Friday, June 18, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog To Wish Jeanette MacDonald A Happy Birthday

Next up was supposed to be Part Two of my essay on Ernst Lubitsch, which is well in hand and maybe you'll still get it today if I can squeeze it in before Katie-Bar-The-Door and I head to Nationals Park with Mister Muleboy and Michele Mishka to see Stephen Strasburg.

But it's Jeanette MacDonald's birthday today and since she and Lubitsch are inextricably linked, I just have to stop here and tell her hello.

She was a discovery of Lubitsch's, don't you know. Actor Richard Dix had seen her on the Broadway stage in 1928 and had her make a screen test for Paramount, but nothing came of it until Lubitsch happened upon it a year later and immediately saw her star potential. He flew to Chicago where she was working and signed her to star in his first sound production, The Love Parade with Maurice Chevalier. The picture was a hit, she was a hit and the rest is history.

MacDonald made four movies for Lubitsch, The Love Parade (1929), Monte Carlo (1930), One Hour With You (1932) and The Merry Widow (1934), each better than the last. For those of you who only know her through her later work with Nelson Eddy, I strongly suggest you track down these musicals, and one other, Love Me Tonight, a Rouben Mamoulian musical in the Lubitsch style. She's beautiful and sexy and is allowed to show a naughty side you never get to see again once the studios began to enforce the Production Code in late 1934.

Born in Philadelphia in 1903, MacDonald began acting at the age of six and was winning singing contests by the age of thirteen. After her successful association with Lubitsch at Paramount, Irving Thalberg lured her MGM where she became known as the Iron Butterfly thanks to her skill at negotiating favorable contracts.

She's best remembered now for her association with singer Nelson Eddy. They made eight pictures together, including Naughty Marietta, Rose-Marie and Maytime. She also made San Francisco with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, which includes a spectacular recreation of the 1906 earthquake.

A weak heart forced MacDonald into semi-retirement in the 1950s, although she did occasionally perform with Eddy. She died of a heart attack in 1965.

Trivia: MacDonald's sister Blossom, who performed under the name Marie Blake, played Grandmama on the television show The Addams Family.


Clarence Darrow said...

Who is this "Michele" of whom you speak?

Why, you must mean Mishka, the Muleboy's Russian girlfriend/mistress/muse.

Good game. Shame they blew it.

SPanky error -- great stop, shit throw.

PS YUou can delete and not post this comment. Danke

Word Verification? squistum

Mythical Monkey said...

PS YUou can delete and not post this comment. Danke

Oh, I thought not only would I not delete your post, but I'd use this opportunity to pass along how you told me at the ballgame that one of our friends was named after Jeanette MacDonald, and how I realized that that meant that I'd been incorrectly spelling our pal's name with two n's, ala Jeannette, for twenty years.

Which reminded me of a couple I've known since my school days. One day, after more than twenty years of marriage, the husband brings home his new driver's license. The wife looks at it and says, "They got your birth date wrong!"

And he says, "Uh, no they didn't."

"But your birthday is on X."

"Well, no, it's actually on Y. It's just that the first year we were together, you baked a cake and threw me a big party on X and I didn't want to spoil the occasion, and then every year after I went along with it."

"Well, that explains why your parents always call on Y to wish you a happy birthday. I just thought they were dumb or something."

tomatodon said...

It was a real treat for TCM to play so many of her films on her birthday. We'd like to see the remaining ones, those which seldom get a showing.

She had such stage presence. Such a beauty.

Gordon Pasha said...


Of course, one never knows what to believe about Hollywood history, because they all lived in a land of make believe and accounts then -- and remembered later -- are all suspect, as Freidrich and so many others have told us. And we always suspected that anyway.

But some accounts have Eddy as a tough guy in real life, which was certainly not captured on film. But if Jeanette was as taken with him in real life as we have been led to believe in many accounts, perhaps there was something there. But I am tired of being fair. Jeanette was meant to live in the movies of Lubitsch and cavort as she did in “Merry Widow.” And let Nelson Eddy go off into Mountie land with Rise Stevens or somebody else.

Yes, Jeanette was very beautiful and very sexy, and had a bit of whimsy about her. And who knows, born in Philadelphia she might have been an Athletic fan (never the Phillies). And your comments section gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “inside baseball.”

Looking forward to reading Lubitsch, part two.


Mythical Monkey said...

Gerald -- funny you would mention the Philadelphia Athletics. My wife is from Philadelphia. Her paternal grandfather was a custom tailor there before the Depression and among his customers was the pitcher Howard Ehmke. After he struck out 13 in Game 1 of the 1929 World Series for the As (against the Cubs), he gave granddad's son (my wife's father) a baseball signed by the team. And since I was the only baseball fan in the family, he passed it on to me. So sitting on my shelf is a baseball signed by the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Connie Mack, Jimmy Dykes, etc. Lefty Grove, who was, shall we say, a rather intense fellow, did not sign autographs and instead stamped the ball with his name. Which is pretty interesting in and of itself, I've always thought.

Gordon Pasha said...


Now that’s a baseball and I agree that the stamp adds rather than detracts. I remember the old Athletics and saw them play the Yankees at the Stadium. I lived within walking distance. Elmer Valo was wont to crash into walls as I recall. My first game was the New York Giants against the Boston Braves. May 12, 1947. My father kept the rain check for me. Grandstand was $1.25. Nice story about the ball.