Working on Jeanette! Still around—may take some detours, but the destination will always be the same.
In the meantime, while there is still quite a bit of dust, I offer this adorable clipping of Jeanette and Gene.
Working on Jeanette! Still around—may take some detours, but the destination will always be the same.
In the meantime, while there is still quite a bit of dust, I offer this adorable clipping of Jeanette and Gene.
by Ruth Waterbury
The Gene Raymonds have successfully hurdled that first year of matrimony—that supposedly awful, awful first year. This is how they did it!
It was suddenly quiet in the Raymond-MacDonald living room as we all stopped to catch our breaths from laughing. That was what gave me the hunch.
“You two have been married almost a year now, haven’t you?” I asked.
“Lacking exactly twenty-seven days, four hours and nine minutes.” said Gene.
“And you are still laughing all the time?” They obliged by laughing again and nodded their heads in assent.
“What about laughter as n basis for a perfect marriage?” I persisted.
“Would you be making a noise like an interviewer?” Gene demanded.
“Well, why not? I might as well admit that I was pretty suspicious of all that sweetness and light published about you two a little over a year ago just before you were married. You sounded simply too happy to be true; but, after all, no people in your position stay married unless they really have a good time of it.
by Louella Parsons
February 21, 1951
Not since the stories that Shirley Temple was actually a dwarf and wasn’t a child actress, and that the real Mary Pickford had been dead for years and another actress was taking her place, have we had as ridiculous a fabrication as the one printed about Jeanette MacDonald.
A story in a Vienna newspaper says that Jennette MacDonald is in reality the child of elderly Austrian parents who still live there. I knew Jeanette’s mother, a wonderful women who died in 1947. Jeanette looks like her. Her father died several years ago—and whoever started the Austrian parents yarn certainly has a good imagination (or a bad one).
Jeanette as seen by Nelson Eddy
The Jeanette MacDonald you know on the screen and through the usual stories written about her has a good many more facets to her personality than you’ve been led to believe. Since I like to do anything and everything as thoroughly as possible, you may find some categories of mine are not in agreement with those you’d choose yourself. I’ll try to explain them as I go along—but if I forget, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Jeanette, if she were food, would be a cold pheasant wing with dry Chablis, rice pudding and toast melba. The last item represents a definite sense of self-discipline; the rice pudding is that simple, hearty, sometimes unglamorous quality she has; and the other portions of the menu speak for themselves.
As a tree—well, just imagine a sunny California hill with golden poppies growing down the slope, and then, right on top, perch a Christmas tree all garnished with baubles and quite incongruously touched with real snow. Snow that the sun cannot melt, no matter how warm the rays.
It’s easier to describe Jeantte in terms of a house. That’s a natural. She’s an early American place with a Scottish influence in the decorations: The MacDonald is very conscious of her ancestry. Pure early American is not very comfortable, but this house would be. There’d be divans upholstered in plaid, facing a great open fireplace, and the inevitable spinning wheel would be pushed back to make way for a tea wagon. That symbolism is particularly apt. The house would be spotless, the wooden floors scrubbed until they shone, with everything dusted relentlessly. A family bible and a family album would have a conspicuous place on a conspicuous table. The mantle and small what-nots would be covered with little sentimental gadgets and keepsakes.
The whole mood of the place would be one with casual formality, with rules to be observed—but not to the exclusion of comfort.
What sort of game? Certainly not a very energetic one; I would say a parlor game in which you guess things. Post office, maybe, should be added here; and a delicate feminine type of horseshoes, where the players sit and toss light cardboard shoes at stakes not very far away. Jeanette likes to win at games. So it should be something that’s quickly won and over with.
Jeanette is a Viennese Waltz with just an occasional fox-trot step worked in, slyly; she’s a tall glass of very cold lemonade under a shade tree—and the lemonade would have three or four maraschino cherries in it, instead of one, and a double portion of sugar.
She is a nosegay set in a lace paper ruffle, with Bouvardia—you know that strong little white flower—and with a rare gold and flame orchid in the center. So far as books are concerned Jeanette MacDonald cannot be described in the title of just one book. She’s an entire case of them. Let’s say the Jeanette Bookshelf (only one edition, vary rare) would start with a Prayer Book in a white satin cover and contain an album of music, “Etiquette” by Emily Post, “The Five Little Peppers and how they Grew,” “Joe Miller’s Joke Book,””The Wizard of Oz,” a collection of Peter Arno cartoons, “Madame Bovary” and “Alice in Wonderland.” And perhaps a copy of Voltaire. We must not ignore that somewhat surprising sophistication, always bound by good taste, which is an angle of Jeanette’s nature; nor her deep religious sense, nor her insistence on convention, nor her love of a good ancedote. But no heavy reading, ever, may find room on that shelf.
