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Articles, compliment of Fay L.

Our Gallant Girl          A Long Awaited Meeting        A Long Awaited Meeting



Jeanette and Leona Sweet


Sent in from Fay L. October 1, 2005


I found the article written by Jane Smoot when she visited Jeanette in hospital in 1964 and I've attached it as a Word document. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading the article and the attached photo taken on the day. I've also found the article that goes with the photos of Jeanette and Gene in 1963 when he was appearing in the play "Madly in Love" in Philadelphia - the JMIFC club member who took the photos and wrote the article was a young girl called Leona Sweet (photo attached). I'll get around to scanning that article and sending it to you. Hope you enjoy reading what I'm sending now. Fay L.      

Jeanette in Hospital


By Jane Smoot

For as many years as we have known her, the name of Jeanette MacDonald has meant beautiful melody, charm of personality, and loveliness in body and in character; and we have known the staunch courage that steered her through the vicissitudes of professional life and the anxieties of personal concern during the war years when Gene was away. But now we have another strong reason to admire her deeply, for Jeanette MacDonald has come gallantly through illness that was indeed a severe test of endurance. Because of mystifying black out spells, her own physician and the world famous specialist from Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, made special tests tests that revealed a closed carotid artery on the right side a condition causing immediate danger. The specialist urged surgery at once in Houston. After the operation in November, Jeanette healed and recovered beautifully, until pleurisy caused the agony that it can; so what was meant to be a stay of only several weeks became a two months' jail term. Although the physicians and the administrators of the hospital did everything normally possible to protect Jeanette from publicity at a trying time, there were many limitations placed upon her that we, for example, would not have had to contend with. If Jeanette MacDonald walks down the hall to take exercise, people will recognize the lovely famous guest instantly; so the room itself becomes too much like a cell, in spite of Gene's best efforts to decorate with a Christmas tree on a table and greeting cards fastened to the doors' backsides. If her name appears on the register, excitement will mount and ride high; so she must be listed under and referred to by an assumed name, so as to guarantee the best chance for the all important rest and relaxation.

But hours don't speed up to hurry the blessed day of release. So what does one do? There's television sometimes better off than on; there reading until eyes and arm and mind are tired. And there's thinking and there must be stern patience. You see why I call her "our gallant girl."

And gorgeous too! In spite of these two months of the caged life, she looks as gorgeous as only Jeanette MacDonald can! But how did I happen to know these things? Because I had the very special privilege of visiting her on Sunday, January 12 , at her invitation by long distance phone call the day before. Don't say that "seven come eleven" is not my lucky combination! The week before, workmen, putting in a spray system for our garden (insurance against the fierce heat of Texas summers), had callously dug up our longest, thickest, best row of narcissus bulbs. Because I was too busy with school work to manage them at the time, I had slated the replanting job for Saturday the eleventh. There were so many of those bulbs (I fairly hated the sight of them after seven hours) that I started quite early, stopped only for coffee at ten and worked on until finished, well past noon. It had been seven hours. As I went into the house, I was dirty and tired and thinking in terms of peanut butter sandwiches and milk for late lunch. The phone rang. I must have sounded sort of dull as I answered, but I was electrified to hear, "Jane, this is Jeanette. How are you?" I was instantly tingling with the excitement generated only by wildest dreams come true. Jeanette was asking if I could come down to see her in Houston the next day, Sunday the 12th. If I could come down?! Nothing short of direst emergency could have kept me away. You see why I bless the good fortune of the seven (hours of hard work) come eleven (lucky date?) combination.

When I am not tired I can easily drive from Austin to Houston in four hours, but after the bulbs I knew better than to push my luck too far; so I called the airlines and soon found that the only reasonable schedule would mean to leave Austin that evening, returning the following evening by Trans-Texas Airlines. I was already flying, I was so high with excitement that I scarcely had need of the plane or wits to pack for my father and self, cut off the water (sudden change in weather forecast; hard free .a expected, phone my cousin and swear her to secrecy, grab a taxi and run for the airport. The plane was being called for the last time as we panted from ticket counter to insurance counter and out into the icy northerly no time for supper at the terminal and no meal served on this plane (plane too little and trip too short), so we ate late at the Sheraton Lincoln after registering there.

But you want to know about Jeanette. Because she was a dear to clear the path for us through various administrative blocks, we were expected and I did not even have to use the password of her assumed name, which she had told me to do; her nurse came to meet Daddy and me, waited chatting with us a few minutes while Dr. Michael DeBakey was with Jeanette, and then the door opened ... and there she was her own dear self, vivid in a soft blue satin robe.

