He, a tenor, was a baker’s son from a Polish mining town. She, a coloratura soprano, hailed from glittering Budapest. His stock-in-trade was grand opera. She specialized in the light variety. Box-office darlings both, Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth met on a German soundstage as co-stars in the musical My Heart Calls You (1934) and married two years later.
By 1938, war was in the air. More prescient than some, Jan and Marta set sail for America. Would the New World be their oyster? Maybe not quite. It helped that Kiepura disembarked in New York with a Metropolitan Opera contract in hand. Eggerth, though still in her 20s and with siren leads in 30 European hit movies to her credit, had a harder time finding her footing. Eventually, she landed in Hollywood, where she was wasted (twice) as a second banana to Judy Garland, then on the cusp of adult stardom.