Hello, dear readers, I have returned with the latest dose of embarrassing nonsense from the people who designated themselves human components of Jeanette’s Figurative Chastity Belt.
I’ve heard that the so-called “Nelson fans” were merely “tolerated” at the old Clan Clave meetings of the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club, but if they made noise or applauded his solos during a film screening, they were asked to leave. This is how high tensions were about Nelson, the very presence of him on a movie screen with their Precious Princess Diva was enough to really freak these folks out, apparently. But why? Why, if they have nothing to be “concerned” about? Why so jumpy? Why so defensive? You do understand that it’s a movie, right? That it will play the same way it always has, every viewing, that applause and enthusiasm for Nelson aren’t going to make the film work any differently, so…………?
Side Note: Even today, people bitch about her being best remembered as one-half of the most famous singing duo in history …like that’s a problem. Nelson had a rather brilliant opera and concert career before he arrived in Hollywood, but nobody wants to talk about that. Jeanette was a star on Broadway and at Paramount, and her Paramount days are still highly regarded among anyone who actually has real knowledge of classic film, but the MGM/Nelson movies are where it’s at, for her. Even at MGM, her recording of the title song in San Francisco became the official song of the city. It was a big deal and that was a great movie… but we still think of her as Rose Marie. Do you think of Ginger Rogers without Fred Astaire? I mean, you can, as a person with film knowledge, you can talk about Kitty Foyle or Stage Door or any number of her solo films, but she will always be best and most fondly remembered as a partner, a teammate, half of the greatest dancing team ever. For Nelson and Jeanette, they each did commendable solo projects but it was together that they were best-known, best-loved and have been and will be best-remembered. They were both proud of that. That indelible perfection that happened between them, as a result of the exquisite blending of their voices is the stuff legends are made of, but the fact is their chemistry crackles when they aren’t singing, too. Between them, something worked.
I just think it’s really stupid—the Nelson hate, the Jeanette hate. I’ve seen it on both sides. You may prefer one or the other but for God’s sake appreciate them BOTH, because they appreciated each other. Once, Nelson threatened to disband his fan club because it was talking shit about Jeanette. You really think they’d applaud the efforts that are made to demean the other one?
The thing that sticks out to me is how that whole camp: Clara, Tessa, definitely Gene and maybe even Emily are so completely threatened by Nelson that they would strike him from the record at every turn and the hell with how Jeanette feels on the subject. It’s really amazing. Which, actually, brings me to the point of this blog post:
My research buddy Angela recently came across a couple of really interesting documents. (She also had the brilliant suggestion for the title of this post, so thanks, chum). The first is an article from the Rose Marie era, which was preserved by Clara Rhoades, JMIFC President, and was included in a pile of stuff that had been used for the club’s publication, The Golden Comet. This is just one example, but it’s hilarious and enraging all at once, of how these people edited an article that was, at the time, already like twenty-five years old, removing any reference that showed Nelson in a good, sexy, attractive, masculine light. Here is a part of the article that have been marked up by Clara before the thing was re-printed by her club. (The article is from Silver Screen magazine, December, 1935, and it is entitled: On Location with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.)
So yeah, we have to cross out anything that makes Nelson look like the heartthrob that he indeed was to audiences at this time. He can’t be handsome or sexy or swoon-worthy, because then someone might get the idea that Jeanette was swooning just like most other red-blooded American girls. (And we are so insecure that we have to try to engineer people’s thoughts away from that BAD BAD territory, especially with young upstart Sharon Rich on hand, who has gotten close to Jeanette’s sister Blossom and who is LEARNING THINGS. And worse, she is SAYING THINGS OUT LOUD.) And then, sure, go ahead and change the author’s words there at the end, Clara. Gotta keep the minds of the members clean and elevated beyond thoughts of the pleasures of the flesh. THIS IS A VERY PIOUS GROUP, OKAY. Unless it involves members playing Rump Roast with underage boys, natch. We just don’t talk about that…………..
Now, as most of you know, Jeanette was given a Woman of the Year award in Philadelphia, February 26, 1960. Among the accolades and tributes of the evening, President Eisenhower sent a warm telegram to be read to the audience, and Nelson dashed off a letter as well with a tribute of his own.
A letter from Jeanette was included shortly thereafter in the “Mailbag” section of the Nelson Eddy Music Club’s publication, in which she quotes what Nelson said in his letter. After looking for most of the day, I finally found my copy of this and have included the selection in question below:
Sweet, right? Yeah, we think so, too.
