Okay, I don’t really anticipate being able to keep this blog in any sort of chronological order, I’m just going to make these posts as they present themselves to my brain, but I’ll try to give a little context for each. I have ideas for about four blog posts that are all completely unrelated, so I really think the best approach is just to do them and not worry about when each one would fall on the general timeline of their lives.
It came to my attention that on New Year’s Eve, ~1991 (at first the year was given as 1994, we are still looking for a copy of the actual article, but from what we know, we believe 1991-ish to be more accurate), well-known columnist Cindy Adams ran a story about New Year’s Eve during WWII and the movie stars of that time. She wrote that Jeanette and Nelson were Hollywood’s most married-like couple and that Nelson (who was well-known for his artistic ability) had sculpted a “version” of The Kiss, a very famous sculpture by Rodin, and that it had been a Christmas gift for Jeanette. She said that it was not an exact copy, and that the woman in the sculpture was wearing a little towel that was falling to the ground.
Is that true? I mean, it sounds like something artistic Nelson would do. And if it is true, it’s pretty darn cool! But where is it and how will we ever know for sure? Did Jeanette return it to Nelson for safekeeping at some point? Did Gene end up with it? Worse–did Ann? One feels pretty certain that neither of these parties would have kept it on display for the world. That it still exists today would be pretty unlikely. So how on earth do we find out?
Here is the wikipedia link to information about the original sculpture, and below is a picture of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kiss_%28Rodin_sculpture%29
So, picture it, December, 1941. (I almost said Sicily, 1910, but I stopped myself.)
According to Jeanette’s handwritten notes, shooting of her final movie with Nelson, I Married an Angel, began shooting September 30, 1941 and ended December 23, 1941, with retakes dragging on until April of 1942.
So, first of all, they were making a movie together during the Christmas season. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th meant that the US was officially at war. Christmas, check. Wartime, check. Now if we can just find some clue about a sculpture!
It’s been right in front of our faces the whole time, guys. Anyone who has ever seen I Married an Angel has seen the sculpture. Remember when the statue falls on him and he catches it during the beginning of the dream sequence?
Jeanette, admiring what very well could be her own ass.
A “version”: not an exact copy, but stylistically similar: Check
The woman in the sculpture is wearing a “towel” that seems to be falling off: Check, even though I think it looks more like a sheet.
Also, because I think these details are cute–the woman’s hand over the man’s heart with his hand on top (GAH HOW MANY TIMES DO THEY DO THAT IN THEIR MOVIES) and her very protectively enfolded in his arms with her head buried in his chest. Nelson the protector, Nelson the defender, Nelson the security blanket. According to his writings, that is very much how he saw himself with her. So that all checks out, if we’re going to go down this bunny trail.
This movie was directed by Woody Van Dyke, their best friend and secret-keeper. They were all on their way out at MGM at this point, and indeed, some of the candids of Jeanette and Nelson on this set are the most intimate we see of them on any set. They were starting to not give a damn, in a big way. Woody loved to put inside jokes in his movies (first example that comes to mind is the giant picture of Nelson on the movie theatre wall in Cairo)…and plopping their sculpture right between their faces and lighting it well and having it fall and having him catch it and practically begging ANYONE to notice it sounds like the kind of thing they’d be into. The fact that it took until 2014 for someone to see it is hilarious. I bet they’re pleased with themselves.
We know Nelson was really at an artistic peak around this time. It is pretty common knowledge that this is the time period during which he sculpted the bust of Jeanette and his own self portrait (see below). He also sculpted Woody. He sculpted the busts that are seen when Jeanette enters the bank in the first scene–so they clearly were not adverse to using his work in the movie (see below). He also painted the portrait of Jeanette that is in Sweethearts, which was also directed by Woody (see below).
And here’s a picture of him sketching on the set of IMAA:
So clearly the man was very busy with his art around this time. Is the sculpture in the movie the 1941 Christmas present version of The Kiss? Maybe. Probably. I can’t prove that, but from where I sit, it looks pretty good.