If Jeanette were a mechanical device she would be a metronome in rare teak, tuned to tempo by a special committee composed of Caruso, Toscanni and Elizabeth Arden.
Jeanette as a jewel, is a cameo; as a metal, gold, yellow, 24-carat, in the shape of an old-fashioned wedding ring. As a perfume, cologne, and heather. I say cologne rather than perfume because the personality here is a more fragile thing than any essence of musk and myrrh.
Don’t strain your eyebrows over this, but in terms of clothes Jeanette is a a handmade princess slip, without embroidery. And an ostrich-feather bed jacket, in case the doorbell rings. She is a music box playing “here comes the bride” in swing tempo; and if she were a sport it would be jumping rope—very brisk action for a moment, then a period of rest.
Suppose she were a car. It would be one she could drive herself occasionally, but by dint of mild effort a window would roll up between the driver’s seat and the tonneau, whereupon the machine would become a limousine with a chauffeur and possible a footman.
Metamorphose the girl into an animal and I think you’d find a deer—suspicious, distrustful, gentle, lovely; but capable of being tamed. Make her a song and she’d be any coloratura aria, “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Coming Through the Rye” a potential lullaby, and any popular song.
Jeanette is a formal miniature in a a jeweled frame, suspended by a velvet ribbon. She is a combination of a Cathedral thrush and a young eagle—you know what I mean by Cathedral thrush, and the young eagle signifies strength, an unsuspected fortitude. Eagles put branches and rock in their nests, instead of down, so when the youngsters once start to fly they won’t have any impulse to come back. Jeanette doesn’t try for a soft life; she gets a kick out of forcing her way past obstacles. There is also a Redheaded hummingbird. How about that?
You see? I warned you. My portrait of the beautiful Mrs. Gene Raymond, in all probability, does not approach the one you had in mind. But I must say this about Jeanette: She is an amazing woman, possessed of unbelievable personal strength—a feeling for living life smoothly, like a sliver spoon cutting into frozen custard—a determination which surpasseth all understanding—a canny Scotch money sense, in the tradition of those gentle American Capitalists who pride themselves on their ability to live on the income from an income—an intense sophistication which breeds a subtle but distinct from of delicate cynicism—a driving ambition which is not matched for her physical capacity for hardship. so that she drives herself further than she should to get what she wants—a fine, genuine sense of music, and a talent (shall we say genius?) for translating it in terms of her own magnificent voice—a hoydenish strain of happy chappy humor, never too old-lavender-and-lace to snub a laugh even if it’s bred in lower minds than hers—a kind of beauty —a heigh-ho-little-girl-does-your-mother-know-you’re-out?-thing that’s hard to describe.
And a capacity for making friends which, thank heaven, has seen fit to include me among them.
Nelson Eddy As Seen By Jeanette MacDonald
What kind of Car Would He Be?
If Nelson Eddy were an automobile, I’m pretty sure he would be a sedan, probably light tan in color, with white sidewall tires which would be quite spotless, always. The car would be of good make, a trustworthy make. It would have a governor on the accelerator to keep it from going faster than the lawful speed limit. But this car would have a touch of fancy about it; the exhaust pipe would be attached to an expensive set of musical horns and they would work by vacuum, exuberantly booming forth “The Road to Mandalay,” to the confusion of the traffic and the delight of people on sidewalks. Crowds of girls would follow the machine down the street.
What Kind of Clothes?
A conservative, dark blue business suit, with matching tie, shirt, socks and handkerchief in various shades. The suit would be neatly pressed, unobtrusively expensive. There would be a boutonniere on the lapel, and when you smelled it a stream of water would squirt in your eye. Yes, you would find—if you looked closely—a mended place where a sleeve had been ripped by overly enthusiastic autograph seekers.
Steak, mashed potatoes, plenty of gravy, and iced pineapple.
What Kind of Mechanical Device?
Oh, I would think a platinum-plated steam shovel, deliberately and earnestly and thoroughly doing the work demanded of it, and being extremely entertaining to the groups of people gathered around the railing of the excavation to watch.
A marching song. “Home Sweet Home,”Performed by Nelson Eddy himself; “That Dear Old Mother of Mine,” rendered with moving sincerity by a large chorus; a few bars of a raucous barracks ditty heard from the bathroom to accompaniment of splashings.
Nelson would certainly been an animal with a constructive purpose in life, like a fine watchdog with an especially appealing bark.
