Jane Froman

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Jane Froman
Jane Froman 1934.jpg
Background information
Birth nameEllen Jane Froman
Born(1907-11-10)November 10, 1907
University City, Missouri
DiedApril 22, 1980(1980-04-22) (aged 72)
Columbia, Missouri
Occupation(s)singer, actress

Ellen Jane Froman (November 10, 1907 – April 22, 1980) was an American singer and actress. During her thirty-year career, Froman performed on stage, radio and television despite chronic health problems due to injuries sustained in a 1943 plane crash.

Her life story was told in the 1952 film With a Song in My Heart. She was portrayed by Susan Hayward, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Early life and education[edit]

Ellen Jane Froman was born in University City, Missouri, the daughter of Anna Tillman (née Barcafer 1874–1962) and Elmer Ellsworth Froman (1868-1936). Her childhood and adolescence were spent in the small Missouri town of Clinton. When Froman was about five years old, her father mysteriously disappeared and was never heard from again, although it is known he died in Los Angeles in 1936. Her mother later remarried, to William Hetzler. Froman developed a stutter around this time, which stayed with her all of her life, except when she sang.[1]

In 1919, Froman and her mother moved to Columbia, Missouri, which she considered her hometown. In 1921, at age 13, Froman and another young lady gave a piano-and-song recital at Christian College,[2] now Columbia College (Missouri) (where her mother was director of vocal studies and from which Froman later graduated[3]). In 1926, Froman graduated from Christian College and later attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism.[3] Two years later in 1928, Froman moved to Cincinnati, where she studied voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music through 1930.[4]


Although Froman had classical voice training, early in her career she was drawn to the music of the era's songwriters, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin, who were inspiring a resurgence in popular music. She met vaudeville performer Don Ross when they auditioned for the same job at WLW radio station in Cincinnati. She first appeared on WLW October 9, 1929 "on the King Taste night club."[5] Froman made her national network debut on NBC July 31, 1931.[6] She was heard on the Florsheim Frolic program, broadcast on Sunday afternoons.[7] Froman and Ross had their own program beginning July 4, 1937.[8] The 13-episode series on the NBC Red Network[9] was a summer replacement for The Jack Benny Program.[10]

There, Froman joined Henry Thies' orchestra and was a featured vocalist on a number of Thies' Victor recordings. Convinced that she was star material, Ross became Froman's unofficial manager and persuaded her to move to Chicago, where he worked for NBC radio. In 1933 Froman moved to New York City, where she appeared on Chesterfield's Music that Satisfies radio program with Bing Crosby. On January 4, 1948, Froman joined the cast of The Pause That Refreshes, a Sunday evening music program sponsored by Coca-Cola on CBS. It was her first regular role on radio after a devastating U.S.O. plane crash (see below).[11]

Ziegfeld Follies[edit]

In 1933, Froman joined the Ziegfeld Follies, where she was befriended by Fannie Brice.[3] In 1934, at age 27, she became the top-polled "girl singer."[12] The famous composer and producer Billy Rose, when asked to name the top ten female singers, is reported to have replied, "Jane Froman and nine others."[1] Radio listeners apparently agreed with Rose, because Froman emerged atop a nationwide poll as "the number-one female singer on the radio" in 1934.[3]

Film and television[edit]

Froman is credited with three movies, Kissing Time (1933),[13] Stars Over Broadway (1935)[14] and Radio City Revels (1938).[15] Beginning October 15, 1952, she was a host of Jane Froman's U.S.A. Canteen, a 30-minute CBS Saturday program in which "talented members of the armed services appeared with Froman."[16] On December 30, 1952, the length was reduced to 15 minutes with a twice-a-week schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The title was changed to The Jane Froman Show in late 1953. It ended June 23, 1955.[16]

The very first hit song to be introduced on television, I Believe, was written for Froman by the show's musicians, Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, and Al Stillman, and earned her a gold record in 1953.

