On December 8, 2017, a new musical hit the movie scene. It was called "The Greatest Showman" and its story was said to be inspired by P.T. Barnum — the man who led the "birth of show business".
Although many people understood that the movie did not portray Barnum completely accurately, they had more hate for the opera singer, Jenny Lind. Was she really as bad as the movie made her out to be?
Lind started her opera career in Stockholm, Sweden in 1838 and was named the "Swedish Nightingale" by renowned music and literary critic, Henry Chorley, in 1847.
Barnum met Lind while he was touring Europe with the sideshow act, Tom Thumb. He was a 2'11" man that Barnum coached to be a singer, dancer, and comedian for his show.
After hearing that Lind had repeatedly sold out shows across Europe, Barnum proposed a deal to her that was previously unheard of — a tour with 150 dates across the United States and Canada, with a promise of $1,000 per show... Without ever hearing her sing a single note.
In the film, Lind mentions that she donates most of her earnings to charity, which stands true in history. By the end of her tour, she had raised $350,000 for the charities of her choice, which would equate to about $10 million today.
But, like in the movie, Lind quit her tour with Barnum after 93 shows. The film depicts that this is because Barnum rejects Lind's attempts to seduce him. In reality, she felt uncomfortable with the fact that Barnum was using her to make a profit. In fact, her name and image were free for public use. They were used on every product imaginable to gain as much of a profit as possible for companies that she wasn't even in contact with.
In real life, she wouldn't have been the red-lipped seductress of "The Greatest Showman". She was kind, ordinary, and as down-to-earth as they come. This is probably the main reason that she decided against partnering with Barnum. It's stated in the movie that his "reputation precedes him", just as Lind's did.
We can all rest easy knowing that real-life Jenny Lind was not the homewrecker that she was in "The Greatest Showman". She was actually a charitable, upstanding, young woman with a heart of gold.
In fact, she married the accompanist that she hired after leaving her partnership with Barnum to finish the remaining shows on the tour. They were married until her death in 1887, and she even wrote of him once, "We are put together of precisely the same stuff."