The New York Times reports that Jane Powell, star of a multitude of MGM musicals during the golden age of Hollywood, has died at her home in Wilton, Connecticut. She was 92.
Born in Oregon, Powell took many singing and dancing lessons as a child. She was chosen as the Oregon Victory Girl when she was 12, and had two local radio shows of her own as a very young performer. Powell moved to Hollywood as a teenager, where she quickly landed a contract at Metro Goldwin Mayer by auditioning for Louis B. Mayer himself. The petite star (only 5’1”) soon made a splash in vehicles like Three Daring Daughters, Luxury Liner, and Two Weeks With Love, and as the titular character in A Date With Judy, alongside pal Elizabeth Taylor. (She was a bridesmaid at Taylor’s first wedding to hotel heir Conrad Hilton.)
Powell cemented her status in MGM history starring opposite Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding (1951), playing his sister in a part that resembled the real-life Adele Astaire (replacing a struggling Judy Garland, who was replacing a pregnant June Allyson). After holding her own opposite one of the greats, she was cast as the female lead in the 1954 classic Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, opposite Howard Keel.
Powell then broke out of musical mode in 1958’s noir-ish The Female Animal, best-known as Hedy Lamarr’s last film; she played Lamarr’s daughter as both women competed for the same man. But it was also one of Powell’s final films as well. Somewhat fed-up with the studio system, as well as playing ingénue roles when she herself was married with children, Powell eventually turned to the stage, debuting on Broadway in Irene, and reuniting with Keel in a stage version of Seven Brides, as well as South Pacific. She also worked steadily on television over decades in a number of guest spots, in series as disparate as What’s My Line?, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote. She played the family grandmother on Growing Pains and filled in for Eileen Fulton a few times as Lisa Grimaldi on the long-running soap opera As The World Turns. Her final TV appearance was in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2002.
She was married five times, but her fifth and longest marriage was to child star Dick (Dickie) Moore, from 1988 to his death in 2015. She published her autobiography The Girl Next Door… And How She Grew in 1988 as well, where she complained about Hollywood and the career her parents seemed more enthusiastic about than she was: “The truth is I never really felt as if I belonged in Hollywood, the Hollywood that took Suzanne Burce from Portland, Oregon, and turned her into Jane Powell.” The introduction to her book alludes to the childhood she missed out on by starting her career so early: “Life is a ladder we all ascend / in a different way. Sometimes we run / up too fast and miss a few rungs.”
Dick Moore died in 2015, and The New York Times reports that Powell died in the Connecticut home that the couple had shared. She is survived by a son, two daughters, and two granddaughters.