Jeanette Anna MacDonald (June 18, 1903 – January 14, 1965) was an American singer and actress best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s with Maurice Chevalier (The Love Parade, Love Me Tonight, The Merry Widow and One Hour With You) and Nelson Eddy (Naughty Marietta, Rose-Marie, and Maytime).
During the 1930s and 1940s she starred in 29 feature films, four nominated for Best Picture Oscars (The Love Parade, One Hour with You, Naughty Marietta and San Francisco), and recorded extensively, earning three gold records.
In November 1919 MacDonald joined her older sister, actress Blossom Rock in New York and landed a job in the chorus of Ned Wayburn’s The Demi-Tasse Revue, a musical entertainment presented between films at the Capital Theatre on Broadway.
In 1920 she appeared in two musicals, Jerome Kern’s Night Boat as a chorus replacement, and Irene on the road as the second female lead.
Shipman once remarked that MacDonald did not have the legs for a top-notch chorus girl.
In 1921 MacDonald played in Tangerine, as one of the “Six Wives.” In 1922 MacDonald was a featured singer in a Greenwich Village revue, Fantastic Fricassee. Good press notices brought her a role in The Magic Ring (1923).
MacDonald played the second female lead in this long-running musical which starred Mitzi Hajos.
In 1925 MacDonald again had the second female lead opposite Queenie Smith in Tip Toes, a George Gershwin hit show.
The following year found her still in a second female lead in Bubblin’ Over (1926), a musical version of Brewster’s Millions. In 1933 MacDonald left again for Europe and while there, signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Her first MGM film was The Cat and the Fiddle (1934), based on the Jerome Kern Broadway hit.
Her co-star was Ramón Novarro. The plot about unmarried lovers shacking up just barely slipped through the new Production Code guidelines that took effect July 1, 1934.
Despite a Technicolor finale—the first use of the new three-color Technicolor process other than Disney cartoons—the film was not a huge success.
In 1937, a lot happened in MacDonald’s life. Besides coming out with her first starring vehicle, The Firefly, she married Gene Raymond and was named “The Greatest Singing-Actress” since Mary Garden.
She met Gene Raymond at Rozika Dolly’s beach home right after the break up with Robert Ritchie.
In 1937, MacDonald was also voted “Queen of the Screen” in a poll by Los Angeles Times.
In 1939, she became Hollywood’s highest paid actress.
In 1943, MacDonald appeared in Gounod’s opera Romeo et Juliette.
In 1944, Gounod helped her with her American opera debut with the Chicago Opera Company in the opera Faust.
MacDonald semi-retired and helped with the war effort entertaining the troops and in 1943, made her opera debut in Montreal.
After the war, MacDonald made two more films for MGM without Eddy and quit the movies altogether in 1949.
The 1950s found Jeanette MacDonald in the Las Vegas nightclub circuit, television and on national road tour productions such as “The King and I.” In her final years, MacDonald developed a serious heart condition.
She died on January 14, 1965 in Houston, Texas while awaiting heart surgery; her husband Gene Raymond was at her bedside.