Jeanette MacDonald's Affair With Nelson Eddy

Jeanette MacDonald Nelson Eddy
Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald

"To have a successful career, a woman must develop a strong, self-centered ruthlessness. Callousness is not a feminine trait and is hardly one that will help make a successful marriage." ~ Jeanette MacDonald

Jeanette MacDonald had one of Hollywood's most beautiful soprano voices. When she started making movies with baritone Nelson Eddy they became known as "America's Singing Sweethearts". Off screen they fell in love and their passionate affair lasted for years. Jeanette Anna MacDonald was born on June 18, 1903 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the youngest of three daughters. At the age of sixteen she went to New York City to study music. She began her singing career on Broadway and appeared in several long-running shows. In 1929 she made her film debut in the musical The Love Parade. It was a huge hit and made her an overnight star. Her success continued with starring roles in The Lottery Bride and Love Me Tonight.

Jeanette MacDonaldJeanette MacDonald

She was offered a lucrative contract with MGM in 1933. Her relationship with Nelson began when they costarred in the 1934 musical Naughty Marietta. The movie got rave reviews and audiences instantly fell in love with the singing duo. They made seven more movies together including Sweethearts and Maytime, which was Jeanette's favorite film. She gave him a dog named Sheba and he gave her an engagement ring. In a letter Nelson wrote "I love you and will always be devoted to you." Unfortunately they had to keep their real life romance a secret at the insistence of MGM president Louis B. Mayer. The couple planned to get married but Nelson wanted Jeanette to give up her career and become a housewife. She was not willing to do that and they broke up. In June of 1937 she married actor Gene Raymond. They appeared happy in public but they had a troubled marriage.

Jeanette MacDonald Nelson EddyJeanette MacDonald Nelson Eddy

Jeanette was still in love with Nelson and she discovered that Gene was gay. She once found him in bed with Buddy Rogers, Mary Pickford's husband. Meanwhile Nelson was so devastated by Jeanette's marriage that he impulsively eloped with Ann Franklin, a friend of his mother. When Jeanette found out he had gotten married she attempted suicide. Unfortunately Ann suffered from mental problems and their marriage was very rocky. Eventually Jeanette and Nelson resumed their secret love affair. She became pregnant several times but tragically she always miscarried. Although they still loved each other neither of them was ever willing to get a divorce. They were both worried that the scandal would destroy their careers. By 1939 Jeanette's $300,000 a year salary made her one of the world's highest paid actresses and she was voted "Queen Of Hollywood" in a nationwide poll.

Jeanette MacDonaldJeanette MacDonald

Unhappy with the roles she was getting she decided to leave MGM in 1942. She performed live concerts and appeared in several stage productions. As she got older health problems forced her to stop working as much. She had a heart attack and suffered a nervous breakdown. After years of break-ups and reconciliations Jeanette finally ended her romance with Nelson in 1950. They re-teamed professionally in 1958 to record an album of duets. Although they were no longer lovers they remained close friends. Jeanette died on January 14, 1965 from a heart attack at age sixty-one. Nelson was heartbroken and weeped at her funeral. He passed away just two years later. Friends who knew the couple said they never stopped loving each other.



Jeanette MacDonald Nelson EddyJeanette MacDonald Nelson Eddy

Nelson Eddy Jeanette MacDonald