On page 320 of his book, Hollywood Diva, Edward Baron Turk quotes the same letter thus:
Notice anything different? Here, have the first one again:
Before I go any further, I want to point out that Dr. Maria Escano was the first person to discover this discrepancy, back in 2014. We were all very intrigued then, and outraged; why would Turk leave off the word “love” at the end of Nelson’s letter? WHY, INDEED?
I have decided to no longer blame Turk for censoring Nelson, only for being too big of an ass-kissing moron to see that it had been censored.
And why do I say that, you ask?
Well, because Angela recently came into possession of Nelson’s ORIGINAL letter. She has been kind enough to allow me to reproduce it here for this blog. It is a front and back page.
Wait for it…
White out. Literal white out. I am not even close to kidding right now. I wish I was.
What. The. Hell.
So, who did it?
Nelson? No, because the letter in its original state was quoted by Jeanette in HER letter of March 1 to the Music Club.
Jeanette? No, obviously. She reported it as it was written.
Gene? No—well, I mean, I guess he could have, but that would have been kinda dumb. I’m going with no.
Turk? No. I don’t give him that much credit for brains.
Clara Rhoades, JMIFC president, mythology-peddler and fact laundered extraordinaire? With a history of “editing” away everything good and handsome and sexy and wonderful about Nelson? Who had this stuff in her clutches to edit as she so chose?
Ding ding ding. We have a winner.
And just in case you don’t think the word “love” and a “&” symbol is under there, I asked Angela to take a flash photo of it. She reports that it’s plainly visible when holding the letter up to the light. I adjusted the contrast in the photo for the clearest viewing.
So, please tell me how trustworthy these people are, again?
And please tell me why their condemnation of Sharon Rich and her tireless work holds ANY WATER, WHATSOEVER?
Come on, Clara. Come on, Saints. Where the hell do you get off editing someone’s words like that? And furthermore, as if this couldn’t get more idiotic or something, this wasn’t even a private letter! This was a few remarks written by Nelson to be read aloud in a public forum in which Jeanette was being honored. So what the hell is the problem with him giving her his continuous love? Why does that freak you out so much that you actually feel entitled to change the ending of the man’s letter? Who died and left you in charge of the Censorship Committee?
When you read the Golden Comet, when you talk to the “Saints” — know this. The information they perpetuate and the information their inmates continue to swear by is heavily, heavily edited. Heavily censored. You see only what they want you to see. These people are scared to death (for what reason, I still do not know) that what Blossom told Sharon, what Sharon has worked and worked and worked to learn about for decades since, what countless other people including Angela and myself have jumped in and worked on, too—they are scared to death that it’s true. Why? God only knows. My only guess is that so many of these people have never experienced, in their own lives, the desperate, frantic passion of a real and volatile love. They don’t understand it, they find it disconcerting and they don’t WANT to understand it. They don’t have the emotional capacity to grasp that something may be worth it, even if it’s horrifically difficult. Even if all the odds and your own non-deceitful moral compass are against you. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond, with their awkward Fred and Ethel Mertz sort of vibe and lack of sexy chemistry, make them comfortable. Clara’s loathing of Nelson is, as Angela just pointed out to me, borderline pathological. Why is she on such a mission to eradicate him?
I mean, the stuff Sharon has written isn’t always all sunshine and lollipops. A lot of it can be tough to stomach, or heartbreaking, or maddeningly frustrating, leaving you just dying to go back in time and make things better somehow. But she doesn’t white-wash and she doesn’t sugar-coat. And that’s more than can be said for The Keepers of Jeanette’s Imaginary Virtue. This is absolutely pathetic.
Meredith Willson was overheard to say once, after attending a JMIFC Clan Clave, “It was as if Nelson Eddy never existed.” And that was exactly the way they wanted it. After Jeanette died, Gene was their sort of Big Ticket Attraction at the meetings, and they gave him unmerited prominence in Jeanette’s professional life (he spent her money like water and was a Grade A Flop in just about everything except minor theatre and the Air Force, let’s be real here), and beefed up their personal life to make it some sort of untouchably wonderful thing. They did this to such an extent that they then had to tamper with documents to beat down any question that perhaps there was more to this story. If they weren’t damn scared of the fact that there WAS more than meets the eye here, they’d never have bothered trying to change everything all around.
As a post-script to this disgusting mess, I recently bought a picture on ebay of Jeanette as Juliette in Rose Marie. It had Clara’s address label on the back of it, a “please return to” sort of deal. It was peeling off, and I noticed writing underneath it. Jeanette’s. So I took Clara’s label the rest of the way off and put that garbage in the can where it belongs. Just let that sink in a minute. She actually pasted her own label over Jeanette’s handwriting. Quite the little self-important fan club personage, no? I mean, wow.