Jane Powell death: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers star dies aged 92

Veteran entertainer was one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 17 September 2021 07:44
<p>Jane Powell with Fred Astaire in ‘Royal Wedding'</p>

Jane Powell with Fred Astaire in ‘Royal Wedding'

Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood’s Golden Age musicals, has died aged 92.

Powell died on Thursday 16 September at her Wilton, Connecticut home, her longtime friend Susan Granger said. Powell died of natural causes.

One of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Powell was also one of her generation’s most resilient entertainers, who continued performing well into the 21st Century.

Born Suzanne Lorraine Burce in Portland, Oregon, Powell began her career as a performer on tours as an “Oregon Victory Girl”. She made her film debut opposite WC Fields in 1944’s Song of the Open Road, before going on to star in Delightfully Dangerous (1945) and A Date with Judy (1948).

One of her most memorable roles came in 1951, opposite Fred Astaire as part of the brother-sister dance act of Royal Wedding.

Powell then began establishing herself as one of the most successful musical film stars in Hollywood, including with her signature role as Milly Pontipee opposite Howard Keel in the colourful Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

A sleeper hit during the summer of 1954, Seven Brides was based on Stephen Vincent’s 1937 short story The Sobbin’ Women, and proved one of the most popular MGM films of all time. It received five Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture.

She and Keel later appeared together in the theatre musicals South Pacific and I Do! I Do!

Jane Powell with Howard Keel in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'

Her final credited TV role was as a nursing home resident suffering from elder abuse in a 2002 episode of Law and Order: SVU.

Powell was married five times, first to Geary Steffen, the ice-skating partner of Norwegian Olympic champion Sonja Henie, in an extravagant wedding attending by 500 guests. Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Powell had co-starred in Date with Judy, was one of her bridesmaids; Powell took on the same role for Taylor’s first wedding, to Conrad Hilton.

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Her last husband was former child star Dickie Moore, who died in 2015.

Powell is survived by her children – Geary, Suzanne and Lindsay – and her grandchildren, Skye and Tia.