1962 Color Footage

Hi all!

Here’s a lovely thing that we uncovered in the holdings of The JAM Project! 8mm film of Jeanette (and the members of the JMIFC) at the 1962 ClanClave — which was also the club’s 25th Anniversary.

Most of you reading this will know the details of that weekend: Jeanette was directly involved in planning it, she gave a dinner for the group at The Luau restaurant (my friend Mary Lynn now has the check that paid for that meal…wild), she arranged for the group to tour MGM, have lunch in the commissary, etc. She invited everyone to Twin Gables, she posed for endless pictures… she was in general, generous, warm, delightful and perfect.

We’ve had this footage digitized for several months, but did not ‘break’ it before now because we wanted to show it as a surprise at the Mac/Eddy Club meeting on June 25th in LA. One of our members, Sandy Laderas, was a speaker at the meeting, sharing photos and personal reminiscences of the weekend and of meeting Jeanette and how wonderful she was, so she and I collaborated and The JAM Project provided supplemental material for her presentation. Mary Lynn brought the check and I put together a small talk that consisted of reading Jeanette’s letters – both to the club and to club president Clara, privately – planning the weekend and presenting this footage — in which you can see the then-eighteen year old Sandy in several shots, which was so cool. Why would we celebrate a JMIFC event at the Mac/Eddy Club’s meeting? Because of Jeanette — because that weekend was so indicative of her public self, of her kindness and generosity to the people who had loved her for years. It was just nice.

It meant a lot to Jeanette to give this weekend to her club. Her excitement in planning it was best voiced when she wrote Clara on May 17, 1962, saying in part, “I, too, am beginning to get quite a glow of anticipation. Just think how long it has been since I have met and seen many of the members!”

These were the young people who dogged her footsteps at the stage doors and train stations of the 40s. She was fond of them — she always made time for them. To enumerate Jeanette’s darling, wonderful interactions with her fans is to write an entire volume on the subject. They were a constant, unfailing source of love for her, to the extent that she kept up every kind of charade to allow them to maintain their illusions. It wasn’t deceit, it was selflessness.

Jeanette was not a well woman in 1962 — and she hadn’t been for several years. She would not get better. After ’62, you can count her “public appearances” on a few fingers. Indeed, she left the group while they were touring her home so that she could go to the doctor — and though she downplayed it, and seemingly acted like it was a matter of routine, it’s pretty freakin’ weird that she’d have ‘scheduled’ something like that during this weekend, especially on a day when the group was in her home. One wonders what was really going on — and what this weekend cost her, in terms of health. Sandy Laderas speaks of Jeanette as not looking or acting ill, and, indeed, in the footage, other than Jeanette being extremely thin (her arms in the Luau footage especially give this away), she appears bubbly, charming and charismatic — exactly the way she’s ‘supposed’ to be; exactly the way fans would remember her from previous interactions. I noted that when she leaves the group at Twin Gables, she glides right up the stairs with effortless ease. She was on. She was a professional. She was a star. She was prideful. She was a classy woman, and a good one. She was not going to burden the group with her struggles. She was never going to let these people see her fall. It is absolutely consistent with everything Jeanette is that she be this way, and my inclination is to believe that if that doctor’s appointment could have been avoided, it would have been. So… something else was brewing. For me, this is an excuse to love her more — but knowing more all the time about the hell she kept to herself is heartbreaking.

To bear out my above point, on September 11, 1962, Jeanette wrote Clara, in a letter concerning other club business and general news, “I do feel better, physically, and while the weight hasn’t started to accumulate, I must be patient and know that it will come as my own energy returns to normal. The above is for your own personal edification. But I wonder if, in your letter in the magazine to the members, you could indicate that you have heard from me, and that I am feeling so well again that you thought they would all want to know. For your own edification again – you see, Clara, I have had quite a few personal letters from some of the members saying they are sorry I have not been feeling well, and I feel that these thoughts are not healthy. Instead if they send thoughts to me and for me of good health and energy, etc., it has a more affirmative reaction. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and good wishes and happiness, as against commiseration, and pity, and all of the negative ideas that are floating around us.”

She closes with, “Thank you for your understanding and patience.”

That ought to tell you a whole, whole lot. And comparing her letters to Clara versus things like her 1963 desk diary and various medical records we now have — Clara knew more than the average bear, perhaps, as in the above excerpt, but Clara was still firmly on a need-to-know basis.

I love that picture.

Here’s the footage. Enjoy this extraordinary human being, giving her very best to people who love her.

 

Thanks once more to all who make this preservation and digitization effort possible. ❤

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J-Mac x 2

Hi all,

Two more shots of Jeanette, the first one being a chestnut mined on the California trip, the second one mined from a box in my mother’s basement—one day I’ll get the other two truckloads of my crap out of her house. Feel free to download, print, etc for personal use but no altering or re-posting, please.

To the jackhole who had the actual gall to swipe the picture of Nelson with the lawn chairs and try to sell it, only to have Angela bust them and, uh, “persuade” them (she’s sort of magical when she’s pissed) to yank their auction down 20 minutes later………..DO YOU ACTUALLY IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN THINK WE DO NOT SEE WHAT IS POSTED ON EBAY???

I repeat, nobody likes a jerk.

Anyway, we will not let that stop us from bringing you beautiful things! And we will just patrol ebay as usual!