Hot rum punch on a cold, bleak day. Beer drunk from a china mug.
Book, or Books?
Of course there would have to be a tome on music. And a collection of essays on how to live intelligently, with control. Anything by Horatio Alger, the writing polished by Somerset Maugham, because his life is like an Alger story except that he has lived it with great distinction and good taste. And a history book, because of Nelson’s fabulous memory for details.
Berkeley Square in Los Angeles, where the Quality live. There are gates at either end (it’s only two blocks long), and even the gutters are exclusive. He would be the street the Met is on in New York, the main drag of any small American town—the Sinclair Lewis Main Street, but with good taste and aplomb—and he would be the entrance drive to a studio city.
Magic—perhaps because it’s one of the things he does well, at every party; but also because he’s so darned surprising. He’s a guessing game of course. And Musical Chairs.
An oak. Sometimes he’s a very young oak, however, easily swayed by a strong breeze. Mostly he knows what he wants and stands very firm against the breeze. And he’s intensely staunch in his loyalties.
White Conlonial. Passionately American, formal with a play cottage removed from the main building, for parties. There would be a pipe organ in the drawing room.
Baseball, particularly at the interval when the bands play. There would have to be bands.
A little boy’s pet marble—the kind they call an “aggie.”
Military boots, shiny and new, with spurs on them; sheet music in the background; a wing fireside chair with an open book left on the cusion.
Painting or Picture?
A Currier and Ives print.
An albatross with a nightingale’s voice. Contrary to the opinion of most people who have never lived in the South, the nightingale is a baritone. And the albatross is large and blond and deliberate on the wing.
I dislike summaries of any sort—it’s like pointing a moral—but Nelson Eddy is difficult to describe in any fashion because his personality is so integrated and his abilities so defined that any flights of fancy ill become his portrait. Nelson has arrived. He has what he wants from life, and his future is settled for him. I count him one of my favorite people almost without reservation—one of the reasons being that fact that I don’t have to worry about him, as I do about so many of my friends.
by Bernard MacFadden
Her fascination and charm are no mere matters of chance. She cultivated and developed them. And she frankly revealed how to the publisher of True Story…
The enticement of a movie career is a magnet that is difficult to resist, many are called, but few are chosen. Thousands of fans seek fane and fortune offered by the movies, but the percentage of applicants who are finally able to climb the ladder of success is small indeed. Where one succeeds, hundreds fall by the wayside, and nearly every star in the movie firmament eagerly sought a film career.
With Jeanette MacDonaId the situation was different. She was enjoying a successful stage career. Instead of her seeking the movies, their officials were attracted by her performance, and their offers were so liberal she could not afford to reject them.
Miss MacDonald’s stage career was a training, for the “flicker lights” that was invaluable. She is peculiarly fitted for the movies. She has beauty and charm that is unusual in nature, a splendid symmetrical figure, and the suppleness and grace acquired through her dancing make her indeed an alluring personality on the screen.
There is a certain aliveness and animation in her presentation of the various characters which she has assumed that add greatly to her attractions.
She does indeed make an ideal heroine for the numerous plays and pictures in which she has taken the leading part.
When I interviewed her she was dressed in slacks a comfortable costume indeed. And she has the happy faculty of being just as charming in private life as she is on the screen.
I learned on this visit that she has a mind of her own. She talks intelligently on economics and politics and other abstruse subjects that would be Greek to many movie stars. And in reply to my queries she unfolded many details of her unusually interesting career.
She was never especially ambitious to be in the movies; her one desire was to be a singer. She started vocalizing when she was three.
When she was eight she appeared in a funny little revue. At nine she sang numerous songs. Had movies been talkies at that time, she undoubtedly would have been a prodigy, like Judy Garland or Deanna Durbin of today.
She has always been intrigued by dancing, more especially because it is frequently associated with the singing required in the various parts that she has assumed on the stage and in the movies. She has learned, also, that dancing is an invaluable exercise as pleasurable as it is beneficial. Two of her sisters took dancing lessons when she was a child, and contact with them doubtless helped to arouse her interest.
Miss MacDonald was born in Philadelphia, although in reply to my inquiry she maintained there was nothing slow about that city. She attended grammar school there, and had just started in high school when her family decided to move to New York City. Her father was a builder and a contractor, and he built many houses in Philadelphia. But he did not make a great deal of money as a contractor; largely, Miss MacDonald says, because he went into politics and failed to be successful as a politician. His diplomacy was at fault, and he did not last long in politics.
Jeanette admitted she did not graduate. She was so much allured by a stage career in New York that high school became very unimportant, Her career came first, and her activities on the stage required nearly all of her time, and she discontinued the school routine.
