Book Recounts Christmas Hollywood Flashback: December 1946 - Two Movie Stars Break Up a Long-term, Adulterous Love Affair on Christmas Night

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Exactly sixty years ago, Nelson Eddy ended his off-screen romance with MGM singing co-star Jeanette MacDonald. Eddy, trapped in a loveless marriage, finally announced to MacDonald that since he couldn't buy his freedom, he would break up with her so she could move on with her life. Their final romantic night together was graphically depicted in a letter written by him dated December 26, 1946.

Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair On-screen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

In a Hollywood long before there were tabloids, cell phone cameras or Perez Hilton to document a star's every move, Hollywood folk could often carry on private lives without public scrutiny. A case in point: Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, who were forbidden to marry by their studio boss Louis B. Mayer, but who refused to end their romance. By 1946, their film careers were waning and MacDonald was desperate to have Eddy's child. She suffered at least one miscarriage that year and pulled out of a proposed film project with Eddy, "Northwest Outpost," which he subsequently filmed with Ilona Massey.

In December 1946, both Eddy and MacDonald made the usual rounds of holiday parties with their respective spouses, and hosted their own parties. It was only on Christmas Day that they escaped to their hideaway house located at 1330 Angelo Drive, high above Beverly Hills. The property, known as "Enchanted Hill", was originally built for silent cowboy star Fred Thomson and his wife, screenwriter Frances Marion. It was sold after Thomson's death and in 1937 Nelson Eddy leased the separate, smaller building on the grounds that originally housed the six stable hands. Eddy remodeled the place for himself and MacDonald and nicknamed it "Mists."

It was at his desk at "Mists" that Nelson Eddy wrote on December 26 of their sad breakup, excerpted from the biography "Sweethearts" by Sharon Rich: "Last night--our dearest tenderest memory--hug it close to your heart. I have held you in my arms on many of these nights, my wife--my entire reason for living is our love. I have found the true fountain of life, and when we are together we are equal and serene--asking no more than each can give with joy--and so willingly, because we never can give less than our all to each other. We are whole--in two parts--someday these two halves will come together in either an earthly or heavenly union--this I know and this you must believe--

"Now, my heart's love, it is a parting time. My darling, I must say this once more, 'I love you.' The sweet little girl--the vital passionate woman--the beautiful nights--the dear familiarity of the sweet long nights. A glorious love story. Always I shall remember last night….Our marriage has been so perfect, but it cannot be….When the time is right God will let us have our love complete--for we are touched by the timeless ages and there can be no parting. That is why our expressions have always been found in singing.

"This home is yours always--I promise not to come here when you are here. You have just told me that this room of mine will be a heaven of memories and quiet prayer for you. I want you to use it when you are here, for your sleeping hours and thinking of the boy who became the love of your life and then could not keep that love. And remember that love is not love until it has paid the price--which you must now try to help me do."

The breakup did not last many months. Details about their tumultuous year are recounted in the biography "Sweethearts: The Timeless Love Affair On-screen and Off Between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy" by Sharon Rich (Bell Harbour Press, © 2001). MGM historian Jane Ellen Wayne calls "Sweethearts" "one of the finest books about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Hollywood during the Golden Era," while TCM host Robert Osborne adds, "Offers considerable proof they may have been secret lovers for years." Read the Introduction and first chapter of Sweethearts online at

For review copies of "Sweethearts" or to interview the author, email or call 646-321-8504.


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