The Timeless Love Affair – On-Screen and Off – Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
By Sharon Rich
Published by; Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1994
Kimber: Let’s get one thing straight right out of the kennel, okay? Her Crankiness is a huge MacEddy fan. (For you young whipper-snappers, that’s a person who loves Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films from Tinseltown’s Golden Era.)
So altho some MacEddy fans may rave about Sweethearts, ‘ole Stick in the Mud (Hi, Mom) disagrees. Somethin’ about ‘disappointing’ and ‘a one-way ticket to Snoozeville.’
We’ll get to why in a min. So kindly keep your hair on, okay? First, a little background:
They were America’s Singing Sweethearts, breaking box office records coast to coast and around the world in their hey-day. They made eight box office hits together for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1930s and 40s. In the process, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy – “MacEddy” – became the most popular singing team in movie history.
Rumor had it that the songbirds hated each other off-screen. But Sweethearts author Sharon Rich claims Jeanette and Nelson were secretly engaged in the summer of 1935 while filming their famous “Mountie” movie, Rose Marie. (Yes, that MacEddy. See video below.) They remained madly in love even when both were forced into unhappy marriages. And studio boss Louis B. Mayer allegedly triggered a series of tragic events that caused the “star-crossed lovers” to self-destruct both professionally and personally.
Kimber: Who is this L.B. guy? I don’t like him already. And I love everyone!
Mom: Mayer was a world class jerk. And no, you can’t bite him. Cuz he’s long gone.
Kimber: Some hoomans have all the luck…
Anyway, realize going in to this book that the author has an agenda. She sets out to prove that MacDonald and Eddy were passionately in love with each other, forever and ever amen. So Sweethearts can be read as a poignant melange of triumph and tragedy. Magnificence and misery. A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story.
Sweethearts can also be categorized as overwritten and overwrought as it attempts to pull back the curtain on one of Tinseltown’s “biggest cover-ups” and most enduring love stories. It takes readers on an intense “behind the scenes” look into the roller coaster ride that was the “MacEddy” romance both on and off screen.
It includes some fascinating tidbits and…
- Jeanette was up for the film role of Anna in The King and I but lost out, “probably because she photographed ‘too old.'”
- Jeanette’s “final professional dream” was to play the Mother Abbess in the film version of The Sound of Music. (That voice! Can you imagine Jeanette singing Climb Ev’ry Mountain?)
- Jeanette and Nelson were both forced into unhappy, miserable marriages by Louis B. Mayer.
Additionally, Sweethearts is not for the faint-hearted. It’s also not for anyone in a hurry. Or with the attention span of a gnat. Here’s why (short version):
This book is exhausting. Mom first read it about 20 years ago. Now she remembers why she had to take a nap after finishing it. It’s brimful with:
- A dizzying array of personalities that whir in and out of the narrative like swarming locusts.
- Multiple illegitimate pregnancies and subsequent miscarriages, fainting spells, suicide attempts, and mental breakdowns.
- It hops down more bunny trails than the White Rabbit.
- It’s about 100 pages too long (maybe more) and is more sedative than biography.
- It’s peppered with personal letters from the principals and other lesser and even totally unknown personalities that do little to advance the narrative, slowing it to a snail’s pace. Zzzzzzzz….
- The narrative feels heavy. Stale. Like the author’s trying to impress with her “expertise” in the subject. (Hello, Snoozelandia!)
- Per the above, inane and irrelevant minutia stack up like firewood, further bogging down an already bogged-down narrative.
- There are enough unnamed sources, third or fourth hand material, and anonymous “eye witnesses” to sink the Bismarck. So you may want to take it with a grain of salt.
- It’s as dull as a blunt spoon. (Even for Her Momness. Go figure.)
The Final Analysis
In the final analysis, this clandestine romance whose happily-ever-after was reportedly torpedoed by Mayer isn’t a great love story. It’s a soap opera, replete with physical, emotional, and mental abuse by two people who come across not so much “star-crossed lovers” but obsessive dual neurotics and dueling co-dependents.
Finally, MacDonald and Eddy deserve better. They should be remembered and celebrated for their terrific on-screen chemistry and charisma and as world-class songsters, not for their personal drama and adulteries. The latter gets tedious and tiresome.
Watch and Remember
So forget this over-written, over-wrought soap opera on paper. Watch and remember some MacEddies instead. The clip below is from Maytime, one of the top grossing films of 1937. Maytime was Jeanette’s personal favorite film. It’s also Mom’s fave MacEddy.
What Matters Most
Because in the end, what matters most are the glorious films MacDonald and Eddy made together in their hey-day. Nearly a century later, they still deliver movie magic. And there aren’t many films you can say that about.
Will You Remember?
There. We just saved you about 450 pages, most of which move with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. You’re welcome.
If you want to find out more about the “Singing Sweethearts,” visit: MacEddy.
Our Rating: 2.0
Note: This review is of the original 1994 version of the book. A newer version, released in 2014, weighs in at a prodigious 600 pages.