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. She later appeared in opera, concerts, radio, and television. MacDonald was one of the most influential sopranos of the 20th century, introducing opera to movie-going audiences and inspiring a generation of singers.
MacDonald suffered in her later years with heart trouble. She worsened in 1963 and underwent an arterial transplant at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. She had been signed to play the role of the Mother Abbess in the film version of The Sound of Music, but died before she could fulfill this commitment (the role went to Peggy Wood). Nelson Eddy, in Australia on a nightclub tour, pleaded illness and returned to the States at word of MacDonald's surgery. After the operation, she developed pleurisy and was hospitalized for two-and-a-half months. Her friends kept the news from the press until just before her release. Her large home was sold and she moved into a Los Angeles apartment that would not require so much of her energies. Her husband moved into an adjoining apartment. Nelson Eddy took his own apartment in the opposite building. MacDonald was again stricken in 1964. Nelson Eddy was with her when she was admitted to UCLA Medical Center, where on Christmas Eve, she was operated on for abdominal adhesions. She was able to go home for New Year's, but in mid-January, husband Raymond flew her back to Houston. It was hoped that pioneer heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, who had recently operated successfully on the Duke of Windsor, could perform the same miracle for her. She checked in on January 12, and a program of intravenous feedings was begun to build her up for possible surgery. MacDonald died two days later on January 14 at 4:32 pm, with her husband at her bedside. According to press reports, MacDonald's last words to Raymond while he massaged her feet were "I love you". He replied "I love you, too"; she smiled and succumbed.
MacDonald was interred on January 18, 1965, in a crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, which reads "Jeanette MacDonald Raymond". Nelson Eddy, who told Jack Paar on The Tonight Show, "I love her ", broke down when interviewed by the press the evening of her death. He survived MacDonald by two years.
Almost a decade after MacDonald's death, in 1974, Gene Raymond remarried. His second wife, a Canadian heiress, was the former Mrs. Bentley Hees. Her first name was, coincidentally, Nelson. "Nels", as she was called, died in 1995. Raymond died on May 3, 1998, and was laid to rest next to Jeanette MacDonald at Forest Lawn, Glendale.