I can't give you a word-by-word quote of "she said" and "we said," for the atmosphere was much like coming some to treasured companionship, where feelings flow more impressively than mere words. And soon came Blossom, Janet's next older sister (Marie Blake in professional life, Mrs. Warren G. Rock in private life). Of course, at first Jeanette was telling us all about her ordeal of the past two months which I explained to you at the very beginning. Gene had been with her until he was forced to leave on New Year's Day to begin work on a new picture, originally entitled "I'd Rather be Right," a title which was discovered unavailable, though, because it had previously been used; so at present the picture is being called "I'd Rather be Rich." Jeanette giggled, "Wouldn't we all?! … especially with these terrific bills" Then she was telling us about the TV and the reading that had filled her long hours. What pure luck! In my haste there had been no time to shop for her, so I had gift wrapped for her a Sterling silver book mark decorated with two love birds, bills entwined. This small piece had caught my eye several weeks ago at Scarborough's, and I bought it because it appealed to me and for what a special purpose it turned out (I wished as I wrapped it that I could have had the love birds engraved JAMR and GR. (All right. I admit to my romantic soul.) Jeanette was so delighted with it that I was thrilled to have pleased her with so small and simple a gift. She used it to replace the paper clip in her book, and even after I left her I could be glad that every time she opened her book to read, a little part of my visit would still be there.

I had also taken along a pack of recent colored snapshots to show her ... more of the Scots of Austin affairs (and she honored the organization ... and surely met by giving me permission to enroll her as a member, both for her MacDonald Clan and also for her Johnston lines! The Clan here is so thrilled that they can't get over the wonderful news.) Also she was especially touched by the pictures of my Mother's grave and told me about her Mother's resting place in Mount Peace in Philadelphia. And there were some shots of our Debutante Ball and of Smokey (my cat), curled in a washbowl on an old fashioned walnut and marble dresser. This last brought a delighted chuckle from Jeanette, and she and Blossom both exclaimed that the dresser was an exact duplicate of one their grandfather had had. We were soon talking about their home on Arch Street in Philadelphia, her mother's way of making coleslaw, food in general and food for the soul. Jeanette and I think so much alike about religious matters that I was deeply moved to be talking with her on the subject. And soon, we three were singing together. Imagine SINGING WITH JEANETTE MACDONALD!! Oh, I’m sure you can well imagine that my third of the trio was next to silent and Daddy did not try to make it a quartet. And then we talked on and on about so many things.

At times, of course, Jeanette needed to rest, have her fruit juice (apricots) and milk, etc.., so Blossom and what a dear she is! - took us on a tour of the hospital. The chapel was the most interesting part .. richly, but quietly decorated, a handsome setting for the devotionals that draw visitors and patients alike.

As we sat in the Commissary, Blossom filled us in on other details of the past few weeks. When Gene had to leave on New Year's Day, Blossom had come from her Christmas visit in Philadelphia to be with Jeanette until Blossom herself would have to leave the week following my visit so as to make a TV show for Phil Silvers (due on the screen in February). She gaily told us about her first night at the hospital. She had left Philly in snow and ice and so found the air conditioning in Houston just about choking. She simply could not sleep, there in the room that Gene had occupied while he was with Jeanette. Finally in the wee small hours she got up, and quietly slipped out to take a stroll in the fresh air. While still close to the Hospital, she was tapped on the shoulder by the "tallest, broadest, biggest policeman" she had ever seen. "Lady, are you a patient in the Hospital?" Oh, no” Blossom assured him. "Well, then, where are you staying?" he solicitously inquired. "Oh, I'm STAYING in the Hospital," she had to admit, "but I'm not a patient."

In short order he rather "hurriedly and forcibly escorted her to the registration desk, asking her room number ... fully expecting it to be on the psychiatric floor. The number she gave was assigned to a gentleman' s name ... the assumed name under which Gene was registered there, to match Jeanette's assumed name, of course! The hilarious mystery was pretty thick with laughs before Blossom cleared herself!
Leaving Jeanette is always difficult for me, as every minute with her means so much to me. She helped make the good byes happier for me by letting me take several pictures. But I don't need them as vivid and as lovely as they are to remind me of my indelible memories of our gallant, gorgeous girl.

                                                                      * * * * * * * *

PS: On Saturday the 18th, I phoned Jeanette to tell her good bye, and I was delighted to hear the joy in her voice over the thrill of going home the next day on the five o’clock plane. Her maid Barbara, whom she had brought with her, and her morning nurse were accompanying her, and they were then in the midst of packing.

