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Florence Foster Jenkins – The Power of a Dream

There is an old joke: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, man, practice.” Apparently, not if you’re Florence Foster Jenkins.

Oscar Hammerstein wrote,
You’ve got to have a dream.
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

Florence Foster Jenkins, based on a true story, is the story of a woman with a dream, one that would seem ridiculous to most other people. She dreams of being a singer, even though she has a terrible voice.  What she does have is determination.

Jenkins (played by Meryl Streep) was a piano prodigy from Pennsylvania who married, contracted syphilis, inherited the family fortune, and became a patron of the arts. She was a major patron of the classical music scene in New York for many years. But she wanted to be a performer, and she simply did not have a good sense of either pitch or rhythm. (Her insistence on adding operatic coloratura to her performance only adds to the effect.)

Nonetheless, her second husband, St. Clair Bayfield, a failed actor, would try to book concerts for her. She performed an annual recital at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, in the Grand Ballroom. In the movie, she is also seen performing occasionally at the Verdi Club, an arts club she helped found. But her dream is to perform at Carnegie Hall.

The movie takes place in 1944. With America at war, Florence is still in pursuit of that Carnegie Hall concert. Eventually, she and St. Clair book the place, partially by giving a thousand tickets away to members of the armed forces. Unfortunately, unlike her engagements at the Verdi Club or the Ritz-Carlton, tickets to her Carnegie Hall performance are available to the public. One ticket buyer is the New York Post critic Earl Wilson, who gives a devastating review in his column, “It Happened Last Night”. But Florence has had her performance at Carnegie Hall.

Although it’s played somewhat as comedy, Florence Foster Jenkins is the story of getting where you want to go by guts and a dream, even when nobody else believes in your dream and everyone says it can’t be done (and perhaps shouldn’t).

What dream are you deferring because people said you can’t do it or perhaps shouldn’t do it? What have you stepped back from trying because you “don’t have it”? Remember Florence and her concert at Carnegie Hall. If Florence Foster Jenkins can sing at Carnegie Hall, then what can you do that you’ve been dreaming about doing?

I think you’ll enjoy this movie, and watch for the power of determination and a dream.

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