In case anyone didn’t believe me, here’s another picture of Jeanette trying to buck up and pull it together to get the duet shot on the set of Maytime. See the Kleenex in her hand?
And things appear not much better on her wedding day. Have you ever seen a glummer looking group of girls?
Yep, your eyes are correct, she had Ginger Rogers as a bridesmaid. Possibly the best thing about the whole affair. That’s her sister Blossom, matron of honor, next to her in the dress that is a slightly different shade than the others. Adrian designed the dress. There is no doubt that Jeanette was a gorgeous bride, but generally speaking, brides are supposed to be happy.
There is really no question that MGM sponsored the entire thing. It was rumored to have cost $25,000.00 — a rumor which Jeanette herself protested loudly, saying SHE would never have done that (she definitely wouldn’t have, our girl was a bit of a tightwad. I say that in a loving way.), and that it actually cost more like $5,000.00. Well. Maybe that’s what she paid. Her Adrian wedding gown had an 18 foot double tulle train, by the by. Wilshire Methodist is a sizeable church (and check this out, Homegirl is right there on their church history page! Gotta love Hollywood! http://www.ewilshireumc.org/about/our-church-history.html), the entire thing was decked out in roses, etc etc etc. It was, as I said in the last post, Hollywood’s answer to the Royal Wedding. My grandmother was just out of high school when this happened and she remembered it very well. She was good and ticked about it, too, but that’s another story. 😉
The wedding was the talk of all the magazines and columns, and MGM was vigorously supportive of that–as it happens, the good publicity of the wedding was helping to mask the seriously dark and messed up story of Patricia Douglas, the woman whose story was told in the 2007 documentary, Girl 27. Basically, she was an extra at MGM, got told to go to a party for some MGM businessmen, was forced to drink a lot of alcohol, got raped, had the balls to speak up about it and vanished. Here’s an article about the documentary: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jan/18/girl-27-uncovers-37-rape-case/?page=all It’s worth watching, just because it is really eye-opening for those of you still living in fantasy land about the power these studios and these executives had over people. Many, many beloved movies were made on Mayer’s watch, of course, the man had a definite genius in a lot of ways, and not all of his relationships were horrendous, but he absolutely was capable of wielding his power in disgusting, invasive, harassing, abusive, REALLY FREAKING ILLEGAL ways, and we’ve seen enough evidence of it and heard enough testimony from enough sources that it is brutally naive to think otherwise. Yeah, Jeanette was a headstrong, sassy girl, and on some level was a “pet” of Mayer’s, but to believe he didn’t have a stranglehold on her is ….just naive. So anyway, having a big, pretty wedding to push to the front pages helped slip the Patricia Douglas case quietly out the back door.
Nelson was under studio pressure to sing at the wedding–after all, Allan Jones, Jeanette’s current co-star, was ushering, and the guest list of 250+ of Jeanette’s very closest movie star friends read like a super impressive Who’s Who in Hollywood. Columnists called the wedding “overdone musical comedy” and one snarky one wondered whether the newlyweds would “stay up all night to watch the reviews come in.” Jeanette made note of Nelson’s (understandably) negative reaction in her autobiography manuscript:
“Oh, here you are. I wondered where you were.”
“No, I’m not going to come to your Goddamned wedding.” To be completely fair, she does not attach Nelson’s name to this quotation in her notes (she wouldn’t need to, they were her personal notes and SHE knew who said it!), but this was known by several sources to be his reaction. I can’t prove that, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include this very interesting set of notes.
“No correction possible thru conversation.” (So they can’t talk it out?)
Gene said, “I can’t take pen and paper away from her.”
What the HELL does THAT mean??? So it sounds to me like Nelson won’t discuss things with her, so she’s trying to write him to give him some sort of explanation/understanding/insight/peace/who knows. Gene doesn’t like this, but he “can’t take pen and paper away from her” — meaning that he can’t sit on her to prevent her writing to him.
It is also interesting to point out that much of the sensitive material (the “juicy” stuff) has been scribbled over or crossed out by Jeanette, or she has made notes to change the wording of certain passages to make them more PC. It is also a fact that she wrote ex-flame Bob Ritchie to tell him he would be “coming off extremely well” in her book. Bob Ritchie was a total prick to her on many occasions, so it’s clear that she’s doctoring the truth. Jeanette is not stupid, guys. She knew damn well what her fan club was made of: a bunch of sycophantic ass-kissers who refused (oh hell, present tense too, there are still some of them around!) to believe she ever did anything other than float around the world being perfectly perfect with glitter and rainbows flying out her ass. I mean, seriously. Please go to Jeanette MacDonald Fan Club dot com. DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR THIS. It’s like…..way worse than a bad acid trip. This is the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay whacked out crazypants business she was dealing with. And she met a lot of these people, and she was absolutely adorable to them, and to their credit, they made her feel loved and important later in her life when she wasn’t getting a whole lot of that feeling from the rest of the world. (And Gene got to be a sort of ceremonial figurehead and thus had something to do once a year for the last 30 years of his life…) For that–for letting our girl know that SOMEONE loved and appreciated her—and I mean this completely sincerely–I will always thank them. And gently remind them that she was, in fact, a human being.
But anyway, Jeanette is their Golden Voiced Angel Diva! She can’t possibly drop the ball now and admit that she occasionally liked a cocktail and also really, really enjoyed Nelson Eddy in the midnight hour. Someone legit said that if it was true that she and Nelson were in love, they would burn their entire collection. What’s she supposed to do? Keep playing the role, or lose the devotion that, in her latter years, was one of the only positive things she had in her life. For her, the choice was clear, and understandable. A personal favorite MacDonald quotation of mine that sums up the situation perfectly is, “They wouldn’t let me say shit if I had a mouthful.” Hence, the book was HEAVILY edited—and this is 99.9% of the reason it never saw the light of day until Sharon got it out there. I hope to go into more detail about it in the future, because, imperfect though it is on a variety of levels, it is enormously revealing.
