Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy: Together Again

Musical classics starring the dynamic team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy have been presented on DVD exclusively at Movies Unlimited in conjunction with The Warner Archive Collection. Previously, we proudly introduced six of the eight films made together by the Silver Screen’s Singing Sweethearts and now, we are happy to announce the final two performances which will make the collection complete: The Girl of The Golden West (1938) and New Moon (1940).

What makes the release of these two classic musical gems especially significant, is that these two titles in particular, mark the team’s reunion after playing roles with other co-stars.

Before their release of Maytime in 1937, Jeanette had co-starred with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in the legendary San Francisco, but Nelson had not yet appeared in a movie without MacDonald since their teaming became such an established success. After Maytime hit theaters in early 1937, the studio starred Eddy along with Eleanor Powell in Rosalie, also co-starring Ray Bolger — and The Firefly, teaming MacDonald with Allan Jones, which were both released in late 1937. Jones’ rendition of Donkey Serenade became an International hit song and while both films were successful, the studio was bombarded with requests for more of the team singing together, and Metro responded with The Girl Of The Golden West in early 1938.

So while the team had not been absent from the screen very long, fans were clear in their demand for more of them together. Of course, this meant finding the right vehicles for them. Because the team’s initial films were all adaptations from stage operettas, many assume the same about The Girl of the Golden West, due to its score with music written by operetta king Sigmund Romberg, and lyrics by Gus Kahn. Actually the preceding iterations of this piece began with a dramatic play by David Belasco that first hit Broadway in 1905, and was later turned into an opera entitled “La Fanciulla Del West” by none other than Giacomo Puccini.

The first film version of Belasco’s story was made by Cecil B. DeMille in 1915, another silent followed in 1925, and then a (now-lost) sound remake starring Ann Harding emerged from Warner Bros. in 1930.  MGM’s film united the Belasco story with the kind of music that suited the team well, and in fact, this was the fourth of their eight films, but the first to have an original score commissioned for their work directly.

Taking the helm was Robert Z. Leonard, who had done such an outstanding job with the team on Maytime. The story line concerns dashing bandit Nelson Eddy, who doesn’t count on having his heart stolen by saloon keeper Jeanette MacDonald when he holds up her stagecoach. The sprightly MGM musical co-stars Buddy Ebsen, Leo Carrillo, Monty Wooley and includes Jeanette’s singing of Ave Maria.

Once The Girl of the Golden West was in the can, the next planned project for the team was the lavish classic Sweethearts, their first in Technicolor, which finished out the year of 1938 with great success. However, it would be almost two years before the team reunited on screen again. 1939 would see them on the screen with different co-stars; with Nelson Eddy cast as leading man in Balalaika and Jeanette MacDonald taking center stage in Broadway Serenade. Fans let MGM know that they wanted another MacDonald/Eddy film, and the studio reacted by dusting off a well-respected property they had made years before.

New Moon was an enormous stage hit for Romberg and his then-lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II in the late 1920s, but its 1930 MGM film version starring Lawrence Tibbett and Grace Moore did not fare particularly well with moviegoers, and only a few tidbits from the original stage score remained intact. The MacDonald/Eddy remake would be far more faithful to the Romberg/Hammerstein II score that had become so popular, and was given appropriately lavish treatment as only MGM could. New Moon is the setting for adventure, romance and song in this, the duo’s sixth pairing. The backdrop is colorful 1700s New Orleans and plantation heiress Jeanette discovers that slave laborer Nelson is actually a rebellious nobleman out to offer escape to the region’s bond servants.

The production was initially to be titled “Lover, Come Back To Me,” after the most famous song from the operetta’s score, however MGM wisely changed its mind about such a curious move, and under the firm hand of Robert Z. Leonard’s elegant direction, New Moon went on to achieve great success when released in July of 1940, owing to Jeanette’s and Nelson’s infectuous interpretations of Stout-Hearted Men, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, Wanting You, and more.

After all, how could New Moon go wrong with an advertising campaign like this, “The King and Queen of Song…gloriously together again…in a red-blooded romance…of moonlight and music…love and danger…buccaneers and beauties!”

And now, take a step back in time and enjoy some scenes in the theatrical trailer from The Girl of the Golden West:

  • LaurenAva

    Awesome couple!  They just aren’t the same apart!

  • Marty

    Absolutely beautiful couple! Their singing takes my breathe away. I’m reading, The Films of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy by Eleanor Knowles Lugan. I highly recommend it.

  • bernadetteclare

    I used to stay home from school when one of their films was scheduled to be on a local daytime movie program!

  • Dave

    The Eddy-MacDonald “New Moon” has been our favorite film ever since we discovered it on VHS years ago.  We have the recent DVD-R WB-archive release, and they have done a good job (better than an earlier “Sweethearts”  – the Brazilian reussue is superior IMHO).  Worth waiting for.