She was paid twenty-five dollars a week for singing when she was between seven and eight years of age, although her mother put the money in the bank at the time, and Jeanette used it later for her singing lessons. Strange as it may seem, her mother was not interested in singing. Jeanette had two sisters, both older than she. One of her sisters was a talented pianist, but she married young and gave up her musical career. Another sister was a dancer in New York and it was through her that Jeanette began her stage career in the great metropolis.
She was only thirteen years of age when she appeared in the Capitol Theater in New York in a show similar to that presented by the Rockettes. Following that she took part in a show at the Greenwich Tillage Theater. At that time she was only fifteen years of age. The theater accommodated only two hundred people, but she played to capacity houses every night.
Jeanette was only ten years of age when she began to take singing lessons, although she admits it did her more harm than good. Even at that early age she learned arias from the operas, and all the songs from “Faust”.
She probably overworked her voice at this time, for she says it seemed to grow stale. She believed it had been injured by singing too much as a child.
However, the dancing lessons she had taken now proved quite valuable. She received sixty dollars a week for dancing at the Greenwich Village Theatre, which, at that time, was considered a very good salary. Following that she signed up with Mr. Savage to dance at the Magic Ring, where her salary was raised to one hundred dollars a week, which at her age only sixteen years was really munificence.
Girls frequently attain their full growth between twelve and fourteen years of age. Whether or not overmuch training at such an early age influenced her growth, Jeanette states that she continued to grow even after she was twenty-one, physically and mentally as well as vocally. Her vocal teacher told her her voice would continue to develop as long as her body was in good health that there is no such thing as a broken voice and as long as one is vitally vigorous one should be able to sing, regardless of age.
She admits, however, that singing as a profession often becomes hard work, although it is a very restraining influence. One can not have a good voice unless the importance of maintaining vigorous health is continuously recognized. Every possible effort must be made to keep the body in splendid physical condition.
She was very busy with her stage career in New York City when the movies first entered her life. She was appearing at the Longacre Theatre in light opera when a screen test was made at the request of the officials of the Paramount organization. Her first appearance, on the screen apparently made a very pleasant impression and she was offered a leading role opposite Richard Dix in a movie. She could not get a release from the Shuberts, for whom she was playing at the time, so she had to abandon the idea. Her disappointment was keen at the time, but she had no choice. She was under contract and could not break it. She learned later, however, that the picture was a failure and to have appeared in it might have injured her reputation as an actress.
Later, however, Ernst Lubitseh saw her test, when he was looking for some one to play the Queen in “The Love Parade”, and decided she was the girl to play the part. Later she played in “The Vagabond King”, “Monte Carlo”, “One Hour With You”, and “Love Me Tonight.”
Following these pictures she went to Europe and secured engagements in London and Paris, and her appearances there were very successful. The demand for her pictures throughout Europe has been especially pleasing.
She is apparently very studious. She has learned the lessons which are essential to guide her own life profitably and successfully. It is not at all difficult to account for her successful career.
“In recent years I have been my own business manager,” she said, “After my second European tour I signed a contract with MGM, and made “The Cat and the Fiddle, playing opposite Ramon Novarro. I next appeared in “The Merry Widow”, with Maurice Chevalier. Then followed “Naughty Marietta” and “Rose Marie” with Nelson Eddy as co-star in both. Next came “San Francisco” in which I co-starred with Clark Gable; “Maytime” with Nelson Eddy. I starred in “The Firefly” with Allan Jones, and in “The Girl of the Golden West” in which I again co-starred with Nelson Eddy. I recently completed the picture “Sweethearts” with Nelson Eddy.
“My actual academic education,” said Jeanette, “started when I was six-teen. I really started to study seriously at that age. I took up French and began dancing and singing in real earnest. I studied Italian a few years after that. I have always been a prolific reader, although I have had less time recently for that diversion.”
Jeanette loves to study biographies. She is especially fond of reading about Melba and Jenny Lind, and other great singers of bygone days. Jenny Lind’s biography, she maintains, was very dull, and her life was very peculiar.
The biographies of modern women especially interest her. The dramatic figure of Mary Garden was unusually intriguing. Geraldine Farrar’s life was also very dramatic, and exceedingly worth while, so she maintained. She has even found interest in the biographies of Wagner and Beethoven, and other great musicians of bygone days.
Ordinarily in reading biographies, she says, she does not compare them with her own career, although the experiences of some of the women singers would make an interesting comparison. She believes that their experience would to a certain extent parallet that of her own life. She found it interesting and profitable to learn how these great singers and musicians lived and struggled and how they solved the many difficulties and met the emergencies of their lives.
