• 18 June 1903
  •  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Jeanette MacDonald


She was the third daughter of Daniel and Anne MacDonald, younger sister to Blossom (MGM's character actress Marie Blake), whom she followed to New York and a chorus job in 1920. She was busy in a string of musical productions. In 1928 Paramount tested and rejected her, but a year later Ernst Lubitsch saw her test and picked her to play opposite Maurice Chevalier in The Love Parade (1929). Musicals went into decline and Paramount dropped her in 1931; her next pictures with Chevalier went nowhere. She went to Europe where she met Irving Thalberg and his wife Norma Shearer (whom she loaned both her hairdresser and chauffeur). She got the lead in Thalberg's property The Merry Widow (1934), and her next MGM vehicle, Naughty Marietta (1935) brought her together with Nelson Eddy. For her next project she insisted Clark Gable should co-star. He at first refused - "I just sit there while she sings. None of that stuff for me." - the movie, of course, was San Francisco (1936). During World War II she often did USO shows. She hoped to enter grand opera; she did take lessons and gave concert recitals. Her last public appearance, singing "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life", was at the funeral of Louis B. Mayer. She suffered heart ailments and, after an arterial transplant in 1963, died of a heart attack in Houston in 1965. Hysterical crowds listened to recordings of "Ah, Sweet Mystery" at her Forest Lawn funeral.