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Oooohhhhhh. Right??? Whatta stunna. ❤

This one, I framed. Because I literally need this mug on YET ANOTHER surface in my house. Ah well, she classes up the joint, what do you want from me?

Beauty. Never do I want to be SO bogged down in the research that I forget what it’s like to be a fan. She’s one of a kind.

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Jeanette Anna MacSqueak (EXCLUSIVE)

I’m about to bring something totally adorable to your lives. Prepare yourselves for your day to be vastly improved.

Our Jeanette was many things, and the word “perfect” sometimes comes to mind…….a description she hated, by the way, along with “angelic” and all its synonyms……..but she’s so gorgeous and talented and funny and smart that the word is tempting. She was a shrewd businesswoman, loyal, kind, patriotic and cagey. She’s also a smart ass, sarcastic (we were in fits over some of the stuff we were reading that she said to newspaper reporters), insecure, a worrier by nature, and emotionally, a late bloomer. She had a bratty streak a mile wide. Of course, we love her, so we just nod along with all of these things and conclude with, “Yep, she’s perfect.” Oh well.

A quality that I find MOST endearing is how nervous she got before an audience. She once wistfully said, “Every audience I’ve ever had: concert, radio, opera or television, has always heard something less than my best.” (And considering how very very magnificently she sang on so MANY of those occasions, that’s saying something!) In the recording booth, she was at ease, as she was on the motion picture soundstage. But her live audiences always got the Nervous Nellie side of her personality. She pinpoints her first attack of nerves (she was a ballsy, fearless kid at one point) in her autobiography manuscript as an occasion when she was allowed to sing at school, before the principal who disliked her and was constantly railing against a kid her age doing theatre work. The woman looked such daggers at her that she totally dried up and was unable to perform, much to her shame and embarrassment. (I have an aunt who used to do that shit to me, it’s legit. And it’s no good.) For the rest of her life, that feeling of terror lingered, which is something she bitterly regretted.

For anyone who has not seen it, I recommend The Voice of Firestone TV appearance (available on DVD) for a very real look at what I’m talking about. The typical pattern for Jeanette is that when she gets nervous, she sings too fast, pushing the orchestra, and her gaze goes directly to the ceiling instead of out to the audience. The shrewd listener who knows her voice well can detect her getting very “breathy” when she’s nervous, as well as sliding a few notes together here and there instead of stepping gently onto the center of each one. The Voice of Firestone was Jeanette’s first TV appearance, and between the quite laughable production values and Jeanette’s nervousness, it’s quite an experience. I don’t mean she’s in bad voice, she isn’t, but………well, just get the dvd and you’ll know what I mean.

One of the things Angela and I had digitized at the Library of Congress was Jeanette’s appearance on the Ford Symphony Presents program. This clip is dated November 4, 1945 and she sings two numbers, the first being Juliette’s Waltz Aria that was one of her (and my) favorite showcase pieces. Considering that she was doing opera around this time period, and Romeo et Juliette was one of the operas she was doing (Faust was the other), you’d think she’d be well-rehearsed, confident and have all the bugs worked out. But here are the MacDonald nerves in bold array, complete with slipping and sliding and the most delightful SQUEAK on a top note towards the end. She never does that!!!! Her high notes are her stock in trade! It’s 500% adorable and I can’t tell you how many times we played it back. We joked that it sounds like Nelson pinched her bottom at that exact moment. 😉

Here is Ford Symphony Presents Jeanette MacDonald:

Lest anyone think that we’re giving her a hard time by posting this, we’re not. She still sings it 33948723427384236 times better than you or I or anyone reading this blog possibly could. But her nervousness makes her human. As I said before, it’s terribly endearing.

And speaking of the MacNerves, I’d like to share a real treasure–this has not been available outside of the “vault” that owns it since it originially aired on August 5th, 1951. Here is Jeanette singing (and dancing!! GORGEOUSLY!!!!) selections from The Merry Widow. This is another thing that we found in June and we are very pleased to share it with you, here.

Several things to look for:

She’s gorgeous and brilliant and sublime and amazing and fantastic and looks awesome I love her costume and AHHHHHHHHHHH NEW JEANETTE THAT WE’VE NEVER SEEN OH MAHH GAHHHHHH!!!!!

But, for real:

She’s very nervous. In addition to exhibiting the “symptoms” I wrote about above, she nearly trips on her first entrance. (Anyone else want to hug her a little?) Also, notice that when she walks down the stairs, she has carefully coordinated someone there to hold her hand. She was deathly afraid of stairs, a fact that was documented way back in 1931 or so and never subsided. And check out how much of her choreography (which I’d bet you $900 she arranged herself—maybe not the other dancers, but judging by what she did on other TV projects, I bet she just sort of told her partner how it was going to be and that was that.) is identical to the Merry Widow Waltz in the movie! Nearly 20 years later and she still knows it. Adorable. Also, I always thought, in Vilia, it was the “spell” of her beauty…….not the “thrill” of her beauty, and a quick Google search verified this……so………uh, Jeanette?

BUT LOOK AT HER BEAUTIFUL DANCING I CANNOT HANDLE IT.

She looks fabulous. And I like her big stagey bows and dramatic pseudo-kiss blowing at Gene, who was replacing Ed Sullivan as the MC for the week.

That’s all. Admire the soprano. Adore the soprano. That’s an order. 😀

Enjoy!