by Ilene Stone
Ilene Stone is the co-author of "One Little Candle: Remembering Jane Froman."
Asked to name the ten best female singers of the day, famed musical producer Billy Rose replied, "There is Jane Froman and nine others."
Jane was born on November 10, 1907, in University City, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. She spent her childhood in the small Missouri town of Clinton, and her adolescence in the city of Columbia, which she considered her hometown. Her parents separated when she was five years old. Jane began stuttering shortly after that, and it plagued her all of her life, except when she sang.
In 1928 Jane auditioned as a vocalist for WLW, a Cincinnati radio station. By 1932 she was honored as the outstanding female radio artist in America. Jane also performed in nightclubs, on Broadway, in motion pictures and in a revival of the Ziegfeld Follies.
During World War II, Jane was at the peak of her career when she volunteered to travel for the USO. On February 22, 1943, the plane carrying Jane and thirty-eight others crashed into the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal. One of 15 survivors, Jane sustained horrible injuries: a cut below the left knee nearly severing her leg, multiple fractures of her right arm, and a compound fracture of her right leg that doctors threatened to amputate. Jane underwent thirty-nine operations over the years. She stubbornly fought amputation, but wore a leg brace the remainder of her life. With indomitable willpower Jane regained her career, despite life-long medical problems from the crash.
Jane was finally able to fulfill her commitment to the USO in 1945. On crutches, she entertained the troops giving 95 shows throughout Europe. Her courageous appearances were an inspiration to all. Jane returned to New York and continued performing. Eventually, she had her own Emmy-nominated television show, did guest appearances on other programs in the 1950s, and recorded for Capitol Records. In 1952 the movie of Jane's life, "With a Song in My Heart" was made, and thus began Jane's friendship with Susan Hayward.
Many actresses wanted the role, but Susan Hayward was chosen to portray Jane, and Jane could not have been more pleased. Jane remarked, "Of all the girls in Hollywood who might have played me, Susan Hayward was my choice--because she has such heart--oh, such heart." Susan studied all of Jane's mannerisms and movements. "All the time she was doing the picture...she lived me and breathed me," Jane said. Susan did such a good job, that while Jane did the singing for the film through the art of dubbing, Susan's voice was so similar to Jane's "that it seems perfectly natural when my songs come from her lips," Jane stated. Critics rated this the best musical in years. Susan received an Academy Award nomination, though she did not win.