Grace Moore was an American operatic soprano and actress in musical theatre and film. She was nicknamed the “Tennessee Nightingale.” Her films helped to popularize opera by bringing it to a larger audience.
Moore was born Mary Willie Grace Moore to Richard Lawson Moore and Tessa Jane Moore in the community of Slabtown in Cocke County, Tennessee. By the time she was two years old, her family had relocated to Knoxville, a move Moore later described as traumatic, as she found urban life distateful at the time. After several years in Knoxville, the family again relocated to Jellico, Tennessee, where Moore spent her adolescence. After high school in Jellico, she studied briefly at Ward-Belmont College in Nashville before moving to Washington, D.C. and New York City to continue her musical training and begin her career. Her first paying job as a singer was at the Black Cat Cafe in Greenwich Village.
Grace Moore’s first Broadway appearance was in 1920 in the musical Hitchy-Koo, by Jerome Kern. In 1922 and 1923 she appeared in the second and third of Irving Berlin’s series of four Music Box Revues. In the 1923 edition she and John Steel introduced Berlin’s song “What’ll I Do”. When Moore sang “An Orange Grove in California,” orange blossom perfume was wafted through the theater.
In 1932 she appeared on Broadway in the short-lived operetta The DuBarry by Karl Millöcker.