IT’S THE LAST DEATHBLOG HOORAY.
Maybe not last ever ever, but last for right now. I’ve been taking great pains to say everything I can think of to say right now, because I want to leave this bizness alone for a while. What was originally conceived as a 3-part blog (because of the 3 new chunks of footage we had to reveal) became a 5-part blog, but I would like to think I’ve been as complete as possible with the data we have right now. Anyone who sticks with this story in a serious way for a long time knows that, even all these years later, pieces of information are STILL being brought to light. It’s pretty amazing.
The story of Nelson’s death is well known. He was performing in Miami, March 5th, 1967, just after having returned from touring in Australia, when he became unable to speak and the side of his face went numb. He asked the audience to bear with him a moment, he was having trouble getting the words out. He then asked Ted (Paxson, accompanist and longtime friend) to play Dardanella, and maybe he’d get the words back. Ted, seeing that something was way wrong, jumped to his feet and got Nelson off the stage. Offstage, Ted and Gale (who had been offstage changing her costume–Nelson was getting ready to do the solo “special” song he sang for Jeanette every performance) helped him into a chair and called an ambulance. Nelson was unable to speak by the time the ambulance arrived, and would never speak again. He lost consciousness and died at 7:30 the next morning: March 6, 1967.
Ann Eddy didn’t go to Florida, she just waited for Nelson’s body to be shipped home.
The funeral held for Nelson goes directly against his long-held wishes, which he even went so far as to state in his will in 1959. Despite him telling the press that he was going to go change his will after witnessing the “circus” of Jeanette’s funeral, he didn’t actually do this. The 1959 will (and codicil dated June 19, 1964) is the one that stood. Nelson’s will and codicil are printed in full in Issue #53 of Mac/Eddy Today.
The final clause in Nelson’s will is as follows:
I believe the body is useless after death; therefore, I request the simplest and most inexpensive funeral possible, in any Protestant form, cremation and disposal of the ashes according to law. Let there be no sorrow over the remains, for at that time the soul will have found its destined way to the infinite.
The man is a poet even in his flippin’ will. Its destined way to the infinite…. Oh, Nelson.
A sad comment on Nelson’s tiny circle: Jeanette’s will is full of many thoughtful personal bequests, and it is easy to take away even from that that she had many friends. The only personal bequests in his will are to Ann, her son Sidney Franklin, Jr., Ted, Gale, his dad, his half-sister and his manager. And he didn’t even LIKE two of those people. The World O’ Eddy was very, very small.
Just like Gene’s display of bad taste before her, Ann Eddy, eager to snatch her 15 minutes of fame, merrily chucked Nelson’s PRINTED WISHES right out the window and did exactly what the heck she pleased.
Was he cremated? Nope. It was an open casket service, just as Jeanette’s was.
Was it the simplest and most inexpensive funeral possible? No way.
Here is the third installment of the footage that Angela and I paid to have digitized—color footage from Nelson’s funeral. Like the others, it has never been seen since 1967. Don’t share it around the internet without our permission—it can only come from one possible place at this point, so we’ll know. 😀
Yes, Gene was a pallbearer. Yes, he looks pretty sad about it all. Yes, I still want to punch him in the mouth when he calls Nelson “Nels.”
Fun fact: He remarried and HIS WIFE’S NAME WAS NELSON. Bahaha. Nelson Ada Hees, known as Nels. You can’t even make this stuff up. So at the end of the day, Gene got what may have been his fondest wish. (She was a wealthy heiress from Canada, and though their marriage was reported to not be a happy one, it also lasted until she died. Absolutely no liking-to-freeload-on-wealthy-women pattern here at all.)
Lloyd Nolan, on the other hand, looks absolutely devastated. He was, along with Z. Wayne Griffin, also a pallbearer for Jeanette. His remarks are very interesting in their wording, and his grief is palpable.
The funeral proceedings were broadcast over loudspeaker to those outside. Doesn’t sound very small and private, really. Granted, there are WAY fewer members of the general public there, but even so, hoopla was not what Nelson wanted.
AND THEN THIS HAPPENED:
Why, oh why, didn’t you two darlings get married? You’d have been so stunningly perfect for each other.
