In Nelson's Own Words
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Photo Gift From Ian B.
Gene Raymondis a L U C K Y G U Y!
By Nelson Eddy
(Reprinted with permission of the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club—The GOLDEN COMET Vol. 56,#4, Vol. 57 #2) We sincerely thank Clara Rhoades and Tessa Williams who have graciously allowed us to include the article in our Jeanette MacDonald Fan Club Website. Those wishing to become members of the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club—authorized by Jeanette—or purchase copies of The Golden Comet and other Jeanette items should write to JMIFC, 1617 SW Indian Trail, Topeka, KS 66604)
is a L U C K Y G U Y!
By Nelson Eddy
Is Nelson Eddy jealous because Jeanette MacDonald is going to marry another man? The answer, positive and complete, is in this interesting, generous story by Nelson, himself, as told to James Reid
"Gene is a lucky guy!!"
That’s what I told Jeanette MacDonald when she told me what I had known for months:
That she was going to marry Gene Raymond.
And that’s my answer to the millions—well, thousands——of people who wonder how I feel, now about singing love songs to Jeanette.
I don’t know what kind of fan mail she and Gene have been getting since their engagement was announced, (Ed. Note: The engagement was announced by Jeanette’s mother at a formal engagement party on August 21, 1936 at which Nelson was a guest—see photo in our picture section.) but you should see some of the letters that are swooping down on me, dumbfounding me. The Eddy fans are "taking it hard".
They picture me with my heart broken into jagged bits, perhaps beyond all mending. They sympathize with me—for not winning, in real life, the girl I have courted on the screen. They implore me not to do anything rash—like leaving films. They seem to think that they’ll never see us together again: that we have parted forever, for the reasons unknown and incomprehensible. And they want me to realize that they feel pretty badly about it all.
Maybe the word hasn’t circulated around; Maybe MGM is keeping it a secret, which I shouldn’t be telling. But there is a super-romantic musical in the making, entitled MAYTIME—and Jeanette and I are making it!
Funny, the illusions that people build around an unmarried actress and a bachelor leading man—particularly if they appear together more than once. "Why, they must be in love. They couldn’t be that romantic, if they weren’t"
You’ve heard people say that, time and again, about screen couples. So have I. But I’m surprised that they have been saying it about Jeanette and me. All my illusions are shattered. I thought people went to our pictures because the pictures were romantic, with some of the romance set to music.
There haven’t been any rumors about our "holding hands at the Brown Derby," either. That’s what makes this deluge of sympathy so dumbfounding. Jeanette isn’t particularly publicity-conscious; and Hollywood knows that I am. The Consternation of Press-Agents. If we had been headline-minded, we would have done things to promote suspicion that we were sweethearts of off screen, too. Somehow, that idea never occurred to us. And if it had, we wouldn’t have done anything about it.
She had her friends; I had mine; and almost never did the twain of us meet, away the cameras. We have gone out together about twice and I have been at her house a few times, on party occasions. That’s all.
Not that we don’t enjoy each other’s company, we do. We wouldn’t be making our third picture together if we didn’t. From the beginning, at the studio, we have been as close as——well, as close as the covers of a song. Outside the studio, it so happens that we haven’t seen much of each other
Yet, I insist that if anyone knows whether or not Gene Raymond is a lucky prospective bridegroom, I ought to have an inkling or two.
The man who courts a girl sees only one side of her——her best side. He sees her when she is her prettiest, sweetest, most charming self. But the man who works with a girl as a partner, under a variety of conditions, over a long period of time, sees every side of her. He knows her as few men ever will.
Jeanette and I have worked as screen partners for almost three years; in fact, I’ve never played opposite any other star. During these three years, I have seen her at close range, with make-up and without. In Hollywood slacks and in Paris gowns. In all kinds of moods...Morning, noon and night...On luxurious sets and in primitive Locations camps.
