Filled Under: Bernice Claire
Bernice Claire (March 22, 1907 – January 17, 2003) was an American singer and actress. She appeared in 13 films between 1930 and 1938.
She was born Bernice Jahnigan on March 22, 1907 in Oakland, California. Possessed of a clear and pure coloratura voice, she took to the stage performing light opera and had no difficulty singing demanding roles. She met then-leading singer Alexander Gray and they appeared in three films together in 1930 for Warner Bros. Gray and Claire became film’s first operetta team, predating Jeannette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy. Their first screen appearance together was in the original film version of “No, No, Nanette” (1930) in the title role. The other two films she made with Gray were “Spring is Here” (1930) and “Song of the Flame” (1930). Operettas began losing popularity with audiences so Warners tried Claire in dramatic parts without much success. In 1934, she appeared on Broadway in a short-lived musical, “The Chocolate Soldier”. In 1935 Claire appeared in her last full feature film, a British musical film “Two Hearts in Harmony” co-starring with George Curzon. She made a number of musical shorts up through the late thirties (some again with Gray), later becoming a radio and orchestra singer appearing with many prestigious orchestras, including Rudy Vallee, Erno Rapee and others. She made very few phonograph records.
Claire was married twice. After her first husband died and with her career at a standstill, Claire quit performing and retired to private laife. Claire and her second husband, Douglas Morris, owned property in southern California, including convalescent homes. During the 1970s and ’80s Bernice was honored by local film societies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Bernice Claire died January 17, 2003 from pneumonia in her adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon.