Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grace Moore--First posted Nov. 1, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Grace Moore singing Funiculì Funiculà in the movie "Love Me Forever".

(I had a clip of her singing Casta diva in "A Lady's Morals", but that video was taken down from YouTube.)

Here is a link (embedding disabled) to a clip of her singing "Depuis le jour" from Louise, the leading role of which was among her greatest triumphs.

Grace Moore (December 5, 1898 - January 26, 1947) was an American operatic soprano and Academy Award-nominated actress in musical theatre and film, nicknamed the "Tennessee Nightingale." Her films helped to popularize opera by bringing it to a larger audience.

Moore was born Mary Willie Grace Moore on December 5, 1898 (but some sources give her birth year as 1901) to Richard Lawson Moore and Jane (née Stokely) Moore in the community of Slabtown (now considered part of Del Rio) in Cocke County, Tennessee. The family relocated to Jellico, Tennessee when she was a child. After high school in Jellico, she studied briefly at Ward-Belmont College in Nashville[1] before moving to Washington, D.C. and New York City to continue her musical training and begin her career. She appeared in several Broadway shows in the early 1920s.

After [further] training in France, Moore made her operatic debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on February 7, 1928, singing the role of Mimì in Giacomo Puccini's La bohème. She debuted at the Opera-Comique in Paris on September 29, 1928 in the same role, which she also performed in a royal command performance at Covent Garden in London on June 6, 1935. During her sixteen seasons with the Metropolitan Opera, she sang in several Italian and French operas as well as the title roles in Tosca, Manon, and Louise. Louise was her favorite opera and is widely considered to have been her greatest role. In the 1930s and 1940s she gave concert performances throughout the United States and Europe, performing a repertoire of operatic selections and other songs in German, French, Italian, Spanish, and English. During World War II she was active in the USO, entertaining American troops abroad.

Attracted to Hollywood in the early years of "talking pictures," Moore's first screen role was as Jenny Lind in the 1930 film A Lady's Morals, produced for MGM by Irving Thalberg and directed by Sidney Franklin (see YouTube clip above). Later that same year she starred with the Metropolitan Opera singer Lawrence Tibbett in the first screen version of Sigmund Romberg's operetta The New Moon, also produced by MGM. In the 1934 film One Night of Love, her first film for Columbia, she portrayed a small-town girl who aspires to sing opera. For that role she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1935. The last film that Moore made was Louise (1938), an abridged version of Gustave Charpentier's opera of the same name, with spoken dialog in place of some of the original opera's music. The composer participated in the production, authorizing the cuts and changes to the libretto, coaching Moore, and advising director Abel Gance. This production also featured two renowned French singers: dramatic tenor Georges Thill and basse cantante André Pernet. (See link above to clip from this movie.)

In 1935 Moore received the gold medal award of the Society of Arts and Sciences for "conspicuous achievement in raising the standard of cinema entertainment." In 1936 the king of Denmark awarded her his country's medal of 'Ingenito et Arti.' In 1937, she was commissioned as a colonel (an honorary position) on the staff of the governor of Tennessee, and was also made a life member of the Tennessee State Society of Washington, D.C. She was decorated as a chevalier of the French Légion d'honneur in 1939.

Moore died in a plane crash near the Copenhagen, Denmark airport on January 26, 1947, at the age of 48. Among the other plane crash victims was Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, who was at the time second in line to the Swedish throne and who was the father of the present King of Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf. She is buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Moore married Valentín Parera, a Spanish movie actor, in Cannes, France, on July 15, 1931. They had no children. During the 1930s they maintained homes in Hollywood, Cannes, and Connecticut. Moore published an autobiography, You're Only Human Once, in 1944. Her life story was made into a movie, So This is Love, in 1953, starring North Carolina-born singer Kathryn Grayson. A collection of her papers is housed at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

(Bio from Wikipedia.)

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