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Jeanette Macdonald Edit Profile

singer , Actress

Jeanette Macdonald was an American actress and singer.


Macdonald, Jeanette was born on June 18, 1903 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Daughter of Daniel and Anna M. (Wright) Macdonald.


Educated at Philadelphia High School for Girls, Julia Richmond’s mond’s private school, New York City.


She sang and danced on stage during the 1920s and had been turned down once by Paramount before Lubitsch cast her with Chevalier in The Love Parade (29). She staved there for The Vagabond King (30, Ludwig Berger), Monte Carlo (30, Lubitsch), and Let’s Go Native (30, Leo McCarey). But Lubitsch was her sole advocate at Paramount and the studio let her go elsewhere for some dull films: The Lottery Bride (30, Paul L. Stein); Oh fora Man! (30, Hamilton MacFadden); Don’t Bet on Women (31, William K. Howard); and Annabelle’s Affairs (31, Alfred Werker). Lubitsch called her back for One Hour With You (32, Lubitsch and George Cukor) and Love Me Tonight, but she then went to Britain at Herbert Wilcox’s invitation, only to be replaced by Anna N eagle.

On her return, she was signed up by MGM for The Cat and the Fiddle (34, Howard) and The Merry Widow (34), made with two more Paramount exiles, Lubitsch and Chevalier. MGM took her to their heart (Louis B. Mayer tried to go further), and found Nelson Eddy to sing with her in a series of films shared between Robert Z. Leonard and W. S. Van Dvke: Naughty Marietta (35. Van Dyke); Iiose-Marie (36, Van Dyke); San Francisco (36, Van Dyke), with Gable and Spencer Tracy, herself singing with all the zeal ol a social worker intent on rebuilding the spread-eagled city; Maytime (37, Leonard); The Firefly (37, Leonard); The Girl of the Golden West (38, Leonard); Sweethearts (38, Van Dyke); Broadway Serenade (39, Leonard); New Moon (40, Leonard); and Bitter Sweet (40, Van Dyke).

These films often involved MacDonald singing through the tears to recollect a lost Eddy: scenes undercut by the difficulty of knowing whether Eddy was dead or playing dead. (In Bitter Sweet he dies in a scrambled duel, but his emotions are so sluggish that the fatal thrust is not shown and he expires merely by closing his eyes.) Smilin Through (41, Frank Borzage) is a crazy variation on that backward look, with Gene Raymond— MacDonald’s husband—instead of Eddy. Her last film with Eddy was I Married an Angel (42, Van Dyke), and after Cairo (42, Van Dyke) she broke with MGM, reportedly over the dubbing of her voice in foreign language versions of her films. Subsequently, she tried opera, musicals, and cabaret, and made three more films at MGM in smaller roles: Follow the Boys! (44, Edward Sutherland); Three Daring Daughters (48, Fred M. Wilcox); and The Sun Comes Up (49, Richard Thorpe).


It is possible that, without so accomplished a soprano voice, Jeanette MacDonald would be more highly regarded as a comedienne. Without a song, she would not have had to keep company with the egregious Nelson Eddy. But millions gazed fondly on that team no matter that it made MacDonalds instinct for playfulness seem flighty and shrill. With less imperious male partners— Gable, or even Chevalier—MacDonald had looked like a lady used to greater politeness, but tickled by the glint of a lewd smile. “Your right eye says yes, and your left eye says no,” Chevalier tells her in The Merry Widow.

Perhaps she always condescended (she was known as The Iron Butterfly), but she seemed to enjoy raciness and to be encouraged by it. In Love Me Tonight (32, Rou- ben Mamoulian), for instance, she seems well aware of the frivolity in rhymed trills and to be in no doubt about Chevaliers saucy tailor. Especially in her Lubitsch period, she carried melodies lightly, rather like a duchess preferring to go incognito. But by the late 1930s, MGM had done so well with her and Eddy in strenuous, sentimental operetta that there was no alternative.


Married Gene Raymond, June 16, 1937.

Daniel Macdonald.

Anna M. (Wright) Macdonald.

Gene Raymond