Jane Powell was known as the bright-eyed star of musicals in Hollywood’s golden age who sang to countless famous actors, including Howard Keel in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,’ and even danced with Fred Astaire in ‘Royal Wedding.’
This beautiful and talented woman died on September 17 at 92, at her home in Wilton, Connecticut. The news was made known by her lifelong friend of hers, Susan Granger, who claimed that she died of natural causes.
Granger said: “Jane was the most wonderful friend. She was sincere. She was honest. You never asked Jane a question for which you did not want an absolutely honest answer.”
Powell and Granger met when the latter was still a child, in 1944, while Powell made his film debut in “Song of the Open Road,” directed by Granger’s father, Sylvan Simon.
Powell practically performed throughout her life, starting around age 5 as a singing prodigy on the radio in Portland, Oregon. When she started acting on the big screen, she performed teenage roles and performed lavish musical productions.
In 1950 she auditioned to act in “Royal Wedding,” but she was left as a second alternate. However, she managed to lead by default: June Allyson was first announced as Astaire’s co-star, but she dropped out when she got pregnant. Judy Garland was chosen, but she withdrew due to personal problems. Jane Powell was next in line.
At the time, she joked on camera, saying, “They had to give it to me. Everyone else is pregnant. “
She had just turned 21 when she landed that role, while Astaire was already in her 50s. She was super nervous because she had no dance experience, but she said: “He was very patient and understanding. We got along well from the start. “
In 1954 she acted in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” which was a dormant hit. In 2000, during an interview, she recalled: “The studio didn’t think she was going to do anything. MGM thought that ‘Brigadoon’ was going to be the big source of income that year. It did not turn out that way. We were the ones who went to Radio City Music Hall, which was always a big hit. “
Her real name was Suzanne Lorraine Burce. She was born in Portland, Oregon, in the year 1928. She began singing on local radio when she was very young, and as she grew older, her voice became a clear, high-pitched soprano.
The little girl participated in a talent show when her family planned a trip to Los Angeles. At the time, the little girl had a 2-octave voice, generated awe at the performance, and quickly landed a contract with MGM.
Powell was married five times. Her first 4 marriages ended in divorce: Geary Steffen, Patrick Nerney, James Fitzgerald, and David Parlor.
Her fifth husband was Dick Moore, whom she met when he interviewed her to write a book on child actors. Like her, he was a child actor but was little known in the 1930s and 1940s. Moore, head of a New York public relations office, and Powell were married in 1988. He died in 2015.