No actor does watery eyes and tears better than Meryl Streep and both are evident in her latest movie based on real-life personality Florence Foster Jenkins. What came as a bit of a surprise was how comedic Streep is, although she capably displayed this talent in Julia and Julia several years ago. After watching Florence Foster Jenkins I came home and immediately Google’d her name to find out more about this complex person.
Born into a wealthy family, Florence displayed a particular talent for music and as a child once played the piano for American President Rutherford Hayes. When her father refused to bankroll her musical career she tragically married young and contracted syphilis from her husband, whom she immediately left. Several years later, when both of her parents died and she inherited a considerable sum of money, she became a patron, sponsor and participant in New York’s operatic society. Florence regularly held private recitals in her apartment or a rented ballroom at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, oblivious of the fact she had a terrible singing voice and no sense of rhythm or timing.
St. Clair Bayfield came into her life fulfilling the role of husband (although they were never officially married) and manager. Hugh Grant was excellent as her seemingly upper-class English actor husband and their relationship was fascinating to watch. Bayfield and her piano accompanist Cosmé McMoon were loyal enablers, overlooking her obvious shortcomings as a singer and supporting her career and ambitions. In 1944 at the age of seventy-six when she was in failing health, Florence staged a concert at Carnegie Hall, donating one thousand tickets to servicemen. Despite a rocky introduction and the unmistakable laughter from the audience, she pushed through to her finale. She died a few weeks later. My girlfriends and I really enjoyed the movie which has some great laughs. If you’ve seen it or plan to, let me know what you thought. There’s a moral to the story.
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