Jane Powell, Hollywood golden-age musicals star, dies at 92

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood’s golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding ceremony,” has died. She was 92.

Powell died Thursday at her Wilton, Connecticut, dwelling, longtime good friend Susan Granger mentioned. Granger mentioned Powell died of pure causes.

“Jane was probably the most fantastic good friend,” Granger mentioned. ”She was candid, she was sincere. You by no means requested Jane a query you didn’t need a fully sincere reply to.”

Granger was a teenager when she met the then-teenaged Powell, who was making her movie debut in 1944’s “Music of the Open Street,” directed by Granger’s father, S. Sylvan Simon.

She carried out just about her entire life, beginning about age 5 as a singing prodigy on radio in Portland, Oregon. On display, she shortly graduated from teen roles to the lavish musical productions that had been a Twentieth-century Hollywood staple.

Her 1950 casting in “Royal Wedding ceremony” got here by default. June Allyson was first introduced as Astaire’s co-star however withdrew when she turned pregnant. Judy Garland was solid, however was withdrawn due to private issues. Jane Powell was subsequent in line.

“They needed to give it to me,” she quipped on the time. “All people else is pregnant.” Additionally among the many expectant MGM stars: Lana Turner, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse and Jean Hagen.

Powell had simply turned 21 when she obtained the position; Astaire was 50. She was nervous as a result of she lacked dancing expertise, however she discovered him “very affected person and understanding. We obtained alongside effective from the beginning.”

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” proved to be a 1954 “sleeper” hit.

“The studio didn’t suppose it was going to do something,” she recalled in 2000. “MGM thought that `Brigadoon’ was going to be the large moneymaker that yr. It didn’t end up that method. We had been those that went to the Radio Metropolis Music Corridor, which was all the time such a coup.”

The famed New York venue was a movie show then.

Audiences had been overwhelmed by the lusty singing of Keel and Powell and particularly by the gymnastic choreography of Michael Kidd. “Seven Brides” achieved basic standing and resulted in a TV sequence and a Broadway musical.

“Blonde and small and fairly, Jane Powell had the required quantity of grit and spunk that was wanted to play the lady who might tame seven backwoodsmen,” John Kobal wrote in his e book “Gotta Sing Gotta Dance: A Pictorial Historical past of Movie Musicals.”

After 13 years at MGM, although, Powell stop the studio, reasoning that she was going to be fired “as a result of they weren’t going to be doing musicals anymore.”

“I believed I’d have a number of studios to go to,” she mentioned in 2000, “however I didn’t have any, as a result of nobody wished to make musicals. It was very troublesome, and fairly a shock to me. There’s nothing worse than not being wished.”

She discovered one musical at RKO, “The Woman Most Possible,” a 1958 remake of “Tom, Dick and Harry.” Apart from a few minor movies, her film profession was over.

She was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce in Portland, Oregon, in 1928. She started singing on native radio as a small youngster, and as she grew, her voice developed into a transparent, high-pitched soprano.

When the Burce household deliberate a visit to Los Angeles, the radio station requested if Suzanne would seem on a community expertise present there. The tiny woman with a 2½-octave voice drew thunderous applause with an aria from “Carmen” and was shortly put beneath contract to MGM.

Her first film was a loanout to an impartial producer for “Music of the Open Street,” a 1944 mishmash with W.C. Fields (on the finish of his profession) and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

The character’s identify in “Music of the Open Street” was Jane Powell, and MGM determined that that might be her film identify.

She performed teenagers in such movies as “Vacation in Mexico,” “Three Daring Daughters” and “A Date With Judy.” However she pleaded with the studio bosses to be given grown-up roles and eventually succeeded in “Royal Wedding ceremony.”

Frothy romances and musicals continued to dominate her profession, together with “Younger, Wealthy and Fairly,” “Small City Woman” and “Three Sailors and a Woman.”

After her film profession ended, musical theater provided loads of work for a star of her prominence and expertise. She sang in supper golf equipment, toured in such exhibits as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “I Do! I Do!” and changed Debbie Reynolds within the Broadway run of “Irene.”

She often appeared on tv, notably within the Judy Garland position in a brand new model of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

As she approached her 70s, Powell deserted her singing profession. “I can’t hit the excessive notes, and I gained’t be second-rate,” she defined in 2000. She switched to drama, showing in New York theater in such performs as “Avow,” portraying mom of an single, pregnant daughter and a son who wished to marry his male accomplice.

Powell’s first 4 marriages resulted in divorce: to Geary Steffen (son Geary, daughter Suzanne), Patrick Nerney (daughter Lindsay), James Fitzgerald and David Parlour.

Powell met fifth husband Dick Moore when he interviewed her for his e book about youngster actors. As Dickie Moore, he had been a widely known youngster actor within the Nineteen Thirties and ’40s and gave Shirley Temple her first display kiss in “Miss Annie Rooney” (1942). Moore, head of a New York public relations workplace, and Powell married in 1988. He died in 2015.

Jane Powell’s survivors embrace her daughter, Lindsey Nerney, Granger mentioned.

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Biographical materials on this report was compiled by late AP Leisure Author Bob Thomas.

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