U.S.O. airplane crash[edit]

Froman was severely injured as the result of an aircraft crash on February 22, 1943. She was aboard a USO plane, a Boeing 314 named Yankee Clipper (tail number NC18603). Yankee Clipper was carrying Froman and 38 others, and as the plane was banking into a descending turn for approach, the port wingtip caught a wave, whereupon it crashed into the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal. One of 15 survivors, Froman sustained severe 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. Before flight, Froman had given her seat to another singer, Tamara Drasin, who was killed in the crash, an action which Froman's biographer Ilene Stone said "bothered her her whole life."[1]

The co-pilot, John Curtis Burn, who broke his back in the crash, fashioned a makeshift raft from portions of the wrecked plane to help keep himself and Froman afloat. After being rescued, they were sent to the same convalescent home, where they struggled through their long recoveries together.

Less than a year after the crash, Froman returned to Broadway to perform in a revue, Artists and Models. She wore a leg brace and used a wheelchair after having had 13 operations for her injuries.[17] She underwent 39 operations over the years and fought amputation and wore a leg brace the remainder of her life.

Froman returned to Europe and entertained American troops in 1945. Despite having to walk with crutches, she gave 95 shows throughout Europe. During the late 1940s, Froman became addicted to painkillers and when they did not ease the pain, supplemented them with alcohol. However, she subsequently successfully overcame both problems.

On the March 1, 1953 episode of What's My Line, panelist Hal Block reminded Froman that he was supposed to be on the same flight, which she confirmed.[18]

With a Song in My Heart and later career[edit]

Froman's life story was the subject of the movie With a Song in My Heart (1952), starring Susan Hayward as Jane. Froman was deeply involved in the film's production: she supplied Hayward's singing voice[19] and served as the film's technical advisor. The Capitol album of songs from the movie was the number one best-selling album of 1952 and remained in the catalogue for many years. DRG recently reissued the album on a compact disc along with the 1952 revival cast album of Pal Joey, in which Froman sang the role made famous by Vivienne Segal, Vera Simpson.

A Choice CD called Jane Froman on Capitol is a collection of her Capitol Records singles and tracks from albums. From 1952–1955, Froman starred on CBS-TV. Her first program, USA Canteen, had servicemen in the audience. The program was renamed The Jane Froman Show and the format was changed to a twice-weekly 15 minute program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After the show was canceled in 1956, Froman appeared on various programs for the next few years. She also appeared on stage in Las Vegas.


The only surviving child of Anna T. Barcafer and Elmer Ellsworth Froman,[20] Froman married Donald McKaig Ross in September 1933; they divorced in 1948. She remarried, to John Burn, on March 12, 1948; that union ended in divorce in 1956. Froman later moved back to Columbia, Missouri and rekindled with an old college friend, Rowland Hawes Smith. The couple were married on June 22, 1962.[21][22]

Life after stardom[edit]

In 1961, Froman retired to her home in Columbia, Missouri. After her retirement, Froman continued the volunteer work for which she was known throughout her career. She devoted more time to groups, such as the Easter Seals campaign and the Missouri Mental Health Association.[21]

In 1969, Froman came out of retirement to sing in a Christmas program at Arrow Rock, Missouri, which helped aid the Jane Froman Music Camp. Froman started this project to help young people develop their musical talents.[20]


Froman died April 22, 1980, aged 72, at her home in Columbia, Missouri[19] of cardiac arrest caused by chronic heart and lung disease. She reportedly never fully recovered from an automobile accident on December 24, 1979.[3]

Her funeral was held on April 25, 1980, in Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia[22] and she was interred in the local cemetery.

