t be one of those posts where I pontificate for paragraph after paragraph… I’ll start by letting Nelson explain the whole situation to you. Here he is, talking to Jack Parr in 1960.
“Oh, cut it out!” is his reaction when it is suggested that he and Jeanette didn’t get along. And at the end, you can almost hear the man shrug his shoulders as he says, “Whaddya gonna do? I love her; I think she loves me.” And Parr continues by asking if Nelson ever sees her and Nelson responds, “Yeah, all the time.”
Funnily enough, Jeanette made notes on a page of the unpublished manuscript of her autobiography to tell a very similar story, only she has an extremely interesting take on things:
Jeanette’s notes here concerning Sweethearts are as follows:
Nelson / Woody / Stromberg
Feud? (Yeah. “Feud? What feud?”)
Then some notes about the plot: “Play within play / married couple desperately in love / jealousy over secretary / quarrel”
(I’m resisting the urge to point out that it looks like “desperately in love” was written in as an afterthought, since it doesn’t line up with the rest of that line, and I REALLY want to know what synapses were firing in that red head of hers when she wrote that down. Gah.)
“Nelson’s acting ability” ……….was minimal. You can say it, Jeanette. Side note: It pisses me OFF when people say their chemistry was “just acting” but then pan Nelson as an actor. EITHER HE WAS A GOOD ACTOR OR HE WASN’T. You can’t have it both ways, guys. He was a mediocre at BEST actor who loved his leading lady so he is his most convincing with her because he isn’t acting. His performances without her are….well……. yeah. Either call him a good actor or decide he wasn’t acting, but don’t call him a good actor who can’t act.
And then, here’s the kicker:
“I’m sure rumors started by LB–“
Yep. L.B. Mayer was reeeeeeally sick and tired of the two of them being a thing at this point. He’d gone to all the trouble to finance a very expensive, more-or-less arranged marriage for Jeanette (which will get its own post in due course, I’m sure) and he’d already threatened Nelson AND Jeanette a number of times at this point, and they still were “carrying on” and “not being good boys and girls”…….and Jeanette was pregnant with Nelson’s child during this movie, as has been verified by people who worked in wardrobe and Jeanette’s own sister. That’ll be a separate blog post, chickens, let’s not get sidetracked. Anyway, it would have suited Mayer just fine to have people think they didn’t like each other, because everybody really thought (my grandmother included, she was a huge fan and never quite “forgave” Jeanette for marrying Gene) that they belonged together. I can totally see Mayer’s logic, here. If the public thinks they hate each other, maybe they’ll stop suspecting they are really in love. The studio got literally hundreds of thousands of letters of “protest” when Jeanette married Gene. A good feud will maybe kill some of those rumors and at the same time generate publicity. I bet you’re right, Jeanette. You’re not stupid.
Bottom line? There was no feud.
There were artistic disagreements, probably loads of private fights, and indeed, a couple of breakups through the more than thirty years of their relationship……but there was no feud.
And just for fun, here are a couple of my favorite candid shots of them on the set, showing just how much “feuding” they were doing. ❤
Nelson, it’s very good for you, even if it does stink.
Recording the music for Maytime. With his completely necessary arm around her, and her catnap chair in the background. I dig the socks and sandals, J-Mac. Do that all the time.
I won’t tell you guys how I like to caption this picture….
Aww, Nelson. ❤
Until next time—–