Childhood & Early Life
Grace Moore was born as Mary Willie Grace Moore in a small town named Slabtown, currently a part of Del Rio, in Cocke County, Tennessee, USA on December 5, 1898.
Her father was Richard Lawson Moore and her mother was Jane Stokely.
Her family moved to Knoxville and then to Jellico, Tennessee, when she was quite young.
She attended the ‘Jellico High School’ and then studied briefly at the ‘Ward-Belmont College in Nashville.
She also attended the ‘Wilson-Green School of Music’ in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
She studied music and singing in college and went to Washington D.C. and New York for further training.
In 1919, at the age of 17, she sang at a recital with Giovanni Martinelli, who later became the director of the ‘Metropolitan Opera’.
Grace Moore auditioned for the ‘Metropolitan Opera’ twice but failed in both attempts. She had to sing at nightclubs to earn money for her music lessons.
During this period she appeared in the musicals ‘Suite Sixteen’, ‘Just a Minute’ and ‘Up in the Clouds’.
She got a singing job in the Broadway musical ‘Hitchy Koo’ produced by Jerome Kern in 1920 and also sang in ‘Town Gossip’ later.
She moved to Paris for two years to continue her studies with the money she earned with this job.
After returning to America she sang two numbers ‘What’ll I Do’ and ‘Listening’. The second number became the one of the five best selling numbers in the country.
She went to France in 1925 and trained under operatic coach Richard Barthelemy at the suggestion of Mary Garden.
During one of Grace’s visit to Milan, Italy in 1927, Giulio Gatti-Cazzaza, the director of the ‘Metropolitan’ heard her sing and signed her up to sing at the ‘Metropolitan’. She made her debut on February 7, 1928 as ‘Mimi’ in Giacomo Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ and later sang for Charles Gounod’s ‘Romeo et Juliette’.
For sixteen seasons she stayed with the ‘Metropolitan’, she sang in the title roles of several Italian and French operas such as ‘Carmen’, ‘Tosca’, ‘Manon’ ‘Faust’, ‘Pagliacci’, ‘Gianni Schicchi’, ‘Louise’ and others.
She performed for the first time at the ‘Opera-Comique’ in Paris on September 29, 1928 in the role of ‘Mimi’ in ‘La Boheme’.
She signed up with MGM in 1930 and moved to Hollywood to play the role of the legendary singer Jenny Lind in the film ‘A Lady’s Morals’. The film did not do very well because of a bad script and loss of popularity of Hollywood musicals.
Her next film was ‘New Moon’ in 1931 where she co-starred with Lawrence Tibbett, who also sang for the ‘Metropolitan Opera’. The film adaption of the Sigmund Romberg operetta was a bit clumsy and did not succeed at the box office.
The continuous box-office failures depressed her very much and she became a food addict. MGM dropped her as she had gained a lot of weight due to her irregular food habits.
She pulled herself up after being dropped by unceremoniously by MGM, lost all her extra weight and promptly joined Broadway to star in the operetta ‘The Dubarry’ in 1932 which became a great hit.
In 1934 Harry Cohn, the president of the fledgling ‘Columbia Pictures’, liked her role in ‘Dubarry and signed her up for the musical ‘One Night of Love’. It was a fine musical score, directed excellently and became an artistic and financial success. The record became a number one hit and Grace Moore became a major film star with this musical. The film won five ‘Academy Award’ nominations in 1935 including the ‘Best Actress’ for Grace. She eventually went on to make six more musicals for ‘Columbia Pictures’ such as ‘Love Me Forever’ in 1935, ‘The King Steps Out’ in 1936, ‘When You’re in Love’ and ‘I’ll Take Romance’ in 1937.
On June 6, 1935 she performed for the royal command performance at ‘Covent Garden’ in London where she re-enacted the role of ‘Mimi’ in Giacomo Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’.
Her last film was an adaptation of Gustave Charpentier’s opera titled ‘Louise’ in 1938 in which she was coached by the composer himself.
She returned to the stage in 1938 and to ‘Metropolitan for a short duration. She performed on the radio and toured Europe. She also went on tours for the USO during the Second World War.
She performed at concerts all over Europe and the United States during the 1930s and the 1940s and sang songs in German, Italian, French, Spanish and English languages.
Her most famous roles as an Italian lyric soprano were ‘Mimi’ in ‘La Boheme’, ‘Gilda’ in ‘Rigoletto’ and ‘Manon’ in ‘Madama Butterfly’.
Awards & Achievements
Grace Moore received the ‘Gold Medal Award’ from the ‘American Society of Arts and Science’ and won a nomination for the ‘Academy Award for Best Actress’ in 1935.
The King of Denmark awarded the ‘Ingenito et Arti’ to her in 1936.
She was honored as the chevalier of the French ‘Legion d’Honneur’ in 1939.
She was made an honorary Colonel on the staff of the Governor of Tennessee and a life member of the ‘Tennessee State Society of Washington, D.C.’
Personal Life & Legacy
She was married to a Spanish actor named Valentin Parera in 1931 but had no children.
Grace Moore died at 48 in an airplane accident on January 26, 1947. She had boarded the KLM DC3 for Stockholm, Sweden, after performing in Copenhagen the night before.
In 1953 ‘Warner Bros’ released a film biography in which Kathryn Grayson played the role of Grace Moore in the film.