Friday, 6 May 2016
Success against all the odds
but it required a whole lot of money, and tons of subterfuge on the part of her Manager, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant)
I read the account of Hugh Grant's return to the big screen in last week's Lady Magazine. It brought back memories of hearing Florence Foster Jenkins on the radio. I thought that she was a 'novelty act', but her story is one of obsessive delusion and health damaged by mercury to combat syphilis.
Starring alongside Streep and Grant, is Simon Helberg (Big Bang Theory's Howard Wolowtcz), as the accomplished pianist, Cosme McMoon, who attempted to smooth over the worst edges of Florence's voice.
Tragically, Bayfield's attempts to conceal the reviews of Florence's performances lasted too long. She died of a heart attack, two days after her performance at Carnegie Hall. The audience included critics previously barred from hearing Florence sing live. Inevitably their reviews were scathing. One said: “She clucked and squawked, trumpeted and quavered. She couldn’t carry a tune. Her sense of rhythm was uncertain. In the treacherous upper registers, her voice often vanished into thin air.”
Wouldn't it have been kinder to prevent Florence's appearance at Carnegie Hall? Perhaps, but then there wouldn't have been quite as much money invested in The Big Apple's music business as the donations from Florence's charity performances and recordings had done.
It's a film I look forward to seeing, despite some flaky reviews from some critics.