But Jeanette’s hobby is her work. She calls it work, but, in reality, is should not be termed as such. That word gives one the idea of a monotonous routine, and singing to Jeanette is a playful game. She enjoys it intensely. It is her life, ner very soul is embedded in the emotions that are automatically aroused through dramatic vocalizing.
I asked Jeanette if she was interested in polities. ‘I think every one has to be interested in politics these days,” she replied. “Especially business men. I was a youngster when my father failed in politics. There were many phases of his activities of which I did not approve, and naturally I would like to avoid these mistakes in my own life. But nearly every great business enterprise is full of politics at this time, and the same may be said of every profession.”
Jeanette admits she has read all kinds of philosophical books, but she has adhered to a policy that is followed by every real student. She does not accept the reasoning of every author shemay read, but out of her own reading she evolves her own philosophy. “I cannot”, she said, “read Freud or Plato, and swallow them whole, or understand their works and theories as a matter of fact.”
One of her favorites is a little book written by a Hindu, which is not Christian, yet the teachings are quite Christian-like. The book is called “The Prophet”.
One of her favorite authors is Victor Hugo, the dramatic Frenchman, whose reputation will last as long as the English language is spoken.
Like all professional vocalists, Miss MacDonald has learned the unusual importance of vigorous health. She tries to secure plenty of sleep, although she states she is not a sound sleeper. In fact, sleeping has been one of her problems. She tries to sleep eight hours every day, but on work days she rarely obtains more than five or six. To remedy this defect, she has tried eating early, eating lightly, and exercising, but she admits the problem has never been entirely solved. She has tried to content herself with five or six hours’ sleep during the night and to make up for the deficiency she sleeps during lunch hour, when working on a picture.
In her health regimen she has been wise enough to learn the value of sunshine. She tries to get as much as possible. In a recent picture she said she had to keep out of the sun to avoid a tan complexion as the picture was being made in technicolor. The picture she referred to is ‘”Sweethearts”, and the makeup is very exacting. A brown skin in this picture would be fatal, as that color photographs black on the screen. Because of this she had to stay out of the sun for three months.
She is, however, very fond of that vitality building exercise which I recommend so heartily, and that is walking. She walks a mile every night before goi.ng to bed. During my recent visit to Hollywood, after enjoying a delectable dinner by the way I was greatly surprised to find I could enjoy my usual diet, which was indeed an enjoyable experience I took one of those mile walks with her and her handsome athletic husband, Gene Raymond. The last part of that walk was an uphill climb. Jeanette appeared greatly to enjoy the exercise.
Their beautiful home, which is like a private estate, is on a hill from which there is a beautiful view of the surrounding country. It is almost like being out in the country, although within a few miles of the studios.
Jeanette is fond of cycling and frequently rides to the studios in the morning.
In the various-roles she has played, dancing has frequently been required. Then other exercises were not especially necessary, when they were taking “The Firefly”, a Spanish dance was a part of the play. In her recent picture, “Sweethearts” she had to learn a Dutch dance. She stated it took her three weeks to learn the Spanish dance, but only three days for the Dutch dance.
Jeanette rides horseback frequently, which she thoroughly enjoys. Swimming is also one of her favorite exercises. Swimming. and dancing can hardly be improved upon for giving one a supple and symmetrical figure, and these exercises no doubt largely account for her slim, slyph-like figure, which the movie fans find so charming.
When I inquired about meals, she described a very frugal breakfast consisting of a bowl of fruit; whatever may be seasonable peaches, figs or nectarines to which she sometimes adds cream, although a cup of warm milk usually completes the meal. When she is working she has a cup of hot soup about eleven o’clock in the morning. She usually eats her breakfast about seven, and at about eleven takes a cup of vegetable broth.
She eats luncheon usually at twelve-thirty, and her average lunch is string beans, baked or boiled potatoes and some squash no meat, eggs or fish at this meal. At noon she usually eats a slice or two of whole wheat bread, and takes a glass of sweet milk. She does not like buttermilk.
Her average dinner begins with a hard-boiled egg, or an avocado pear with pineapple, for the first course. She never eats pork, but she likes beef, lamb kidneys and chicken livers, to which she usually adds two green vegetables.
She is very fond of apple pie which is her favorite dessert; When I asked her if she liked it covered with whipped cream, her reply was evasive, “I do not eat the crust,” she said, “I like only the apples in the center of the pie. The crust is too heavy. I just seem to like the flavor of the apples in the apple pie. Other aessets I like are fruit jello, prune whip, cup custard, sometimes junket. I just love junket.