Can I just mention that this is the same group of people who went apeshit when Sharon produced Jeanette’s baptismal record that proved she was born in 1903, not 1907? Okay, she took a few years off her age–many if not most of the stars did, back then. We don’t care and we don’t judge her for it, we’re JUST POINTING OUT A FACT, YO. But there was a, “Jeanette would never tell a lie!” sort of backlash from this group. Oy. Vey.
Getting back to the subject at hand, here’s poor Nelson, looking terminally ill on Jeanette’s wedding day:
It’s worth noting too that, according to Nelson’s mother (who he was living with at the time), he posed for this picture, skipped the reception, came home and got good and drunk. Then, we know he wrecked his car a week later, and gave his address as 1330 Angelo Drive, which is the first known use of the address for the home he and Jeanette would ultimately share as a most excellent hideout, called “Mists”. Just FYI.
A most interesting source that Sharon Rich uses in Sweethearts is Rev. Richard Halverson, United States Senate Chaplain, who worked as Jeanette chauffer/butler back in the day–pre and post Gene. The interview is fascinating. Halverson describes a sweet, fun, inquisitive Jeanette when she was by herself (before the marriage), who was interested in his faith and his future plans, who never treated him like a “servant” and was easy to get along with. Along comes Gene, who essentially was a jerk to Halverson–rude, distant, very much “better” than “the servants”, someone who “hadn’t really made it, not like Nelson Eddy, for example.” He also describes him as “effeminate” and “bossed her around” and she “took it.” Halverson also witnessed Jeanette with Nelson, and while he claimed he was unaware of a romantic relationship between them, he said that she got along with Nelson very well, that Nelson was a jokester, they had a lot of fun on the set and Nelson made her laugh a lot. His parting words were, “I wonder why she didn’t marry Nelson Eddy?”
Yeah, around these parts, we like Nelson better too, sir.
For Jeanette’s part, she notes in her autobiography that, after her Honolulu honeymoon, there was “a lot of understanding to be done, a lot of matching my ways to his” (no, bad call, don’t do that, we like your ways a lot better) and she learned that “tears would get me nowhere.” And ultimately, she also learned information on her honeymoon that would lead her to say that “there was one subject I didn’t allow myself to pursue.” Her final statement sort of lands with a loud, ominous clunk:
“The MacRaymonds had no children.“
Now. What newlywed woman learns something on her honeymoon that tells her with certainty that she’s not having kids with the guy she just married? Like……they were engaged for almost a year, folks. Surely they discussed this.
But that’s fodder for a different post.
Don’t catch cold!
3 thoughts on “The MacEddyRaymonds, Part 3”
So glad to read again the words of Richard Halverson. He kind of underlines just what an all fire louse Gene Raymond was. How can anyone think Jeanette had a happy marriage when it is documented on more than one occasion that smacked her around? Then of course there is Blossom’s account of the fact that Jeanette towards the end was left with no phone and very little food while her ‘husband’ occupied another apartment and showed her no damned love at all. I don’t want to be confrontational, but it seems the only love he had for Jeanette was her money.
Well done Katie, I’m really enjoying these posts. That Nelson was devastated at the marriage is apparent and was well known. Here is a first-hand account from maceddy.com WITH attribution:
“I was delighted that you wanted to hear about Jeanette’s Aunt Kitty. A most charming and lovely woman. She was Jeanette’s mother’s sister. Her name is Kitty Rice. She became a friend of my mother’s when we moved here from Pennsylvania in 1941. I’ll call her Aunt Kitty to you, even though I called her Mrs. Rice. Due to the fact that I was a Navy wife, I wasn’t in Aunt Kitty’s company too much. To this day I regret not going into detail with her about Jeanette and I’ll try and explain why.
Of course I had Mother telling me all about this lovely woman she met in church who was the aunt of Jeanette MacDonald. When Mother introduced me to her, I said I wanted her to marry Nelson Eddy. With that she countered by saying Nelson Eddy wanted very much to marry Jeanette, but she listened to her mother and married Gene Raymond. I’ll swear on a stack of bibles that she said this. I know that I was thrilled to death when she said it. I told her—“I knew it, I knew it!” then she said again, “Yes, indeed, he wanted her very much.”
Aunt Kitty’s daughter was with her—she has two lovely red-headed girls—and when I said to her “You’re so lucky being able to visit Jeanette and Gene during the summer,” Aunt Kitty said Gene treated them royally. Well, a look of disbelief came over Aunt Kitty’s daughter’s face, and I thought oh, oh, something’s wrong, and I changed the conversation. This is the first time I told this to anyone, but it sure makes sense now.
While rehearsing for The Song of Norway – I was an understudy for the Countess—a very nice fella who had a lead in the show knew Nelson Eddy. While we were waiting for our entrance on stage during rehearsal, I mentioned that friends and my husband and I were going to see Nelson appearing at Palumbo’s a famous restaurant in Philadelphia (this was a year before Nelson died) and did he know that Nelson wanted to marry Jeanette. He said, “I know Nelson Eddy and he sure did want to marry her.” It seems Nelson and his mother were neighbors to his family. Nelson’s mother told his mother that Nelson was devastated when Jeanette married Gene Raymond.” –Jean Johnson, Issue #11
Can I just begin by saying that I’m obsessed with the fact that Jeanette had an “Aunt Kitty”?? I remember this account—thanks very much for adding it, Angela! You da best!