Singer, Actress, Humanitarian
Year Inducted: 2015
Jane Froman was born in University City in 1907 and moved to Columbia with her mother when she was 12. Jane graduated from Christian College High School and two years later Christian College. After starring in the University of Missouri’s J-School Music Revue in 1926, she soon entered the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio. While studying there, she landed a job with a local orchestra and made several radio show appearances.
Jane moved to New York City in 1933 where she appeared on Chesterfield’s “Music that Satisfies” radio program with Bing Crosby. In 1934 she was asked to join the Ziegfeld Follies, she married, became friends with superstar Fanny Brice and was voted the nation’s “top girl singer” on radio. The composer Billy Rose, when asked to name the top ten female singers at the time, replied, “Jane Froman and nine others.”
In February of 1943 she boarded a plane bound for a USO tour. The plane crashed near Lisbon Portugal and Jane was one of only 15 survivors. She suffered severe injuries to both legs and underwent 39 operations over the next several years. In spite of the pain and the need for crutches and leg braces, she bravely continued her career and achieved even more success. She would return to Broadway in a starring role in 1944 and return to Europe to entertain the troops in 1945. For 15 more years of stardom she was carried on and off the stage when the curtains were lowered. For nightclub shows, she would chain herself to a piano built on a moving platform.
From 1952 to 1955, she hosted her own, 15-minute, CBS television show. Susan Heyward starred in a film about Jane’s life and the album of songs from “With a Song in My Heart” became the number one album of 1952.
After making more television, night club and Las Vegas appearances throughout the fifties, Jane would retire to Columbia in 1961 and marry and old classmate, Rowland, “Smitty” Smith. She played an active role in the community, serving on many civic boards. She died on April 22, 1980 and on the morning of her death, KFRU Radio opened its broadcasting day, as was the tradition for years, with Jane’s voice singing the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.
Jane Froman has three different stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – one for recording, one for movies and one for television. No other Boone County citizen has achieved such significant success in radio, TV and film.