Bernice Claire

Bernice Claire (January 27, 1906 – January 17, 2003) was an American singer and actress. She appeared in 13 films between 1930 and 1938. Related to Andrea Danielle Featherstone, Amaya Diane Murray, Liberty Lynn Rice, and others.

Bernice Claire
c. 1930
Bernice Jahnigen (surname later mistranscribed as Janighen)

(1906-01-27)January 27, 1906[1][2][3]
DiedJanuary 17, 2003 (aged 96)
OccupationSinger, actress
Years active1930-1938
Spouse(s)Dr. Douglas P. Morris

Early years

She was born as Bernice Jahnigen (surname later mistranscribed as Janighen) to Adolph and Clara (née Sternitzky) Jahnigen in 1906 in Oakland, California. She had an elder brother, Earl. Her birth name is also sometimes found as Bernice Jahnigan.[4]

An article in the June 18, 1950, issue of the Oakland Tribune reported, "It was in 1918 that she first appeared as a juvenile, a pert little one with curled tresses who made an immediate impression on all who saw and heard her perform at Eastbay theaters and at lodges and veterans' gatherings."[5] She attended Oakland High School, where she studied dramatics and was active in musical comedy productions.[6]


With a clear coloratura, Claire took to the stage performing light opera and had no difficulty singing demanding roles. In 1927, she appeared in her first vaudeville production.[6] She met then-leading singer Alexander Gray; they appeared in three Pre-Code films together in 1930[7] for Warner Bros. Gray and Claire became film's first operetta team, predating Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

Her first screen appearance was in the original film version of No, No, Nanette in the title role. (A post-Code version was made in 1940.) The other two films she made with Gray were Spring is Here and Song of the Flame. Operettas began losing popularity with audiences so Warners tried Claire in dramatic parts without much success. Claire made several more musical shorts up through the late thirties (some again with Gray), later becoming a radio and orchestra singer. In 1934, she appeared on Broadway in a short-lived musical, The Chocolate Soldier.

Later life

Claire was married twice but had no children. Her second marriage was to Dr. Douglas P. Morris.[5]


On January 17, 2003, ten days before her 97th birthday, Bernice Claire died from pneumonia in her adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon,[7] where she had lived for many years.



  1. Age given as 34 in 1940 census; taken in Assembly District 10, Manhattan, New York City during the first week of April 1940, listed as Bernice Claire, occupation: “Actress” "United States Census, 1940", index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed November 10, 2014), Bernice Claire, Assembly District 10, Manhattan, New York City, New York, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 31-884, sheet 61A, family 45, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 2644, NARA digital publication of T627, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  2. Bernice Claire, aged 25, year of birth given as 1906, on June 29, 1931 ship manifest sailing from Hamilton, Bermuda to New York, New York, "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957", index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed November 10, 2014), Bernice Claire, 1931; citing Immigration, New York, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; FHL microfilm 1756726.
  3. “Bernice Claire (known as Jahnigen)", aged 29, born Oakland, California (Passport # 203238), date of birth given as ”Jan/27/I906” ship manifest, SS Champlain, sailing from Southampton, England (on July 17, 1935) to New York-U.S.A. (July 24, 1935)
  4. Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. McFarland. p. 107. ISBN 9780786457632. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  5. "World Was a Stage to Tribune Juvenile". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. June 18, 1950. p. 101. Retrieved 9 May 2017 via
  6. "Oakland Film Star Breaks Down". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. May 6, 1930. p. 15. Retrieved May 7, 2017 via
  7. Lentz, Harris M. III (2004). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 79. ISBN 9780786417568. Retrieved 8 May 2017.

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