Monday, July 18, 2016

Music Monday - Murder on the High "C"s

I had never heard of Florence Foster Jenkins until seeing a feature on an upcoming movie starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.  The story is hard to believe, but it is absolutely true.

Florence Foster Jenkins, to summarize her life quickly, was an amateur soprano and a millionaire.  That, combined with her being prescribed injections for syphilis (contracted, apparently, from her first husband)  containing mercury, created a story you must hear (literally) to believe.

Ms. Jenkins, who died in 1944, was the daughter of a banker from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (about an hour and a half drive from where I live near Binghamton, New York). As an adult, she moved to New York City with her mother, and joined many social clubs.

Ms. Jenkins, as a child, was considered a piano prodigy, and, in fact, earned her living as a piano teacher in her early adulthood.  But the medications left her with a case of tinnitus (commonly called "ringing in the ears").  She could no longer stay on key.

But no one was going to tell her that.

These social clubs gave rich women of the period an outlet for their energies and a way to do charitable works.  By all accounts, this woman was a bit quirky but also did a lot of charity work.  If she wanted to give private performances for charity, well, no one was going to say "no".

Not only that, but she designed her own costumes.  She loved wings, and lots of tinsel. 
Some people...well, they just loved hearing her voice.  Others...well, you decide for yourself.  It won't take long. 

Mozart's Queen of the Night

Adele's Laughing Song

Some more Mozart.

Now, the story finally turns tragic for this woman who "lived for music".  Because, in October of 1944, due to public demand, Jenkins finally gave a performance,at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan.  It was sold out for weeks in advance.    And now, she would be subject to reviews by music critics working for newspapers.

The music critics were scathing.  The performance, they said, was beyond terrible. She was the worst singer in the world, they wrote.

Sadly, she was no longer performing for fellow socialites, and she could not bear the blistering reviews.

Two days after the concert, Jenkins suffered a heart attack.  She died a month later, at the age of 76.

And, in case you were wondering:  yes, her recordings are still in print, and are still available. There aren't too many of them, but you can find them in an album called - yes, Murder on the High "C"s.

Sometimes, it is good to be bad.

What do you think?  (the movie trailer is above). Would you see a movie about her?

20 comments:

  1. OMG. It took me like five seconds to turn off the sound. Doubt that I would see the movie as I cannot tolerate Meryl Streep, though the story is very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It's quite the story and, I may just see the movie (with a pair of earplugs at the ready) although I am not much of a movie goer.

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  2. Reminded me of the beautiful big woman Groucho Marx was always chasing with his big cigar, Margaret Dumont. Really tragic story, but think of all her false friends who lavished praise on her and how that led to her demise.

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    1. This woman was, in her own ways, larger than life. But leading her on the way her "friends" and "admirers" did ended up killing her in the end.

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  3. I listened to some of her attempts at opera, and the cat started meowing, loudly. It is really quite hilarious. Her pitch was all over the place, and her tone quality was like a tin horn. It was obvious that she was enjoying herself and that she had stage presence. Enough to be played by Meryl Streep. Wow, how cool is that. I would see that movie, but I would equip myself with earplugs because her high notes were too shrill and out of tune for my ears. I also might start meowing, loudly.

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    1. Could you imagine if they had "America's Got Talent" in the 1930's? I'm happy to have the analysis of a singer and performer as I am neither.

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  4. I had heard about her (my father was a big fan of music, since he served as a Rabbi and a Cantor)... and, she served as a perfect family example for my mom- to STOP her "singing"...

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    1. I stopped my singing when my toddler son asked me to stop! But, what a story this woman's life is.

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  5. Well, I'd see ANY movie with Meryl Streep in it! She excels at every role she plays. This story sounds like a great one, looking forward to it. Thanks for letting us know about it!

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    1. I hope you enjoy the movie. I loved the trailer. Except, of course, for the singing part.

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  6. how true sometime its good to be bad! sad story!
    regards
    Tina

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    1. Yes, it was - and those tragic stories can make the best movies. I hope they stick to the facts. So many times, Hollywood makes up its own.

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  7. haah! interesting. So, though she was a bad singer, she attained celebrity status. surprise.

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    1. Yes, like, ahem, a number of famous singers of today's age.

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  8. A movie with Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep about a woman who sings as badly as I do? You better believe I'd go see it!!!

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    1. I hope Hollywood sticks to the facts. I am so hoping. I loved the trailer.

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  9. I did read about this movie. Sad. But there are a lot of people who think they're better singers than they actually are. Most don't get platforms to perform, however.

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  10. What an interesting personality she was. Quite eccentric. I love that about her. Thanks for the heads up about the movie. I love Meryl Streep to pieces. Can't wait to see it, and it will mean more now that I've gotten your insight. Thanks for that. Take Care!

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  11. Oh wow. I'm pretty sure she sounds better than I do if I tried to sing like that. But I don't like that kind of singing anyway. I'd rather just listen to the instrumental part on songs like that.

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  12. As a singer and musician myself in my younger days, I have difficulty listening to "noise" from people trying to sing or play instruments. It's like the fingernails on chalkboard thing (just thinking about it gets to me!) I tend to cringe listening to many of the people chosen to sing the national anthem at different sports events - because they really can't sing and shouldn't have tried THAT challenging song!

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