by Elza Schalleept
Modern Screen May 1939
Here’s the real lowdown on the capitulation to Cupid of the screen’s most eligible bachelor
I’M INCLINED to be an ‘old man!’ Very serious! Ann keeps me young. She makes me see the lighter side of things. She’s a bucket of fun and gayety, yet very sound and substantial. She has been the strongest influence in my life and career during the past three years.”
Nelson Eddy told me this on the day after he and Ann Franklin were married, the clay following their elopement to Las Vegas.
“Time Out For Honeymoon,” may sound like a fairly good title for a picture, but it certainly has no place in the phraseology of a big film contract such as Nelson Eddy holds. Consequently, marriage notwithstanding, he was due back immediately following the ceremony for the final scenes of his picture, “Let Freedom Ring”—an amusing title under the circumstances.
The marriage of Nelson Eddy and Ann Franklin was one of the pleasantest surprises for Hollywood in recent months. Of course, you have to know the bride to appreciate this. Doubtless millions of girls and women deplored the fact that filmdom’s No. 1 Bachelor has finally capitulated. He seemed romantically to be such an independent sort—a free soul—and this made him singularly attractive and apparently invulnerable to any marriage.
Then came that sudden elopement! And the news flashed around the world that he had wed, not one of the glamor girls of cinema land, no society debutante, but simply Ann Franklin, once the wife of Sidney Franklin, one of the screen’s artistic directors.
If the truth be told, very few people in the colony suspected that the apparent romance would climax in marriage. Hollywood was really taken unawares. Yet it wasn’t a sudden marriage at all. It had been planned for some little time. As Nelson said,
“Ann and I were engaged for three months and we have known each other for the past five years. But I suppose that, because we went to Las Vegas to have the ceremony performed, some people think it was a typical Hollywood elopement, something decided upon on the spur of the moment. That is far from true.
“Circumstances were peculiar. We had set a wedding date to fall between the completion of my picture, ‘Let Freedom Ring,’ and the start of my concert tour. We had planned a honeymoon with that trip. Well, you know how it is in pictures—and fortunately so does Ann. What one intends to do at a certain time seldom comes about in the manner anticipated. Unfore seen happenings disrupted the picture production schedule and also our wedding plans. It looked for a while as if we might have to postpone our marriage to an indefinitely later date.
“Neither Ann nor I wanted to do that so we decided that we’d better not delay at all and take advantage of the day I had open from work, drive to Las Vegas and be married. It was just as simple as that. It was both premeditated and unpremeditated, if you get what I mean. Merely making the best of conditions. At any rate, we did carry out our plan for matrimony. In a great hurry we gathered together our wedding party which included only Dorothy Kenyon Lasker, one of Ann’s closest friends, my mother and my business manager—and off to Las Vegas we drove. That was our ‘elopement!’ Then weren’t even parental objections!”
I WAS very much impressed during my chat with Nelson by his reference to his wife’s understanding of and meeting with the conditions pertaining to his work. He stressed this several times. It revealed his awareness and appreciation of this rare quality in her.
After all, the woman who marries a successful singer like Nelson Eddy, automatically assumes great responsibility. She can either be a big help to him or a serious interference. Many artistic careers have been prevented from reaching the heights through a wrong marriage.
The life of a singer whose career embraces as many facets as Nelson Eddy’s—motion pictures, radio and concert—isn’t merely a series of golden notes. It represents a long, hard, steady drive of work. There never can be a moment’s let-up in study or practice. And more often than not the demands of his work are all inclusive. Only a woman with sympathetic understanding, adaptability and capacity to forget self could achieve success as a wife and happiness as an individual, under these circumstances.
Ann Franklin Eddy is that type of woman. She has long had this reputation in Hollywood. She is very much like her name. Unassuming, substantial, possessing character. Like a Rossetti painting, hers is a gentle type of beauty. She possesses a warm, generous spirit and thoughtfulness, qualities that the brittleness of life today seems to have knocked right out of most people.
The charming Doris Kenyon Lasker, in whose home Nelson and Ann met five years ago, says of Mrs. Eddy, “One of the privileges that has come to me in a long while was attending Ann as matron of honor at her marriage with Nelson. They are wonderfully suited to each other. There is a fine balance between their temperaments and personalities. Ann’s casualness about everything, all that she accomplishes so quietly and gracefully, is certainly admirable. She is always deflecting attention from herself and pointing to the worthwhile qualities in other people. I think her strength lies in her capacity to live through others. That is the way she expresses herself best.”
THE quality of diverting attention from herself, noticed by Doris, was illustrated by Ann Eddy when I broached to her the subject of the marriage. She practically disappeared into thin air, she was that concerned about appearing to be stepping into the spotlight, even for a brief second. And this, despite the fact that I have known her for years. She didn’t want to be even quoted, and begged that Nelson be the spokesman for both of them. Yet I think one thing she said should be repeated.
“I have only a single desire and that is to try to make Nelson happy, to share in his work as helpfully as possible, and if this means being just a housewife, I shall be quite content with that privilege.”