Charitable service[edit]

In 1957, the Jane Froman Foundation, which assisted the children's hospital at the Menninger Clinic, which the funds from her many fan clubs help support. Froman volunteered with numerous charitable organizations, some being the Easter Seals campaign, which helps individuals with developmental disabilities and the Missouri Mental Health Association,[20]


Froman was known for her contralto vocals.[23] There are three biographies about Froman, the first two written by Ilene Stone: One Little Candle: Remembering Jane Froman and Jane Froman, Missouri's First Lady of Song. In addition, a newer, in-depth biography, Say It With Music – The Life and Legacy of Jane Froman, by Barbara Seuling, was published on November 10, 2007, to coincide with the centennial of Froman's birth.

In honor of what would have been Froman's 100th birthday, a gala, The Jane Froman Centennial Celebration was held in Columbia, Missouri the weekend of November 9–11, 2007. A DVD of the movie, With a Song in My Heart, with added new segments, was premiered on November 9, 2007, and is now widely distributed by Fox Home Entertainment.

For her numerous contributions, Froman was awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for Radio at 6321 Hollywood Blvd.; for Recording at 6145 Hollywood Blvd.; and for Television at 1645 Vine Street..in Hollywood, California.[24]


Title Role Director Year Notes #
Kissing Time Miss Sullivan Roy Mack 1933
Stars Over Broadway Joan Garrett William Keighley 1935
Radio City Revels Jane Froman Benjamin Stoloff 1938

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Holding the High Notes: The Life of Jane Froman (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2007-11-13.
  2. ^ "Children to give program". The Columbia Evening Missourian. January 22, 1921. p. 3. Retrieved June 13, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  3. ^ a b c d e Carnes, Mark C. (Ed.) (2005). American National Biography: Supplement 2. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 181–183. ISBN 0-19-522202-4. Retrieved 13 June 2015.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Ellen Jane Froman". Historic Missourians. The State Historical Society of Missouri. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  5. ^ "At the Dials". Decatur Herald. October 9, 1929. p. 8. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  6. ^ Butterfield, C.E. (July 30, 1931). "Around the Radio Clock". The Sandusky Register. p. 4. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ "On Florsheim Frolic" (PDF). Radio Guide. December 5, 1931. p. 2. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Jane Froman and Don Ross Will Open Broadcast Series Replacing Jack Benny; Zasu Pitts on Air". The San Bernardino County Sun. July 4, 1937. p. 5. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  9. ^ "Jane Froman heads summer show stars". The Monroe News-Star. June 25, 1937. p. 7. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  10. ^ "Studio Notes". The Evening News. August 21, 1937. p. 14. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  11. ^ "Jane Froman to Be Regular on Sunday 'Pause'". Harrisburg Telegraph. January 3, 1948. p. 17. Retrieved July 20, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  12. ^ "Jane Froman: University of Cincinnati alumna was famed singer, radio and TV star". University of Cincinnati. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  13. ^ "Jane Froman to the Ritz". The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune. February 10, 1934. p. 13. Retrieved June 13, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  14. ^ "(photo caption)". Altoona Tribune. January 10, 1936. p. 10. Retrieved June 13, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  15. ^ "Comics riot at Broadway". Santa Ana Register. February 12, 1938. p. 8. Retrieved June 13, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  16. ^ a b McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television. Penguin Books USA, Inc. ISBN 0-14-02-4916-8. P. 425.
  17. ^ "Jane Froman, in Wheel Chair, is big revue's star". The Sandusky Register. November 6, 1943. p. 8. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  18. ^ "What's My Line". Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  19. ^ a b "Jane Froman Dies At Age 72". Santa Cruz Sentinel. April 23, 1980. p. 24. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  20. ^ a b c "Jane Froman – Historic Missourians – The State Historical Society of Missouri". shsmo.org. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  21. ^ a b Stone, Ilene (2003-01-01). Jane Froman: Missouri's First Lady of Song. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 9780826263285.
  22. ^ a b "Jane Froman rites to be Friday". The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune. April 24, 1980. p. 6. Retrieved June 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  23. ^ Jane Froman: Missouri's first lady of song
  24. ^ Jane Froman on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

External links[edit]