    The idea of a Moore-Tibbett team doing an earlier  “New Moon” has always intrigued me, and I hope it becomes available as well, in spite of the critics.  How will we know if they are right?

  • Dryerf

    As a young child in Philadelphia in the late 30s and early 40s I saw as many of the mac/eddy movies as possible. In fact, that was the only way I would consent to go to the movies — if it were one of theirs. They were absolutely the GREATEST! and still are.

  • Jmslotnick

    Finally…and I have already purchased it.  Naughty Marietta and New Moon are the two first and in my opinion best of all the MacDonald/Eddy films.  I saw all their films, liked 99% if them, but as I said these first two were their finest.

  • BSeto

    GOOD reason to throw a home theater screening party ! I haven’t ordered the “Girl of the Golden West”
    and “New Moon”DVDs yet but I am making arrangements for a big party at home for a Jeanette/Eddy
    marathon ! Now finally all their movies together are available on DVD, what a joy ! What a Thrill !
    I am sure many film fans/collectors are grateful to Movies Unlimited and Warner Archives for making
    these cinema GEMS available. For me,the Jeanette/Eddy team is on a par with the Fred and Ginger,
    Judy and Mickey;  Kate and Spencer legendary teams—their work will always be timeless and
    enjoyable , THANK YOU . THANK YOU.

  • hypatiab7

    Any information on Nelson Eddy’s version of “The Chocolate Soldier”? I’d love to have a copy of that.

    • Wayne P.

      It screened on TCM, AMC or Fox a year or two ago, but not that often, my friend told me who copied it for me.  As we dont have satellite or cable I dont know how else we wouldve gotten this gem…it goes well with the only other film role Rise Stevens, famed Met Soprano, did…Going My Way.  Has anyone else heard that the cable/satellite providers dont allowing taping of their channels anymore?

      • hypatiab7

         I never thought they did, but everyone copied anyway (for themselves, not others,
        supposedly). Nowadays, since most cds are relatively cheap and take a lot less room that VHS tapes did, I just buy the disc. You reminded me that “Going My Way” is on my gotta get list. I’ve always liked Barry Fitzgerald. Thanks fr the info.

        • hypatiab7

           Just found a website with the music from the movie. “While My Lady Sleeps” and “Hero” (which I recognized) are beautiful.

          http://archive.org/details/O.StraussTheChocolateSoldier

          Also just dug up two old 33s. One has Nelson Eddy (not with MacDonald)
          singing the songs from “New Moon” and Rose Marie”. The other has Nelson Eddy (not with MacDonald” singing the songs from “Naughty Marietta”  and
          (with Rise Stevens) “The Chocolate Soldier”. I’ll be copying both records to disc to protect them.

        • Wayne P.

          What I meant to say was I read on a post on an MU fanfare blog not too long ago where someone said the satellite and cable movie channel providers have somehow “disabled” the recording capability on films for home viewers via dvr/vcr that show on those networks…but am not sure if this is true or not, since dont have those in my home!?

          • hypatiab7

             Interesting, but what makes the studios think that people who copy will start to buy? I buy because I want a good clear copy, Others won’t.
            Actually, I still have a bunch of vhs tapes. I plan to copy some of them. The rest, I’ll just toss.

          • Wayne P.

            Great point!  I’m only keeping my VHS tapes for the box design unless the film viewed is good quality…the rest am copying onto DVD.  My problem was storage space for the larger original packaging so have bought cases to put the recorded DVDs in.

          • hypatiab7

             A lot of my old vhs tapes are copies down two or three or more generations of British tv shows that were only available on PAL back then. Very few people were able to copy to NTSC from PAL back then. Thank goodness they are starting to finally come out on dvd at last. I
            can’t wait to get rid of green “Blakes 7″.

  • JimBob

    I have a hard time picking a favorite. Each and every one has something wonderful to offer.  They became favorites in the ’50s when I first saw them and have not seen fit to change my opinion. 

  • Haydn101

    Oh, for the Good Old Days when people on the screen had talent, could act, had vocabularies with words larger than four letters!  Thank Heaven for the truly entertaining DVDs being issued today!

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  • giselle

    Does anyone know the lyrics to Dream of Love (Liebestraum) by Gus Kahn sung by Jeanette in Girl of the Golden West? Can find them anywhere.

    • Wayne P.

      Have you tried looking the song up on You Tube…they usually have playlists of tunes with lyrics that are understandable or you could just go to IMDB and/or Google/Yahoo it? There should be a website somewhere with a printable version and, if not, someones just got an internet start-up idea to thank you for!

      • giselle

        Wayne, thank you for responding. I found the song on “Jeanette MacDonald’s Third Song Book,” but the lyrics are not clear. Have still not found a printable version. I appreciate your suggestions.