|Born||Bernice Jahnigen (surname later mistranscribed as Janighen)
January 27, 1906
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Died||January 17, 2003 (aged 96)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
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She was born as Bernice Jahnigen (surname later mistranscribed as Janighen) to Adolph and Clara (née Sternitzky) Jahnigen in 1906 in Oakland, California. She had an elder brother, Earl. With a clear coloratura, she took to the stage performing light opera and had no difficulty singing demanding roles. She met then-leading singer Alexander Gray; they appeared in three films together in 1930 for Warner Bros. Gray and Claire became film's first operetta team, predating Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.
Her first screen appearance was in the original film version of No, No, Nanette in the title role. (A post-Code version was made in 1940.) The other two films she made with Gray were Spring is Here and Song of the Flame. Operettas began losing popularity with audiences so Warners tried Claire in dramatic parts without much success. Claire made several more musical shorts up through the late thirties (some again with Gray), later becoming a radio and orchestra singer. In 1934, she appeared on Broadway in a short-lived musical, The Chocolate Soldier.
- No, No, Nanette (1930)
- Spring Is Here (1930)
- The Song of the Flame (1930)
- Numbered Men (1930)
- Top Speed (1930)
- Toast of the Legion (1931)
- Kiss Me Again (1931)
- The Red Shadow (1932)
- Moonlight and Pretzels (1933)
- The Flame Song (1934)
- Meet the Professor (1935)
- The Love Department (1935)
- Two Hearts in Harmony (1935)
- Between the Lines (1936)
- Forget-Me-Knots (1938)
- Age given as 34 in 1940 census; taken in Assembly District 10, Manhattan, New York City during the first week of April 1940, listed as Bernice Claire, occupation: “Actress” "United States Census, 1940", index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KQT6-92S: accessed November 10, 2014), Bernice Claire, Assembly District 10, Manhattan, New York City, New York, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 31-884, sheet 61A, family 45, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 2644, NARA digital publication of T627, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
- Bernice Claire, aged 25, year of birth given as 1906, on June 29, 1931 ship manifest sailing from Hamilton, Bermuda to New York, New York, "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957", index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/24N8-W41: accessed November 10, 2014), Bernice Claire, 1931; citing Immigration, New York, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; FHL microfilm 1756726.
- “Bernice Claire (known as Jahnigen)", aged 29, born Oakland, California (Passport # 203238), date of birth given as ”Jan/27/I906” ship manifest, SS Champlain, sailing from Southampton, England (on July 17, 1935) to New York-U.S.A. (July 24, 1935)
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