Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dynamic Duos: Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

As a part of the Dynamic Duos Blogathon, happening this weekend, I was approached to write a little some'fin about our dear Jeanette and Nelson. Mostly because no one else had volunteered.

Before I get into the technicalities of it all, I want to explore a little bit into the Jeanette and Nelson fandom.
It's hard out there, for a fangirl. I mean, it takes all of one's will to keep being a fan of Jeanette and Nelson because there are so many stories to try to sort through about their lives, and so many people who will stand in line to tell you you're a freak, if you don't believe something that they do. I try not to be that way, but I find it hard to be inclusive with Nelson because I don't want people thinking the wrong way. I was friends with a dear friend of Jeanette's, who told me one thing, and I believe her 100%. She had no reason to lie to me. Anyway, what I want to say is that this was much harder than it should have been, to write, because it's very hard to predict when you might say something to polarize half a community. To prospective fans- I'm sorry we're like this. To old and dear fans and friends- I don't know that we could have it any other way.

Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy pose for a publicity portrait for Naughty Marietta (1935)

Jeanette and Nelson, as a team, were introduced to America in Naughty Marietta. Having both had very successful stage careers, and she a wildly successful movie career starring opposite some of the most popular leading men of the time, such as Maurice Chevalier, their stars seemed destined to align. She, with a light, but completely proficient and emotion-filled soprano, and he with the booming, but soothing baritone. Their voices weren't the only thing to mesh like they were made to sing together, though. Long known as the "Lingerie Queen of the Movies," Jeanette fell into her roles as noble princesses and dutiful prima donnas perfectly. Nelson, always her savior, her suitor, or the recipient of one of her witty barbs or hateful glares, seemed to shine brighter along side Jeanette. While perfectly capable (moreso than given credit for) as an actor, himself, Jeanette seemed to bring out the best in him. She knew how to respond, how to tease, and how to illicit a response from him, better than any of his other co-stars, save for maybe the brilliant Risë Stevens, in The Chocolate Soldier.

America's Singing Sweethearts in Maytime (1937)

MGM knew they had a hit, with the team, and went on to star them in seven subsequent titles, many being recycled versions of previous successes, under the guise of being based on an old classic operetta (see Naughty Marietta and New Moon back to back, and you'll know what I mean.) Their best movie together, by far, though, was Maytime, released in 1937, after a world of problems and tragedies plagued the production. What began as a lush Technicolor extravaganza, ended as a touching, emotional, brilliantly photographed black and white treasure. Personally, I believe it is second only to Citizen Kane in terms of the cinematography and editing. It's a beautiful picture just to watch on mute, but it's a platinum prize to watch, as it should be. They play Paul and Marcia, star crossed lovers who meet only for a few days, in France, only to part and meet again, years later. The brilliant John Barrymore, past his prime but still a force to be reckoned with, heads up the supporting cast, as Marcia's mentor, Nicolai. I won't spoil it for you, like Jane Powell spoiled it for me (ProTip: Don't start your Jeanelson fandom by watching the America's Singing Sweethearts documentary. *shakes fist*), but I promise you, it's a must see, to understand the full dynamic of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the wonder of their voices, blended together. (Find it HERE, at WarnerArchive.com)

After a two years hiatus, the team is back together for a final outing, in I Married An Angel (1942)

I can go on and on all day about all eight of their pictures, but really, what was it about them that made them so very appealing, as a team? What is it that, almost 80 years later, makes people instantly think of one, when someone mentions the other? I happen to think that it was their personal similarities that made them work so well together. They were both professional, dignified people, who knew how to get their way, and did so, always. While Nelson may have been more of the studious, ever learning craftsman, that by no means implies that Jeanette was a slacker. They worked hard, all their lives, for what they had and never caused a scandal along the way. They were just decent human beings who got along famously because they loved the same thing- music. They had the same goals, the same operatic aspirations. I don't believe they were best friends, but it's hard to deny chemistry with another person who is essentially your equal. While many people believe that the chemistry was a result of a love affair, I do not. I believe that this was a case of two wildly talented people who just happened to be in the same place, at the same time, and magic happened. And no matter what you believe, there is one thing that is for certain. They gave us a gift, and we can't ever forget that. We can't fight about the fact that two great people were willing to be a part of our lives, changing them in ever so many ways, just with their music. I don't talk about this a lot, but the song Will You Remember actually saved my life, when I thought it had reached it's darkest point. We owe it to Jeanette and Nelson to be strong, be fans, and just spread the word of this Dynamic Duo.

Sweethearts (1938)

To find more fun Dynamic Duo Blogathon Posts, go see Aurora's Gin Joint for more greatness, as we round out day two of the Blogathon!


5 comments:

  1. Loved it! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful and very eloquent, Kayla..... A tribute that both factions should appreciate...

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is something I really respect about people: "They worked hard, all their lives, for what they had and never caused a scandal along the way." I haven't seen many Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies, but I think I became a new fan with that one statement alone. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is great! TCM aired a bunch of their musicals a few weeks ago, and I've been slowly working my way through them all. They're such a great pair to watch on screen, and I had no idea about most of this background info--really makes their story so much more compelling. Thanks so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great job....you presented a fair and balanced story about an amazing screen team. Bravo!!

    Paul Brogan

    ReplyDelete