Florence Foster Jenkins and her Sister in Syphilis, Karen Blixen

Have you seen the new movie Florence Foster Jenkins? It's a nice film about true-life soprano wannabe Florence Jenkins whose onstage gumption almost makes up for her mewing like a cornered tomcat. But what interested me more about the film was the underlying story of Jenkin's syphilis, which she unknowingly contracted on her wedding night. She was eighteen. The film's director, Stephen Frears, sprinkles gentle references to the disease throughout -- we see a doctor's bedside visit, a hairless head, a scarred hand. The film is mostly a sentimental feel-good vehicle for Streep, and honestly, what a waste. She would have relished the chance to go a little deeper into the story of an ugly disease that forced Florence into a shameful and frustrated celibacy and that wrecked her musical ear, her heart, and her psyche. Now that would have been dramatic.  

Read More