A Musical Chick-Flick Is Still A Chick-Flick   6 comments

I would guess that most people are familiar with the idea of “chick-flicks” but might not realize that it’s not a new concept, even if the actual term wasn’t used in the early days of Hollywood. But no matter what it was called, once movie-makers caught on to the fact that ladies had a big influence on how a family’s entertainment dollars were spent, it followed that there would be a lot of films aimed their way.

I wasn’t around in the early days of Hollywood, but I definitely remember being dragged to a few of those films when I was a kid in the post-war years. My folks were on a tight budget, but movies were always relatively cheap fun (and small kids got in free). And I won’t pretend that I can remember a lot of specific movies but at least one comes to mind. It was a not only a tear-jerker but a musical too, and even had a soundtrack album — unusual for those days.

Susan Hayward was a favorite of my Mom’s, and when she made With A Song In My Heart (Susan — not my Mom) it was a sure bet we’d go. It was the story of real-life singer Jane Froman, who did the actual singing on the soundtrack, including the title tune.

Froman’s story was certainly custom-made for a movie. At the time World War II broke out, she was already in her mid-thirties and had been working in show business for quite a while, mostly as a band singer and on Broadway, but had not really reached stardom. She’d had a couple of small parts in movies too, but her career took a sudden turn when the war started and she joined the USO.

She toured extensively in the early years of the war, but in 1943 her USO plane crashed in Portugal and most of the passengers died. Jane survived with severe injuries, and the co-pilot, John Curtis Burn, is credited with helping rescue her — even though he had a broken back. Jane had to resist doctors’ advice to amputate a leg but it still marked the beginning of a long period of pain and recurring problems.

Eventually she was able to resume singing but remained on crutches, and was an inspiration to troops when she again began appearing in USO shows. Continuing to perform in the post-war years while fighting constant physical problems, she was able to return to playing clubs only by employing special rigs on stage. She had a special platform on wheels, and was able to move around only with the help of a brace and chain controlled by the pianist.

It was a tough way to survive and it’s not surprising that her marriage broke up. Undergoing dozens of operations through the years didn’t help either, but finally she found a doctor who used some new techniques that helped her to heal. She also ended up marrying John Curtis Burn, the guy who’d rescued her — and Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script. (Bet you saw that coming.)

The movie came along in 1952 and boosted her career, and she even had her own TV show for a while. Unfortunately, her marriage to Burns didn’t last but she eventually returned to her hometown in Missouri, married an old sweetheart, and enjoyed her remaining years until her death in 1980. Although she had an eventful life and left a definite musical legacy, she’s seldom remembered these days and is probably best known as the subject of that chick-flick.

Jane Froman website.

Jane Froman singing “Boy, What Love Has Done To Me.”

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Posted March 14, 2008 by BG in Big Band, Boomers, Easy Listening, Jazz, Music, Nostalgia, Retirement, Seniors

6 responses to “A Musical Chick-Flick Is Still A Chick-Flick

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  1. BG,

    You may want to take a look at Cort Vitty’s 2006 article: http://www.mwotrc.com/rr2006_12/froman.htm

    Lynne

  2. That’s spelled “Froman”— but it was a nice warning about the rest of your scholarship: She was not a ‘band singer’; she had reached stardom no later than 1934 when she was voted the most popular female singer on radio; her first USO tour ended in the Tagus and cost her career far more than it gained her; and she only used the ‘special rig’ briefly between ’43 and ’45. From 1943 to her retirement in 1960, her career was repeatedly interrupted for months at a time to deal with injuries secondary to the plane crash. Thirty-nine surgeries. She worked until she’d paid off every dime of her medical bills. You think about that, sport, and see if you don’t think you might do well to at least spell her name correctly.

  3. You’re right, of course. For some reason I remembered her name with an “h” in the movie, and memories of the movie is mostly what my post was about, but I should have caught that misspelling.

    As for the rest, I meant the post to be complimentary to her and certainly meant no disrespect to her memory. It was a little difficult to find biographical details that didn’t conflict, however. My usual source, Allmusic, didn’t even have a biography of her, and Wikipedia is notoriously unreliable, as are fan sites. I tried to condense the info on her “official” site listed above.

  4. PS
    Have now corrected the spelling.

  5. Thank you for your response. I take your point about the difficulty in finding accurate sources; but I have found no original source material that does not treat Froman’s talent, success, and courage with great respect. She was a major radio star for at least a decade before the plane crash, and her disappearance from public consciousness is a function of the timing and chronicity of her injuries rather than a result of any lack of talent or success on her part. With this in mind, it is particularly sad to read online material from a respected music blogger who appears to have missed the point: Jane Froman was indeed “One of the music world’s treasures”, to quote Jim Stewart, and it falls to us to see that she continues to be heard.

    And bless your heart, you’ve corrected the spelling while I was writing this! BG, the Froman archives are located in three different repositories in Columbia, Mo. With your insight in mind, I will see whether someone there cannot be prevailed upon to address the absence of her bio. on Allmusic. In the meantime, you might seek out the clips of JF on Youtube and— I know I’m going to hate myself in the morning— See Jane Sing.

  6. BG, Barbara Seuling, author of “Say It With Music: The Life and Legacy of Jane Froman”, was contacted about this. I understand that she has now submitted a biography of Froman to allmusic.com.

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