Thursday, July 07, 2011

Marjorie Lawrence's Interrupted Melody

Marjorie Lawrence (1907-1979) was not just another big voiced opera singer. She was a farm girl from Australia who went from the Outback to Paris, New York Buenos Aires and back all through Europe. She had a terrific career in the world's greatest opera houses. That's nice, you say. It was seventy years ago, but what the hell, that's nice. And it is. But it's only part of the story.

In 1941, during a rehearsal in Mexico City, Marjorie collapsed. Polio was diagnosed and she never walked unassisted again. Her despair, especially after a great career, is vividly described in her memoir Interrupted Melody. Life is too short to go reading prima donna memoirs-trust me-but this is an exception. Marjorie sat home in her wheelchair despondent until she was shamed for singing "for the boys" in a local army hospital. From there, she and her wheelchair toured the military hospitals in the Pacific fr the USO.

Eventually Marjorie was able to return to the Met, singing Venus in Wagner's Tannhauser reclining on a couch (this works when you are the goddess of love.) She went on to sing Isolde. Eventually the Met grew uncomfortable with Marjorie's physical limitations. They were concerned about taking advantage of her for publicity reasons, and she left the company in 1944.

Marjorie went on to years of teaching and singing, her voice and spirit unimpaired. Interrupted Melody was filmed by MGM in 1955, with Eleanor Parker as Marjorie and the voice of Eileen Farrell.
It's a terrific picture-a little hokey now but Hollywood 'camp' at its best. Miss Parker shows all of Marjorie Lawrence's determination....and guts!

Here's Marjorie Lawrence, singing Wagner-in French!-during her years in Paris

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