She never drinks coffee or postum, although she acknowledged that occasionally she likes a cup of tea. When about seven-teen years of age she had a fall, and suffered from backache. The doctor told her to stop drinking coffee and it raight help to remedy the trouble.
“I followed his directions, she said, and have never indulged in coffee since then, although I will have to admit it did not stop my backaches.”
Then she discussed religion. She stated she thought religion was good for everybody mainly the belief in a higher power. “I even think,” she said, “that religion is necessary whether you feel the need of it or not. There are times when my profession lets me down mentally, when I am disappointed, or things do not go the way they should. Then I realize there is something far more important than my work. I believe religion is a mental and moral stimulant of unusual value. It undoubtedly, is an uplifting force for those who believe in its precepts. I am a member of the Presbyterian Church, although I was married in the Methodist Episcopal Church. I have often attended the Catholic Church and also the ChristianScience Church.”
When.I asked Jeanette if she had any idiosyncrasies, she replied, “I guess I am just as crazy as the average human being, although I cannot think of anything about myself that is particularly unusual,” I think I raight have remarked at that time that her exquisitely beautiful voice that has charmed millions could certainly be termed unusual.
“Without my music and singing, I am quite sure I would stagnate,” said Jeanette. “Life would be indeed monotonous, an uninteresting routine. I might have developed other talents. I know I have latent talents, although too many people get enthusiastic about side-issues and do not concentrate their energies sufficiently to make an outstanding success. I think we are all lazy to a certain extent. Yes, the whole world. You, me and everybody else in it.”
She acknowledges that she is too energetic at times. “I am on the go constantly.” She admitted it would be greatly to her benefit if she could relax more, but she should not indulge in this luxury too often. “For then this innate laziness might get me,” she admitted.
She did not think there way any special secret about her extraordinary success. Her only formula is that which is behind every outstanding achievement. That is hard work, which is certainly the main requirement in the evolvement of genius.
She believes that people should take a personal inventory frequently that self-analysis is often desirable. “Figure out just where you want to go, and then keep on the main track. We cannot definitely direct our destinies, but we can greatly influence them.”
In trying to ascertain just how much time she gave to training her voice previous to her great success she stated that she vocalized an hour and a half or two hours every day. When working on the various pictures she rarely takes time to practice, although there are certain vocal exercises which she uses every day. “I sing certain songs, or learn an opera or a certain score. My exercises are not written out. They consist of a routine that my teacher taught me and I still use it. My range is from about low Ato high E flat.”
Miss MacDonald is indeed a remarkable example of what can be accomplished when one starts in life with a liberal share of enthusiasm backed up by unusual ambitions and the energies that accompany the vitality associated with a vigorous inheritance.
She started out as a child prodigy. Fortunately for her, she continued to improve with added years. Her dancing, together with her ability to fathom the problems of life, enabled her to keep her balance and advance mentally year by year.
Along with the development of her voice she has had a mental growth that automatically appears when one becomes a student of life as it is lived day by day.
How to meet our daily problems, combat emergencies that cannot be avoided and maintain the mental balance essential to the enjoyment of life represents difficulties that but few people can combat successfully.
by Paul Marsh
JUST about five years ago an unusual incident occurred on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot. There was little pattern for it, but nevertheless it happened. What was it? Very simple—a queen had given up her throne!
This may sound as though royalty was once again repeating its abdication routine, and in a way, it was true. However, the queen in this case was Jeanette MacDonald, who had reigned with unquestioned glory in her position as the top musical lady on the Culver City lot.
There wasn’t a multitude of rumblings at this decision, nor did Jeanette leave any ill-feeling behind her. The time had come, she said, for her to try her wings in other fields. In the back of her mind lurked this desire, and one bright morning, just after a final hike, she suddenly decided that now was the time to act!
In her musical star-studded career, she had chalked up such notable successes as “The Cat And The Fiddle,” “The Merry Widow,” and soon after that came a new singing star to team with her—none other than Nelson Eddy.
Their screen union proved to be one of the finest musical teams to grace the screen, and in short order they were writing new chapters in Hollywood musical history.
Their first film together was “Naughty Marietta,” and overnight Jeanette’s star rose to the uppermost heights of moviedom. Then came “Rose Marie,” and so many popularity records were shattered that there was no doubt whatever about the goldish-red-haired songbird’s supremacy.
In the following year Jeanette’s name was associated on the marquee with that of Clark Gable in a spectacular epic entitled, “San Francisco,” and the picture was such a success that ten years later it was still being shown through the nation.