And all I hope is that I’ll be able to work with Jeanette a few more years. I have plenty of reasons for saying that. They are also the reasons why I suspect Gene collected four—leaf clovers before he asked Jeanette to marry him.
Jeanette surprised me the first day I worked with her, and she has been amazing me ever since. If you remember, I had been stagnating at the studio about a year and a half, singing a few small bits in scattered pictures. I had been begging for a chance to find out if I had any screen future, or else—a release from my contract. And then they told me that I would have my chance, as Jeanette’s leading man in NAUGHTY MARIETTA.
When I showed my reaction, the front office grinned, as much as to say, "Well, you asked for it." I felt like the man who went into a barbershop and asked for a haircut, only to be given a head shave.
I have long been a Chevalier—MacDonald fan. But working opposite Jeanette MacDonald would be something else again! I decided that I wasn’t going to like her. After all, she was a prima donna. Not that I had had any grievous experiences with Stage prima donnas ... but the screen kind probably would be different. She was "Singing Star No. 1" of Hollywood. That probably meant that she demanded everything under the sun-arcs, went into rages over trifles, and was otherwise plenty impossible. She was red-headed, too, I heard.
And I found that I was all wrong about her. In the first place, her hair wasn’t so red as coppery-gold. She didn’t frown when she saw the novice that the front office had cast as her leading man. She smiled as if she meant that we would be friends. She didn’t try to dazzle me, or anyone else, with her starry glamour. She acted like a girl who had a good time when she made a picture. She was effortlessly charming. She chased my jitters right out of the door.
She did more than that. She went out of her way to be helpful. I didn’t know more than the first two things about movie technique. I had been used to working in front of a visible audience, which reacted—and wasn’t cold and silent like a camera and microphone. Jeanette could have stolen every scene in that picture, but she didn’t. Instead, she threw scenes my way. She took time to put me wise to tricks of the trade, gave me all kinds of tips. That wasn’t like a prima donna; that was like a pal.
She did such a good job that, picture was finished, the studio bill my name in big letters, too. Jeanette didn’t have to stand for that. She was a star, and I was only a leading man—if she has reminded the front office emphatically, the front office would said, "Yes, Miss MacDonald," but she didn’t!
If you know Hollywood, and how jealous most stars guard their stardom and try to thwart any competition, you can appreciate, as I do, what an unselfish person Jeanette MacDonald is. And how lucky Gene Raymond is, to win such a life-time partner.
Girls as unselfish as Jeanette may not be exactly rare, but they certainly are infrequent. So are girls who can be helpful to a man, and make their advice sound like encouragement, not superior wisdom. That’s a trait a man would appreciate, and (from what I’ve heard) seldom finds in his so-called helpmate.
Gene entered upon the scene sometime during NAUGHTY MARIETTA. He and I used to play tennis together. He usually trimmed me; he plays a pretty good game.
However, I wasn’t the one who introduced him to Jeanette. I don’t know exactly how they did meet, or where. But, as I understand it, they went separately to two or three parties, and each time met on the doorstep, with the hostess assuming that they had come together -- until finally Gene said, "Shouldn’t we do something about this?"
Soon after they started going together, an interviewer asked Jeanette if this was a romance. And Jeanette answer was "No—at least, not yet."
"But why is it that you’re never seen with any other man?"
Jeanette said, "Show me another man as fine and clean and clever as Gene. I’d like to meet him."
I don’t know if Gene has heard of this particular bit of frankness, or not. But he must have countless proofs of her sincerity and idealism, those are rare traits today, too. And traits that a man still hopes to find in the girl he marries.
Cynicism is much more fashionable, much "smarter" today than idealism like Jeanette’s. But that doesn’t bother Jeanette, I’ve heard people wonder if she isn’t a bit prudish, simply because she never take a cocktail. The answer is "No." It just happens that she doesn’t feel the need for artificial stimulation. But she doesn’t disapprove of others’ drinking, as a prude would. If others get a "kick" out of imbibing, that’s all right with her. She can understand it. And provides a cabinet of liquors for such guests as might not feel "At Home" without glasses in their hands.
