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UC alumna Jane Froman proved to world that she ‘believed’

Jane Froman in the 1930s

Jane Froman in the 1930s

by Deborah Rieselman

Plagued by a stutter that would handicap her screen roles and suffering from chronic injuries from a near-fatal plane crash, Jane Froman was a popular radio singing star, a Ziegfield Follies performer, an opera singer, a nightclub headliner and a TV guest star. The UC alumna (att. CCM late ‘20s) is best known for her No. 1 hit song “I Believe” and the compassionate volunteerism that nearly cost her life.

Growing up with a music-teacher mother in Missouri, Jane developed a fine singing voice at an early age. Unfortunately, she also developed a stutter after her father left when she was 5. The stutter would continually affect her stage presence, except when she sang.

After high school, she obtained an associate degree in French at a local college, then enrolled in the University of Missouri journalism program. Her appearance in a school musical revue, however, left her with a longing for show business. So she withdrew and showed up at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (a predecessor to UC’s College-Conservatory of Music) to study voice.

While a student, she began singing and making commercials on WLW, the Cincinnati radio station with national coverage. Her operatic voice led to an engagement with the Cincinnati Symphony, then a job with NBC radio. Moving to New York City increased her offers for theater and radio appearances.

Jane singing into an NBC microphone

Jane beginning her career with NBC

In 1933, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies where she befriended Fannie Brice. The following year, at age 27, she became New York’s top-polled "girl singer." Next came movie roles, nightclub appearances and a starring role on Broadway.

When the United States entered World War II, she was one of the first performers to volunteer to bring entertainment to the troops. In 1943, she was aboard a plane carrying 39 people on a USO European tour when the plane crashed into a Portuguese river. One of only 15 survivors, Froman never forgot that she had given her seat to a passenger who died.

The pilot, with a broken back, used pieces of wreckage to make a raft to keep Froman and himself afloat. They were rescued, but her numerous injuries were so severe that doctors wanted to amputate her right leg.

She fought the amputation and, in ’45, returned to entertain troops on crutches through 95 shows. Over the years, she endured 39 surgeries due to her injuries, wore a leg brace for the rest of her life and became addicted to painkillers. After recovery from drug abuse, she later struggled with alcoholism.

Promo for the movie "With a Song in my Heart"

The story of her life became the 1952 movie “With a Song in My Heart,” starring Susan Hayward, whose performance was nominated for an Academy Award. Froman provided the vocal tracks for the movie’s soundtrack, which became a best-selling album, and CBS gave Froman a starring role in her own TV show for three years. "I Believe," a song she recorded for the show, became a No. 1 seller and earned her a gold record.

Using a disguised motorized wheelchair on air and still undergoing medical operations in the ’50s, Froman called it quits in ’62 at age 55. She retired in Missouri, but stayed busy with community service, philanthropic work and starting a music colony at Arrow Rock, Mo.

In 1980 at age 73, she died of cardiac arrest due to chronic heart and lung disease.


  • Froman has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Radio.
  • CCM has a Jane Froman Scholarship Fund.
  • There are three biographies about Froman: “One Little Candle: Remembering Jane Froman” and “Jane Froman, Missouri's First Lady of Song.” both written by by Ilene Stone, and “Say It With Music — The Life and Legacy of Jane Froman” by Barbara Seuling.
  • The movie “With a Song in my Heart” is available on DVD.
Jane Froman in the 1930s

Jane Froman in the 1930s


Her website.
Her TV credits.
Her Broadway credits.
Her movie credits.
Her vocalist credits.
Watch a video of her singing her No. 1 hit “I Believe.”
Watch a video of her photos.
Watch a vintage video of her on "What’s My Line."