Young moviegoers, who are familiar with the name of Jeanette MacDonald but sometimes have difficulty in matching her lovely beauty and thrilling voice to a familiar face, will no longer have that enigma confronting them. When they see “The Birds And The Bees,” in which Jeanette stars, they too will leap on the bandwagon of her long-time fans.
But let’s get back to the beginning of our story, about a top-ranking star who overnight decided she’d had enough of movie-making, and had the courage to quit because there were a number of other ventures to which she had been looking forward for some time. She had told herself that some day she’d give them a try, and that time had come.
As you probably know, Jeanette possesses one of the most glorious soprano voices to be heard. She displayed it in one picture after another, in such tunepacked operettas as “Maytime,” “The Firefly,” “Sweethearts” and “The Girl Of The Golden West,” to mention only a few of her cinema triumphs.
Her first love has always been singing, and her career received its start in New York. She had gone about this tricky routine of getting along in show business in an intelligent way, starting low and gradually rising to the top of Broadway’s best among musical comedy leading ladies.
When she could go no farther in New York, she looked for new fields to conquer. Opera? Perhaps, but not yet. Movies? So far none of the many offers she’d received tempted her particularly. But just as she was closing in “Boom, Boom,” along came dynamic Ernest Lubitsch.
“That’s the girl I want for ‘The Love Parade!” he said enthusiastically, and shortly thereafter signed her to a contract.
What Jeanette did in “The Love Parade” is now film history. It was among the first big film musicals which proved to Hollywood that American moviegoing audiences would like semi-classical music, providing it was offered in an attractive manner.
Next came the best-seller version of a Broadway favorite, “The Vagabond King,” which was followed in rapid succession by “Monte Carlo,” “One Hour With You” and “Love Me Tonight,” to fill the demands of the army of MacDonald fans.
Shortly after these successes, she began her co-starring with Nelson Eddy, and it gave the nation a team that has yet to be excelled. They were the beautiful Princess and Prince Charming of the screen musical world, and each new picture by them sent the cash customers to the box-offices in droves. They made the name of Composer Victor Herbert a household word.
In 1937, following a two-year courtship which almost paralleled a story-book romance for ups and downs, Jeanette married handsome Gene Raymond, a movie star who was doing all right for himself. He and Jeanette had been drawn together by their mutual interests, especially music, and they started out on what would soon prove to be one of Hollywood’s happier marriages.
In the ensuing seasons, Jeanette went on to thrill her eager listeners with “New Moon,” “Bittersweet” and “Smilin’ Through,” but by 1941 she began to feel the first grumblings of divine discontent. Once again she confronted herself with the fact that she had reached the pinnacle in her field, and the urge to strike out completely into another channel was upon her for a second time.
The advent of the war gave her an added impetus to make a change. Her husband had been among the first to enlist, and she was imbued with the spirit that she, too, would like to help her country. What could she do? Sing at camps, hospitals, War Bond rallies, and on service radio programs!
During these past years, Jeanette had been combining concert tours with movie work, so when the time came for her to leave the screen, she was ready to make a quick decision.
“Quitting pictures was an easy matter,” she said. “After we had finished “Cairo,” I simply walked into the front office and told them I wanted to leave. It was all very quiet and simple—I had made up my mind, and that was all there was to it.
“Naturally, I had a personal issue involved, because Gene was going overseas soon, and I wanted to spend all the time I possibly could with him. The day after I left the studio, I flew East to have my last week with him before he shipped out to the ETO.
“Motion pictures had suddenly become unimportant to me. When I returned to Hollywood after Gene had left, I didn’t go near the studio. I had told myself that that phase of my life was over, and I didn’t particularly care if I ever made another movie again. Besides, I was too engrossed in the camp and hospital tours 1 was preparing to make.
“I went on these tours for three seasons, and it was wonderful! Singing to a group of servicemen is a most satisfying experience, and of course I never forgot that somewhere in Europe my husband might be listening to a singer under similar circumstances, so it gave me added heart.
“I rarely had a set program, because I asked the boys what they wanted to hear. You’d be surprised how many of our American lads like “Indian Love Call,” “Sweet Mystery Of Life” and “Sweethearts.” I must have sung each one of them about a thousand times!
“We always remember the most amusing things that happen to us, and these camp shows left us with plenty of them. Once, when we were singing at the camps through the Southwest, it was so hot that my pianist passed out, and the boys and I were soaked with perspiration. I looked as though I had just come out of a shower with my clothes on!
“In-between the Army shows, I made several independent tours, but naturally they weren’t as gratifying as those at the camps. I liked making the Armed Forces radio transcriptions because I often wondered where and under what circumstances our men would listen to them.
