Person to Person, 1958

On October 31, 1958, Jeanette and Gene were guests on Edward R. Murrow’s popular program Person to Person, in which he invades the homes of famous people and talks to them with subsequent awkward results. (If you haven’t see the one that the Bogarts are on….oh God….you owe that to yourself.)

The JAM Project now has possession of Jeanette’s reel of their appearance on this show, so off it went to our friend Brad in Arizona, who did his usual masterful job of cleaning, restoring and digitizing the film. Never in a million years did we think we’d have the opportunity to work with Jeanette’s originals and bring such great digitizations into the world. This work is made possible by a great group of supportive friends who have helped us defray the costs of working with this precious old material — we appreciate you SO much, and the fact that because of you, we are able to continue to make this valuable, and, in many cases, RARE material available to the public at no cost.

This episode finds Mr. and Mrs. MacRaymond in an apartment at 888 Park Avenue, but not the one where they’d lived for several years previously — that one became occupied by the J. C. Penneys (which is a thing I think about EVERY time I walk into that store). They had a thing where they’d swap houses, so Yvonne (Eastman Kodak heiress) and Harry Mills (J.C. Penney executive) were out in Bel Air at Twin Gables for the time being, and they were in the Mills’ apartment at 888. PS, I really love it when Jeanette waves to people in a TV camera. What. A. Dork. ❤ ❤

Gene, your makeup game is especially strong this evening. As is the acute panty-dropping that happens when you sit there and smoke like a chimney next to the most sensitive sinuses on Planet Earth. Ugh.

Watch it here. Blog continues below.

I recently wrote about fondness and love and all that that existed at some point or other between these two, but I don’t really find it in evidence in this piece and never have. They do not appear to be congruent, here. Jeanette is sarcastic and catty in a way that she simply never is with anyone else on television or in interviews, and certainly not with Nelson, who renders her completely kittenish. Gene is sitting there while she talks, sort of ‘doing his bit’ on a very surface level. Newly visible in this restored version of the show are little under-her-breath mutterings, like when they’re talking about Gene being an “air fiend” and he says, “Just up in the air, Ed, just up in the air,” Sassypants mutters, “Most of the time….” Snort. Hadn’t caught that one before.

But mostly:

“This has been going on for years, Ed. Uh – he – uh – uh, Nelson signs Gene’s name and Gene signs Nelson’s name.

My fellow Americans.

(And non-Americans. Everybody, in fact.)

You DO realize, I trust, that that silly, non-thinking slip is immensely revealing, do you not?

NOBODY SEES NELSON EDDY IN THE WILD AND SAYS, “HARK! I THINK THAT IS GENE RAYMOND!”

Nelson was much, much, much more famous than Gene ever thought about being. Indeed, Gene’s greatest fame came from who married him, not from any outstanding personal success.

The likelihood of someone seeing Nelson out in the world and thinking it’s Gene is certainly slim to none. The only way anyone would make that mistake is if Nelson was WITH JEANETTE and someone saw them together and assumed it was Jeanette and her husband. At which point Nelson, being Nelson, would certainly sign Gene Raymond’s name and keep up the ruse.

Whereas it is totally plausible that some member of the public would see Jeanette actually with Gene and assume that she’s with her famous movie partner, just as in the story Jeanette tells here, whereupon Gene would obligingly sign Nelson’s name and probably be galled in the process. “What did you say, deeearrrrrrrrr?” (Lord.) Honestly, how embarrassing is that story? How embarrassing is it that he’s so indistinguishable that that is what his life has become, at this point? I imagine it was hard to be Gene, sometimes. Not that that’s an excuse for his often shitty behavior, it isn’t, but I imagine it was difficult to be constantly compared to Nelson Eddy and lose every. single. time. That would never have happened had the two men not had Jeanette in common. But Jeanette married Nelson “lookalike” Gene (a thing I have never understood — they don’t look alike), who isn’t as talented or as handsome or as tall or as famous, who can’t really sing, who is a pretty lousy songwriter, who isn’t nearly as good at The Sex, etc, etc, etc. I think I’d be getting myself into the Air Force, too. That’s one place Nelson can’t follow him, one place where he can have his own success.

And Jeanette has a slight dingbat moment (she gets nervous on TV, okay, and she’s an honest creature by nature) and glibly reports that Nelson signs Gene’s name, and it’s been going on for years.

You guyssssssssssssss…

On another note, she looks poofy around the middle, and that’s because of the way she was mic’d for this — she had a bulky steel belt around her and had to choose a dress that fit over all that business, hence the empire-waist gown. She hasn’t gone paunchy all of a sudden.

I don’t even know what to say about that hot mess of a story about the fan…like, Catty MacDonald is super done talking about Gene’s war shit and his piston and valve thingy is just not doing it for her and it’s time for us all to remember WHY WE ARE EFFING HERE. So she has another fan “inside” — you know, as opposed to in the wilderness of the dining room, so back we prance to see it.

Jeanette. Baby. Darling. *whisper* Nobody cares.

I MEAN YES, PRECIOUS, PLEASE SHOW US YOUR OTHER FAN. PLEASE.

Gene dutifully traipses after her with a look on his face like he’s wondering if he has to wait until they go off the air before he shoves her out the window.

“I’ve made up my own story about it, actually, I don’t know whether it’s true or not, OBVIOUSLY it couldn’t be,” …but I’m going to tell you about it anyway because I am the star of this operation and it’s time for me to have a moment where I remind everybody that I sing and I ham it up generally and then I make an unrelatable pop-culture reference that puts me out of touch with kids today.

Oh, oh, oh. My sweet, beautiful, funny Jeanette. This is not your finest moment. I cringe, a little, seeing you like this. Sarcastic and ….God, I hate to say it, but…. older. Angela and I were discussing just today about how she has this forever young quality about her so much of the time, she has this beautiful girlishness and never seems old — but I’m going to have to amend that. She seems older here, and harder. She and Gene seem like they could break out bickering literally at any second. It feels tense, and like they are very self-aware about being on camera. I don’t like seeing her this way. I like her soft and girlish and coquettish — Nelson brings that out in her in the extreme, but she’s also like that on What’s My Line, The Name’s The Same, and in interviews — I just found one from 1962 where the guy is flirting with her and she is flirting right back and loving it and sounds about twenty-three. It’s the Gene influence that makes her hard — she was the same way when they did Toast of the Town. I don’t feel like this is an authentic representation of her true self, on this show. What it is, however, is super interesting, so enjoy it in better quality that has previously been seen!

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