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Jeanette MacDonald (1903-1965)

  1. Helen Kane, Nothing  But The Truth, 1929.    Jeanette was tested for the Mabel Jackson (sister of… wait… Sable Jackson!)  in Richard Dix’s first talkie. The following year, MacDonald joined Kane among the galaxy of the studio’s stars in Paramount On Parade.  Jean Arthur, Clara Bow, Clive Brook, Virginia Bruce, Nancy Carroll, Ruth Chatterton, Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Kay Francis, William Powell, Buddy Rogers, Lilian Roth, Fay Wray… I could go on.
  2. Anna Neagle, Bitter Sweet, 1933.     With Hollywood musicals dying on the clef,  The Iron Butterfly signed for two UK ventures - then changed her mind.  She  went on to make Hollywood's Bitter Sweet,  1940. The British stage star Noel Coward hated the “nauseating hotchpotch of vulgarity, false values, seedy dialogue, stale sentiment, vile performances, and abominable direction.” And never let Hollywood touch his musicals again.
  3. Anna Neagle, Runaway Queen (UK: The Queen's Affair), 1934.    The second  London film she ran away from.  To replace her in both, Herbert Wilcox  continued his long association with his future wife.
  4. Madeleine Carroll, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1937.    Back home, she still required a new musical partner. MGM suggested Nelson Eddy and planned a musical version of Anthony Hope's yarn: songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.  Instead, The Singing Sweethearts were launched in Naughty Marietta, 1935, shovelling the saccharine over seven more films until 1942.
  5. Olivia De Havilland, The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1937.    At first it was going to be an MGMusical - based on the Reginald de Koven operetta.  So obviously, MacDonald and Eddy were set for Marian and Robin. 
  6. Alice Faye, Lillian Russell, 1939.   Hoping to cash in on the huge  triumph of The Great Ziegfeld, MGM decided upon a Russell biopic with MacDonald as the 1890s operetta and music hall star. Never happened.  So Fox was quick to set it up for their musical queen. Alice Faye.   However, as New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was quick to point out: “Miss Russell is said to have been a rather poor actress, and Miss Faye - even granting the thinness of her material - does not violate that reputation.”
  7. Kathryn Grayson, Rio Rita, 1941.     What started life as just another Nelson Eddy-Jeannette MacDonald musical suddenly churned into the first of MGM’s three Abbott & Costello farces. Metro canceled their one film per year contract after three flops.
  8. Irene Manning, The Desert Song, 1942.   The brothers Warner loved Sigmund Romberg’s operetta. They first shot it in 1929 - with Carlotta King - and planned a reprise with her in 1935, opposite James Melton, unknown then and now. By ’38, it was set for MacDonald and, naturally, Nelson Eddy The second version finally took off in ’42 with Manning and Dennis Morgan, followed by a third. featuring Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson, in 1952.
  9. Ilona Massey, Northwest Outpost, 1947.    And Republic Pictures wanted just one more... but  failed to re-unite Jeannette and Nelson Eddy - America's Singing Sweethearts - in his musical Western. She was ill and the Hungarian stage, screen and radio star partnered Eddy in   his final cinema movie). In 1948, the ex-Ilona Haygmassy was  Love Happy, with the (three) Marx brothers.  
  10. Kathryn Grayson, Show Boat,  1951.     Universal had made the first version of Jerome Kern’s Broadway musical in 1929. By 1936, it was MGM’s turn with the overly operatic duo of MacDonald and Nelson Eddy as Gaylord Ravenal and Magnolia Hawks. No go… By 1946, Metro used  its Kern biopic, Till the Clouds Roll By, as a screen test for  Kathryn Grayson and Tony Martin (in one segment) and (much better) Lena Horne as Julie LaVerne.  Grayson, alone, won  the movie. MacDonald was MGM boss LB Mayer’s favourite (until a bust-up over being dubbed in foreign language releases) and he  had Metro searching other studios’  properties to buy the  best for the Sweethearts... who never made any of them! 

  11. Helen Traubel, Deep In My Heart, 1954.     "To all those who love the music of Sigmund Romberg."Change of Anna Mueller who had a maternal role in the life of Broadway’s Hungarian-born composer (played  by José Ferrer).  Traubel was most effective when singing  ‘Softly’ and ‘Aufwiedersen’ for his dying librettist (Merle Oberon). 
  12. Kathryn Grayson, The Vagabond King, 1956.    The Sweethearts had split while awaiting better projects like this one.  The 1930 version, Paramount's  first  Technicolour  talkie,  had  been MacDonald's second film.
  13. Arlene Francis, The Thrill Of It All, 1963.      Gone but not forgotten. Canadian director Norman Jewison tried to re-unite The Sweethearts  in a Doris Day comedy. Their roles? A mid-aged couple expecting their first baby.
  14. Peggy Wood, The Sound of Music, 1964.   Director Robert Wise wanted MacDonald back on-screen after a 16-year absence…. singing Climb Every Mountain. But neither her health nor her doctor would allow her to be the Mother Abbess. Indeed she was dead before the premiere…of what proved t be Peggy Wood’s final film. Her health was also bad. So she was dubbed for Tne Song. She died in 1978.

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