“A highlight of the war years for any married woman is the return of her husband from overseas, and mine was typical. I had had word that Gene might be coming home, but of course wartime secrecy prevented me from knowing what that date might be. I was in New York preparing for my first opera, ‘Romeo And Juliet,’ and Gene hadn’t had time to get my letter telling him I was there. I kept visualizing his arrival in New York, and then taking the first plane out to Hollywood.
“Fortunately, we arranged a way of informing him about my address through the hotel at which I usually stayed, and I waited and waited in the apartment I had taken in the East Fifties. Then, in the usual husband fashion, the morning I didn’t put up my hair and looked like anything but the attractive wife I wanted to be, he showed up!
“Gene was able to go to Canada for my operatic debut, and in the Fall I sang in ‘Faust’ and ‘Romeo And Juliet’ during the Chicago Opera season. I was having my fling with opera, and was loving it! I had left Hollywood to do concerts and opera, and it had all worked out as I had hoped.
“Then came the end of the War. I went to Great Britain on a singing date, and when I returned. Gene was doing a season of Summer stock with Gertrude Lawrence in New England. We stayed East for the Summer, and I enjoyed the first vacation I’d had in a half dozen years. In the early Fall Gene was called to Hollywood for several picture committments, so we entrained for the Coast.
“I had no plans whatever except to enjoy once again being just Mrs. Gene Raymond. Certainly I had no intentions of returning to the screen, but on the second day at home, the telephone rang, and five minutes later my plans for the future were neatly arranged!
“The call was from Mr. Ben Thau, top studio executive, who said he had a script which he thought I’d like, and if I did, would I consider returning to M G M .
“Tell me about it,” I asked him.
” ‘Well,’ he hesitated. ‘How do you feel about playing a mother?’
“It depends on what kind of a mother she is, and whose,” was my reply.
” ‘Jane Powell’s, in a good story with Jose Iturbi. It also has Edward Arnold in the cast.’
“Mr. Thau sent me the script, which I enjoyed, and I found no objection to being a screen mother. When Mr. Pasternak, the producer, telephoned me a few days later, I told him I thought the story was fine, and that I’d like to play in it. So there I was, the circle completed, back again at work at my old studio.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be back. I hadn’t realized how much I missed picture-making until I came back to it. And to add to the sense of being home again, the studio gave me the crew that worked with me on my former pictures. Actually, I feel as though I’ve been away on a long vacation, and have returned to work with a lot of familiar people.
“I’m enjoying it, too, because everything started out right. I liked the crew, and was happy to discover that they liked me, too. They gave me a grand reception. Our set was very pleasant, and we had a lot of fun making ‘The Birds And The Bees’ and I’ll be optimistic enough to say that you’ll like the story it tells.”
She and her husband rarely make the nightclub rounds, but they are avid partygivers and goers. When Jeanette is the hostess, invariably at some point in the evening two things occur—they play charades and then Jeanette is called upon to sing. She honestly admits she likes to do both.
She has a pixie sense of humor, with a penchant for amusing incidents which bring on a good laugh. She can take a joke as well as give one. A constant candy-nibbler, she usually pokes into the sweets tray with a comment that she really shouldn’t, and then goes ahead and selects the most delectable piece!
She likes outdoor life, which she satisfies by frequent dips in her pool. She confesses that she has a fault of frankness, but amends it by saying that if she has hurt some one’s feelings, she goes out of her way to correct the harm she has done.
Her gracious and sincere manner is one of her greatest charms. Unlike too many Hollywood luminaries, she is a good listener, but on the other hand, can carry on a conversation that is invariably worth listening to.
She doesn’t know yet whether she’ll team up again with Nelson Eddy, primarily because she has no idea about what pictures are being scheduled for her. She’d like to do one a year, make either concert or opera appearances part of the time, and during the remaining time be Mrs. Gene Raymond, housewife.
At the moment, she and her husband are enjoying their first postwar vacation together. It’s not a fashionable jaunt to Palm Springs or Acapulco, but like so many ex-GI couples, they are busy doing their guest room over into a full-time bedroom.
“I’ve traveled enough,” said Jeanette. “Now it’s time to settle down. Besides, there are a million little things to do around the house—things we just forgot about during the War. That old adage about ‘woman’s work is never done’ is certainly true with me now!
“This is actually the first chance Gene and I have had to start a complete marriage. Our careers always seemed to get in the way. Now we’re really going to concentrate on it, and see if we can make up for all the things we’ve missed.
“This time we’re back in Hollywood to stay—we hope!”