Through the years I have always admired Mrs. Eddy’s femininity, her ability as a home-maker and her superior grace as a hostess. She is just as unobtrusive in the successful carrying out of these roles as she is when you try to get her to talk about any subject that bears a personal relationship. Yet she is witty and wise and a “bucket of fun,” as Nelson described her.
Evenings in her home are gay and warmspirited. She assembles friends who have similar interests and, having arranged beautiful and excellent food for them, lets everyone alone to have a good time. It all seems very easy and casual on the surface, but you’ll find that thought and care has been given by her to the comfort of her friends, and that in every expression, from the food to the size of the fire in the fireplace, taste and judgment are reflected.
In other words, Ann Franklin Eddy is a woman of ability and experience. She is not an ingenue. As a matter of fact, and with characteristic candor, she indicated on the marriage license that she was older than Nelson. He gave his age as thirty-seven. Also she is the mother of a twelve-year-old son, for she had been married to Sidney Franklin some fifteen years.
Curiously, she is not a musician. She neither plays nor sings. “But she’s a great listener,” to quote Nelson, “and has a remarkably intuitive sense about music.” Which is very important.
How much wiser for a singer with a big career to be married to a woman who is a good audience, rather than another singer or an ambitious prima donna. Too many High C’s in one family often cause musical discord, because singers, like doctors, don’t always agree.
NELSON continued, “Ann has a deep appreciation of music. This has proved to be a great help to me. She really has exerted a strong influence, especially in the last year, toward helping me make valuable decisions in the selection of songs for my radio and concert programs. She has helped me gain what I feel is a broader perspective in the expression of my work, and I have found that her judgment is invariably sound and substantial. It has never been arbitrary or restricted.
“Then too she has a very quiet but forceful way of keeping up one’s zest for work and achievement. It’s very easy for any one of us in the profession to yield to the tempting belief that success is a normal and natural reward for hard work. To imagine that one may be justified in taking things a little easy now and then, in riding along the glory road of established reputation, or in enjoying that elusive thing known as fame.
“Ann doesn’t lay much stock in that kind of reasoning. She’s too substantial. Yet she wouldn’t think of pounding away at her beliefs or theories to drive home a point. She just very charmingly and gently inquires, ‘Isn’t this maybe the day that you were going to devote to working on some new Brahms or Hugo Wolf songs? And did you know perhaps that the accompanist is on his way over to help you work them out?’
“Of course, this isn’t the first time in my life that I have had the good fortune of an influence such as Ann’s. There’s always been Mother. She’s been the sentinel, as it were, holding the torch on the mountain top for many years. But now there’s double inspiration for me to work harder than ever before.
“And while we are on the subject of mother, I’d like to say emphatically that as far as Ann is concerned, there never will be a conventional ‘mother-in-law’ in her life. As a matter of fact, she and Mother are devoted to each other, and Ann doesn’t represent the typical ‘daughter-in-law’ type to mother, either.” (For that matter neither does Nelson symbolize the typical son-inlaw to Ann’s folks, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Denitz.)
The depth of feeling that exists between Nelson’s mother and his wife was sounded by Ann when she said to me, “Please, when you write your article, leave out any special references to me. But do say many wonderful things about Isabel, Nelson’s mother. She has been perfectly marvelous to me. I can well understand that in a sense she may feel that she is losing her son. But it shall never be that way with us. We both are going to share him.”
THE matter of Nelson’s taking leave of his mother was mentioned and his eyes were almost misty when he spoke of it. He said, “It’s a funny thing how hard it was. Naturally, we are not going to be separated. Mother realizes that. So do I. So does Ann. But just the same I felt very strange when I picked up my suit case and kissed her a ‘goodbye for now.’ I nearly didn’t make it. But she straightened me out in a second. She looked me squarely in the eye and said, ‘Now don’t waste your time whimpering. You have things to do. Go on and be as happy as a Iamb!’ I’m following Mother’s advice, naturally, because in all these years I’ve never known her to make a single mistake. She’s always been right.”
At present Nelson’s mother is occupying the home he bought for her, but she probably will dispose of it. Ann will very likely sell the home she has been maintaining too. When she and Nelson return from his concert tour in May—a tour, incidentally, which includes thirty different cities throughout this country and Cuba with special guest performances with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra—when they return, Ann and Nelson will move into their new home.
All the plans for it have been thoroughly worked out. It will be a Williamsburg Colonial house on a broad greensward which embraces four individual lots, all practically adjoining the lovely country estate of Doris Kenyon Lasker.
“Our home is going to be very simple but comfortable,” Ann said. “And we all look forward to happiness there—Nelson, Isabel and myself. We are building a separate wing just for Isabel. It will always be hers.”
Casting an eye toward Nelson Eddy’s future, it looks very much to this writer as if his marriage was the beginning of a new and greater cycle of his life and career. To quote his own words, “I feel this is a new milestone for Ann and myself, and I’m grateful for her substantiality. It’s great to have your head in the clouds, but it’s swell to know that there’s someone right beside you to help you keep your feet on the ground.”
There’s only one thing that bothers Ann. It’s Nelson’s millions of devoted fans. Her earnest prayer is, “May they forgive me for marrying Nelson, and may they always remain faithful to him.” She’s already tasting some of the vehemence of their devotion.