Jeanette MacDonald (Jeanette Anna MacDonald)

Jeanette MacDonald

Jeanette MacDonald

Actress and Singer. She is best remembered for her partnership with singer Nelson Eddy in a series of movies during the 1930s. A talented lyrical soprano, she had a wide vocal range, E above high C, close to three octaves. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Daniel and Anne MacDonald, she first became a dancer and turned to singing when she landed a choice role in a Broadway musical. She quickly rose in the public’s appreciation, and her first movie, “The Love Parade” (1929) propelled her to stardom. That same movie also made Maurice Chevalier a star. Her next movie, “The Vagabond King” (1930) was also a box office hit. In 1931, she had a string of mediocre films, until she was paired again with Maurice Chevalier in “One Hour with You” (1932), in which the chemistry between the two singing actors made the movie a blockbuster success. However, in 1932, she was dropped from Paramount (another poor decision by the bosses; they claimed that musicals were dropping in public interest) and was immediately picked up by MGM. Strikingly beautiful, with red hair and large blue eyes, she attracted many men, including Louis B. Mayer and Maurice Chevalier. On June 17, 1937, in Hollywood, she married actor Gene Raymond, in a marriage that lasted 28 years until her death in 1965. When MGM finally paired her with Nelson Eddy in “Naughty Marietta” (1935), they became a musical dream combination with a larger following than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She became lovers with Nelson in 1935, and the two remained secret on again/off again lovers over the next twenty years. Ambitious, determined to have an acting career, and fully aware that a scandal could quickly end that career, she and Nelson kept their love a deep secret from the rest of the world. Together they made eight movies, with memorable performances in “Rose Marie” (1936), “San Francisco” (1936), and “New Moon” (1940). They were ideally suited to each other, and their chaste version of romantic love had widespread audience appeal that endures even to this day; Hollywood publicity moguls would spin the myth that they had pure, platonic love both on-screen and off. In later years, when they were both married to other people, they would strongly deny any attachment other than a platonic friendship. Their last film was “I Married an Angel” (1942), and although they would continue to meet secretly over the years, their careers took them in different directions. During World War II, she often performed at USO shows. From 1944 to 1948, when she won a role as Helen Winter in “The Sun Comes Up” (1948), she could not find a role to play in. Her final screen showing was in “Three Darling Daughters” (1948), after which she went into semi-retirement, making a few personal appearances and TV guest spots. In May 1953, she was given an honorary “Doctor of Music” degree from Ithaca College in New York. In 1958, she and Nelson Eddy made a record album of their favorite songs, which sold well, going “gold.” Afterwards, she lived quietly with her husband, actor Gene Raymond, until her death from a heart attack in Houston, Texas.

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Born

  • June, 18, 1903
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died

  • January, 14, 1965
  • Houston, Texas

Cause of Death

  • Heart attack

Cemetery

  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park
  • Glendale, California

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