Ralph Edwards Dead at 92; Played Unintentional Matchmaker on Most Popular Episode of 'This is Your Life' Reuniting Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

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Ralph Edwards, host of “This is Your Life” who died yesterday at 92, once claimed that the most popular episode of his long-running TV show was the one featuring Jeanette MacDonald in November 1952. What Edwards didn't know was that by publicly reuniting MacDonald with her MGM co-star and estranged lover Nelson Eddy, he brought about a personal reconciliation as well.

During the first season of Ralph Edwards’ TV show This is Your Life, featured movie star Jeanette MacDonald cried at hearing ex-lover Nelson Eddy’s singing voice off-stage. When Eddy greeted her in front of the studio audience and saw her tears, they tenderly embraced. Eddy refused to let go of her hand even when Jeanette sank back down on the couch next to her husband, Gene Raymond. After the post-show party, both stars ditched their spouses and left together. This was reality TV at its finest in 1952, but the viewing public didn’t realize what they were seeing.

The significance of This is Your Life was finally revealed in the controversial MacDonald-Eddy biography, Sweethearts, by Sharon Rich. A detailed book excerpt about the show, with photos, can be read at http://www.maceddy.com.

Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy made movie history as “America’s Singing Sweethearts” of the 1930s. Their MGM classics included Naughty Marietta, Rose Marie and Maytime. Despite rumors that they hated each other off-screen, they would have married early on but their studio boss, Louis B. Mayer, refused to allow it. Even unhappy marriages to others couldn’t separate them, to Mayer’s chagrin. Their falling out prior to This is Your Life came about after Jeanette’s continued failed attempts to have a child with Nelson, and she suffered a breakdown.

During the broadcast, Ralph Edwards was visibly shocked at the sarcastic banter between Jeanette and her husband. Gene who was supposedly in New York but was really backstage, phones Jeanette during the show to wish her well. He asks her to call him after the show. “Will you be home?” she quips. “Of course!” Edwards reassures the audience. Gene laughs, “There’ll be no late date tonight. I’ll wait for your call and make the date after.”

Nelson Eddy had at first refused to appear on This is Your Life. Still bitter over their breakup, he had never fully understood why Jeanette left him. When Jeanette’s older sister Blossom Rock was informed of Nelson’s refusal, she arranged a meeting. With Blossom filling in some of the details Nelson’s attitude softened and he agreed that it would be humiliating to Jeanette if he didn't make an appearance.

After the show aired, Jeanette and Nelson reconciled. While proposed film projects fell through, in 1958 they recorded a record album for RCA that quickly went gold. Eddy was crushed when MacDonald died in 1965. He began drinking and survived her by only two years, collapsing with a stroke onstage in Miami in 1967.

For information and photos about the This is Your Life episode online, read http://www.maceddy.com/index.php?main_page=infopages&pages_id=7

Review copies of Sweethearts available, email or call 646-321-8504.

Read the Introduction and first chapter of Sweethearts online at http://www.maceddy.com.


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Sharon Rich
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