Other people, all kinds of people, interest Jeanette. She has the knack of forgetting that she is a movie star. She finds out what their interests are, and then talks about them. You’ll never hear Jeanette ask, a la Hollywood, "What did you think of my last picture?" She would rather talk about the stupendous feats of a Mexican Jumping Bean or something equally remote from herself. She hasn’t any egotism. And that’s a healthy thing, too, considering that there will be two careers in one family.
Even before the wedding, people are wondering, "if the marriage will last"—for the reason that both Gene and Jeanette are stars. Anyone who knows both of them can laugh at that. Certainly, it it’s true that "the success of a marriage depends mostly on the woman," the Raymond—MacDonald merger will hit on all twelve cylinders.
She has a right to star complexes, as the Queen of Singing Stars; but she hasn’t any. She does not live in beauty parlors and dress shops. She doesn’t listen to flattery, or resent criticism. She doesn’t have any poses, any delusions of grandeur, any regal "Tiredness of it all". She has had a career a long time, and has been a top-notcher a long time—long enough to have a sense of values.
If there’s a girl a man can tire of quickly, it’s the girl who is constantly clothes-conscious, constantly primping, constantly "putting on an act" for the benefit of any possible onlookers, and constantly assuming that what she does is more worth talking about than anything that he does. Gene will be spared any of those romance—ruining annoyances. Jeanette just isn’t guilty of them.
In this respect, she is a man’s woman. But she is also a woman’s woman. On my concert tours, I find myself surrounded with women of all ages, shapes and sizes, all asking questions about Jeanette. "Is she as beautiful in person as on the screen?" They can’t seem to believe it. They seem to think that Jeanette knows some make-up secret that they ought to discover. As I told you 1before I’ve seen her with make-up and without. And all I can say is that Gene is marrying one of the beauties of the world. It will take a color picture to show what I mean.
Jeanette is also one of the world’s best sports. You could see an example of that, right here on the set, a few weeks ago. She was in torture, with sun—poisoning she got over the weekend on a yachting trip. Her face was peeling, her eyes were burning, and her lower lip swollen, discolored, and infected. She should have been at home in bed, getting well. Hang the delay to the picture! But there she was, instead—trying to smile—going through rehearsals for the "Jump Jim Crow" dance in MAYTIME.
That kind of girl was mettle. She is as taut and sensitive as a violin string. Temperamental? Not in the prima donna sense of the word -- you know, half-temper and half-mental. I’ve seen her fly up when things went wrong, but I’ve seen her smiling again three minutes later. That isn’t like a prima donna. I’ve seen prima donnas who could go into rages and stay in them for days. Jeanette and I never have had a quarrel; she’s hard to quarrel with. But no one can use her for a walking mat, either.
A test of any girl’s sportsmanship is a location trip into rough, rugged country—like the one we took into the Lake Tahoe country for ROSE MARIE. And Jeanette, all through that trip, was one of the gang. Here was just one thing she refused to do. That was to eat the canned chow that the rest of us ate. Jeanette was smart. She sent down to the nearest town for fresh milk, and eggs, and vegetables. Me, I was going to rough it, and eat beans. And I picked up some ptomaine, doing it. Jeanette could have had a nice chuckle to herself about that. Instead, she sent over some food that I could eat, and brought me back to life.
Nobody got sore when she picked up this sun—poisoning and delayed production. Nobody said, "Wouldn’t you think she’d have had more sense— ?" Everybody said, "Sorry you’re in such misery ... hope you’ll be well soon, Miss MacDonald." She rates with the people who work with her. And here’s another interesting point. She probably knows every worker on the lot by his first name. But not one of them walks up to her and says, "H’ya, Jeanette." She is "Miss MacDonald." She doesn’t ask for that title, like a couple of other stars I could mention. She just inspires an instinctive respect. And that’s another quality any man would like his wife to have. Be everybody’s friend, but "Toots"
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