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

Jane Powell, bright-eyed and operatic-voiced star in Hollywood's golden age musicals, has passed away. She sang with Howard Keel "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," and danced with Fred Astaire "Royal Wedding." She was 92.

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

Susan Granger, a longtime friend of Powell, said that Powell died at home in Wilton, Connecticut on Thursday. Granger stated that Powell died from natural causes.

Granger stated, "Jane was the most amazing friend." Granger said, "She was honest, candid, and she was honest. Jane never asked you a question that you didn't want to hear the truth.

Granger was just a child when Powell met her. Powell was then 15, and was making her film debut in 1944’s “Song of the Open Road,” directed by Granger’s father, S. Sylvan Simon.

She has performed almost her entire life. She started at age 5 on the radio as a singing prodigy in Portland, Oregon. She quickly rose from teen roles to the glamorous musical productions that were a Hollywood icon in 20th century Hollywood.

It was by accident that she was cast in 1950's "Royal Wedding". June Allyson was originally announced as Astaire’s co-star, but she withdrew after becoming pregnant. Judy Garland was initially cast but she was forced to withdraw due to personal issues. Jane Powell was the next in line.

She jokingly said, "They had to give that to me." "Everybody else's pregnant." Jean Hagen, Esther Williams and Cyd Charisse are also among the MGM expectant stars.

Powell was 21 years old when she received the role. Astaire was fifty. Although she was nervous due to her lack of dancing experience, she found Astaire "very patient" and understanding. They got along well from the beginning.

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," a 1954 hit, was a "sleeper" hit.

In 2000, she recalls that "The studio didn’t believe it was going to make anything." MGM believed that Brigadoon would be the biggest moneymaker in that year. But it didn't work out that way. We were the ones who went to Radio City Music Hall. It was always such an honor."

This iconic New York location was once a movie theatre.

The lusty singing of Powell and Keel, and the incredible gymnastic choreography by Michael Kidd were overwhelming. "Seven Brides", which achieved legendary status, was made into a TV series as well as a Broadway musical.

John Kobal's book, "Gotta Sing Gotta Dance" explains that Jane Powell was small and pretty and had the grit and spink needed to play the role of the woman who can tame seven backwoodsmen.

Powell left MGM after 13 years, arguing that Powell was going to lose her job "because they weren’t going to do musicals anymore."

She said that she thought she would have many studios to visit, but there were none, as no one wanted to do musicals. It was extremely difficult and quite shocking for me. It's worse than being unwantsted."

She was able to find one musical at RKO, "The Girl Most Likely," which was a 1958 remake "Tom, Dick and Harry." Her movie career was finished.

In 1928, she was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce, Portland, Oregon. As a child, she began singing on the local radio. Her voice became clear and high-pitched as she grew older.

The Burce family was planning a trip to Los Angeles and asked the radio station if Suzanne would be willing to appear on a talent show. A tiny, 2 1/2-octave girl with a soaring voice won thunderous applause when she sang "Carmen" from the opera. She was soon signed to MGM.

Her first movie was a loanout from an independent producer for "Song of the Open Road", a 1944 mishmash featuring W.C. Fields (at the beginning of his career), Edgar Bergen, and Charlie McCarthy.