|Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald (from maceddy)|
Jeanette MacDonald, born June 18, 1903, was already an established film star when she made her move from Paramount to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1933. She was an excellent singer and with her extensive Broadway experience was a perfect onscreen leading lady opposite French performer Maurice Chevalier. They appeared in several successful films together including, ‘The Love Parade’ (1929), ‘One Hour With You’ (1932) and ‘Love Me Tonight’ (1932). It was then she moved to MGM making further Broadway style musicals, such as, ‘The Cat and the Fiddle’ (1934) and another Chevalier collaboration in ‘The Merry Widow’ (1934).
Meanwhile her future on and off screen companion, Nelson Eddy, was having equal success in Hollywood as he was in countless operettas and stage musicals. Extremely handsome, tall, boyish and blonde, his looks began in career in films while his superb baritone voice cemented him as a musical staple. He first films with MGM – beginning in 1933 – were mostly singing vocals in nightclub or stage production scenes, such as in, ‘Dancing Lady’ (1933), ‘Broadway to Hollywood’ (1933) and ‘Student Tour’ (1934). It was a stroke of genius that on a whim MGM, the following year, cast the favourable, but still fairly unknown, Nelson as leading man opposite the beautiful and popular Jeanette MacDonald in ‘Naughty Marietta’ (1935) a screen version of the 1910 operetta.
According to Rich’s book ‘Sweetheart’s, MacDonald and Eddy first met before their initial screen pairing at a party held by wife of film director Frank Lloyd in early 1934. Eddy also claims had seen her before this on the set of her previous film ‘The Merry Widow’ (1934) but had not been introduced. Although, during this period McDonald was engaged and rumoured to have married her manager, Bob Richie, the pair began seeing more of each other and becoming, at the least, close friends before the commencement of filming for ‘Naughty Marietta’ (1935). The often unclear relationship between Richie and MacDonald was finished or, if the reports are true, the marriage was annulled before the release of the 1935 film.
|Eddy and MacDonald before the making of 'Naughty Marietta' (1935) (from maceddy)|
Similar to the great fictional and real-life love stories, the beginnings of the romance was intense dislike between MacDonald and Eddy during the early stages of filming. The animosity got to such an extent that both tried to withdraw from the film before too much work was completed. But director W.S. Van Dyke was patient, and the movie was completed to favourable reviews and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The duo was soon cast in another musical, ‘Rose Marie’ (1936), which came in a year that changed both their lives forever.
In mid 1935, between films and during a split period with Eddy, MacDonald met actor Gene Raymond at party when he, reportedly, whistled at her as a means of an introduction. Although, they didn’t hit it off that night, they soon became acquaintances and began dating. Raymond was a handsome, charming, accomplished actor whose credits – beginning with his screen debut in 1931 – included ‘Ex-Lady’ (1933), ‘Zoo in Budapest’ (1933), ‘Flying Down to Rio’ (1933) and ‘Sadie McKee’ (1934). Both were then single but with growing film careers weren’t looking for a long-term commitment.
At the close of 1935 during the end of filming, then at location in Lake Tahoe, both MacDonald and Eddy seriously considered the future of their relationship. Eddy had on many occasions proposed to his leading lady but with equally successful and competing careers both had considered it disastrous to marry. In this instance, surrounded by a beautiful landscape and more in love than ever, MacDonald accepted his proposal.
|Eddy and MacDonald at Lake Tapoe (from maceddy)|
|Another picture of the pair on location (from maceddy)|
But, after what MacDonald called “the happiest summer of my life”, the love-birds’ life took another sudden and, what would be, a tragic turn. MacDonald became pregnant. She was a successful, lucrative actress and was about to have a baby, unmarried. A baby if, Louis B. Mayer could help it, she would never have.
Part 2 is coming soon.....