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?