During the exchange pictured above, Ann was overheard making a remark to Gene which has been reported with two different wordings, nevertheless, both “sides” acknowledge that it happened.
“Now they can sing together forever,” is how Ann is quoted in Sweethearts.
Similarly, in Edward Baron Turk’s Hollywood Diva, Ann is quoted saying, after walking over to Gene and kissing him, “Now they will sing beautiful music together again.”
Well, I mean, EITHER WAY, right…???
It’s a fitting end to all this.
5 thoughts on “I’ll See You Again, Part 5 (EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE)”
I’m constantly fascinated that more info continues to come to light! You’d think after all these years, it would have petered out by now. It gives me hope for some unfinished searching I have left (unrelated to our crazy kids, but still in the same general period.)
Sometimes I’m curious what either of them would think about everything today- about how they’re portrayed and what/how we talk about them, etc., etc. I can’t help but wonder…
P.S.: I also wonder what was on Gene’s mind during this footage. He does indeed seem sad…but is it really that, or is he just debating whether or not to put bacon on his sandwich later on?? Who knows. He’s kind of a mystery to me at times.
We all owe you a debt my friend. You handled this sad chapter in their lives with just the right amount of righteous indignation, compassion and respect required. I know much of it was a hard slog for you, but you stuck with it and it and did what it took to tell it properly. You should be proud, well done!
We have often discussed how they seem to be guiding us in our writing and research. I can’t count the number of times I’ll reach for one photo or song only to have any entirely different one smack me in the face as if to say, this is the one I want you to use. And you never know what stuff will pop up where. Last year I was posting on the Classic Film Lover’s social media page. I had posted a picture of J&N, the one from Sweethearts with their fingers touching. I didn’t mention about the love story, I felt the picture spoke for itself Your fun fact about Gene Raymond marrying a wealthy woman name Nelson put me in mind of the following, enlightening exchange I had with a retired LA mailman:
Steve T: So many people that had great chemistry on screen didn’t like each other in real life. Although not “Sweethearts” in real life, JM and NE were best of friends. He sang at her wedding and she and Gene Raymond named their son Nelson.
Me: Read Sharon Rich’s books for the full story….they were indeed real life sweethearts and Jeanette and Gene Raymond had no children
Steve T: @Angela. Do I stand corrected or what? Did a little research and got answers to some questions I`ve had about them. I knew of his arrest record, even heard that the reason they honeymooned at Pickfair was because of his ‘friendship’ with Buddy Rogers (nothing out of the ordinary for Hollywood). I did not know that NELSON Raymond was his wife after J.M. I was a mail carrier for 27 years in the area of L.A. where they lived and delivered mail to their house many times when their carrier was on vacation. I asked the regular about Nelson and she assumed it was the ‘younger man’ that was always seen around the house. He even gave her a signed photo of GR after she asked for “his father`s autograph”. She didn`t tell me about the autograph until after GR had died. Otherwise I would have asked for an autograph on VHS cassette of Flying Down to Rio that I still have. Now I know the story…..but I`m not sure which scenario I like better. LOL
Me:I hesitated to go into too many details here because some fans vehemently deny it and prefer to believe the PR about blissful marriages to others. It was a complex love story and LB Mayer and Jeanette’s mother have a lot to answer for. They pushed for the marriage because Raymond was no threat to her career (her mother knew Raymond was bisexual). Jeanette didn’t find out until her honeymoon cruise to Hawaii…they were accompanied by Mary Pickford and her new husband Buddy Roger! J&N had a great love, that they could not work it out in a more conventional way did not diminish it, somehow it made it shine even more intensely on the screen (imho). Thanks for your feedback Steve
Steve T: My pleasure. I know what you mean about many fans being in denial. I ruffled a lot of feathers on the TCM page when people didn`t want to hear anything negative. I love info like this. Not from a “gossipy” standpoint, but just to show that these were real people (not always nice) with real lives and that often their images of them were nothing but creations by publicity depts. working overtime.
Thanks for sharing this!!! Awesome!
Thanks to you and Angela yet again Katie, for more amazing footage. I was greatly surprized by such a merge turn out of fans. Not so surprized that his wishes were ignored by his witch of a wife though, as the only thing which seemed to give her any joy in life was making him miserable.
May you rest in eternal peace and happiness with your true wife, Mr Eddy.