Biography - Part 2
Gladys married Frank M. Chapman, Jr. on May 9, 1932. They had first met in an opera house in Naples two years earlier, being introduced by Romah. Some sources say that it was in Florence, but regardless of where, the marriage was one made in heaven! He was definitely attracted to the brown haired, brown eyed beauty, who stood five feet, three and a half inches tall. In addition to their common interest in singing, they enjoyed collecting French furniture, many examples of which can be seen in their photographs together. "Our marriage started as a romantic adventure. We intend to keep it that way." She collected silver and they had several dogs, at least one of which was featured in advertising.
Gladys Swarthout was never afraid of hard work. That shows up in the beautifully effortless effect of her singing--that and her own deep delight in singing. In the meantime, she regularly added to her laurels by her concert and recital work. Never content with her abilities, when not performing, she regularly worked eight hours a day with vocal coaches, and would spend an hour or more singing duets with her husband. She also advocated inflating balloons and blowing bubbles to strengthen the chest.
Paramount Pictures starred her in five films, including "Rose of the Rancho" and "Romance in the Dark." She was honored with the degree of Doctor of Music, is the only woman to have sung for the entire assembled Congress of the United States, plus the Diplomatic Corps, Supreme Court and the President on the occasion of the 150th session of Congress. No lofty, proud prima donna, she was a warm, vivacious person, fundamentally a bit shy.
When she did the movie "Champagne Waltz" with Fred MacMurray, she sang her songs in five languages, adding French, German, Italian, and Spanish for the foreign versions of the films, making them quite popular overseas. This is reflected in the literature of the times, publicity photos and movie advertisments in multiple languages abound.
In the 1930s her East End Avenue apartment was distinguished by pearl-grey walls, a tea service presented to Mr. Chapman's great-great-grandfather, and the smell of lilacs which Gladys liked so much that she had it mixed in the shellac used on her furniture.
The Swarthout Homes - In addition to their Connecticut home they also had a Spanish style house during the 30's and 40's in Beverly Hills, six blocks from Pickfair. They attended the 1937 Rose Bowl. Their home was next door to Lawrence Tibbett and they often spent social time together, including riding the Tibbett's yacht. While living in California and working on the movies, she would begin and end each day with a dip in the pool.
During World War II, Frank Chapman served as a Captain in the U. S. Marine Corps. Gladys and Frank live in a Manhattan apartment overlooking the river. She was voted one of America's best dressed women on a regular basis. They preferred being at their rustic home in Connecticut. Gladys indulged in sports between strenuous practice sessions, including tennis, skiing and golf and often rode bicycles with her husband. She enjoyed horseback riding in addition to gardening and eating. In spare moments between arias Gladys could often be found knitting for the Red Cross, advising young singers, and entertaining members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
On the radio she was often heard on many of the most important radio programs, including those of General Motors, RCA-Magic Key, Camel Caravan, the Ford Symphony and the Prudential Family Hour. Frank served as her manager and was quite good at it. In a 1942 article, TIME Magazine reported that Gladys had earned $1,250,000 in her lifetime. She was one of the highest paid celebrities of the time. Other articles discussed her compensation on her contracts with Firestone and other radio programs.
Gladys was a big fan and supporter of a number of American composers, one of her favorites was John Jacob Niles. She often sang several of his songs at her concerts and contributed greatly to the fame of his songs, including "I Wonder as I Wander."
No stranger to television, Gladys performed on a number of Opera shows. She did a concert in January 1951 at the Met, one of her last public singing performances. Gladys continued to do public appearances, including a visit to "What's My Line?" at about the same time in January 1951. The Railroad Hour presented "Martha" on February 22, 1954, which is the last performance I have any documentation on.
In 1956, Gladys was diagnosed with a mitral heart valve problem. After a great deal of struggle, she decided to undergo open heart surgery, something that would have been impossible just a few years earlier. She was on the operating table for six hours. She began a campaign to insure that parents knew the dangers of unsuspected rheumatic fever. In 1958, Dr. Paul Dudley White presented Gladys with the American Heart Association's very first 'Heart-of-the-Year' Award, given annually to a distinguished American whose faith and courage in meeting the personal challenge of heart disease have inspired new hope for hearts. She wrote about her decision in “When the Song Left My Heart,” an article in the October 1958 Everywoman’s Family Circle.
This page was created by and Copyrighted by Mark Swarthout,