                                                                       * * * * * * * *

Since she reached home, I have had a lovely letter from her and also one from Blossom, and the reports are wonderful: Jeanette is fine, just a bit overwhelmed by the mountain of mail and bills and cards and bills and bills. But she is home and well. And we are deeply thankful.
Editor’s Note: It is indeed a wonderful thing to have such a complete and factual coverage of a very personal time for Jeanette MacDonald. It was good to know that she had at least partial privacy in her stay in Houston, but really a shame when the news finally leaked out. No doubt, Miss MacDonald has enjoyed her career and the fact that she has given much to all of the world, but she has certainly had a big price to pay to live in the goldfish bowl to which she has been confined all these many years. How much better it might have been had she been able to go to Houston, have the necessary treatment and slip out of town and go back home quietly. On the other hand, Miss MacDonald, we are all concerned about your welfare and as your editor has told you personally, you are so important to a great many people. They all mean well, believe we! And certainly mean no harm in their inquiries.

(Fay: This appeared in the Golden Comet, 1964. The doctor mentioned early in the story was actually Dr. Michael DeBakey who a few years later performed the same successful surgery on the Duke of Windsor)


Sent in by Fay. G.

September 8, 2005


**Editor’s Note (Clara Rhoades):  Shortly after Lee joined the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club, she wrote me that she felt real sad because she felt she would have to content herself with records, movies, etc., for she did not feel she would ever have the opportunity to meet Miss MacDonald in person. I wrote back, trying to assure her that she must have patience and faith the she would sometime realize her dream. Well, as you will see from the following article, but she also met her husband, Gene Raymond, several times and was able to get pictures.)

A Long Awaited Meeting

By Leona Sweet


         As soon as I learned about Gene Raymond appearing at the Theater in the Park here in Philadelphia, my home, I rushed down, purchased tickets for the first performance and waited eagerly for the opening night. It was most pleasant, however, when I learned that Mr. Raymond was to appear in person in downtown Philadelphia to advertise his play, “Madly In Love”. This was my first meeting with Mr. Raymond. In our city they have an outdoor show on Saturdays with entertainment of all sorts. It is called “Saturdays are Fun Days”. The purpose of this is to draw people to downtown to shop.

         He treated me very nice. Of course, we talked about Miss MacDonald. I asked him if she were coming to Philadelphia for the opening of his play. He said he wasn’t quite sure, but if she did I was to come backstage and see them. We also talked about the club and he signed my Golden Comet.

         I was so excited at seeing Mr. Raymond, I was shaking quite a lot. He asked me why I was shaking. Then we had our pictures taken and he put his arm around me. We then went up on a stage. The host was a local television personality. He greeted us, he and Mr. Raymond discussed the play for the audience and they shook hands and we went off the stage. Then I waited while Mr. Raymond signed a million autographs.

         Then it was time for him to leave. He said he would see me at the play, he waved as the car drove away.

         The setting was the Playhouse in the Park, there is much confusion and talk going on waiting for the play to begin. Then, silence fell heavy over the audience, for coming down the aisle is a ray of beauty, a bundle of charm and a woman of kindness and understanding. This is the moment I have always dreamed of, this one person in a million I have always admired from a distance and wanted to meet so badly was there before my eyes.

         The play began and it was too late to introduce myself, so I must wait….at least for intermission. Naturally I am nervous and filled with anticipation. I sit wondering, “What shall I say to her? How should I act?”

         The curtain fell on the first act and this was my opportunity to meet the one and only Mrs. Raymond, better known as Jeanette MacDonald. She put me at ease right away, she was so cool and calm and very easy to talk to. When we first met she asked me if I were in the fan club because I had my Golden Comet in my hand. She then asked me my name and when I told her, she stood up to shake hands with me. She was just great – so kind, friendly and so on. We talked about the club and I asked her to sign my Golden Comet, and she was kind enough to do so. She signed it as follows: “To Leona with all good wishes. Am glad you are with us tonight. Jeanette MacDonald”

         She also signed my playbill and then consented to have her picture taken. As you will see I think they came out quite well and Miss MacDonald asked me to send them to you, Clara, for the magazine.

         Miss MacDonald turned, as the curtain opened once more, to watch her handsome and charming husband, Gene Raymond, as he played his role in “Madly in Love” with Celeste Holm which was quite a terrific play.

         As I sat there I thought, “She is much more beautiful in person and much nicer than I thought possible.” The play was a complete sellout. And I can honestly say the audience loved it. Afterwards, everyone was saying how much they liked it and how Mr. Raymond contributed to the production excellently. After the play I went backstage to wait for the Raymonds. I asked if I might take pictures and they consented. Since they were in a hurry, we said our goodbyes and parted. And suddenly the evening was over in reality, but certainly not in my memory. In my heart, this night will go on forever. This night of nights will be cherished always and will live for me forever.