Everipedia Logo
Everipedia is now IQ.wiki - Join the IQ Brainlist and our Discord for early access to editing on the new platform and to participate in the beta testing.
Jane Powell

Jane Powell

Jane Powell (born Suzanne Lorraine Burce; April 1, 1929) is an American singer, dancer and actress who rose to fame in the mid-1940s with roles in various Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals.

Powell was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where she achieved local fame as a singer, touring the state as the Oregon Victory Girl selling victory bonds. As a teenager, she relocated to Los Angeles, California, where she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Powell's vocal, dancing, and acting talents were utilized for lead and supporting roles in musicals such as A Date with Judy (1948, with friend Elizabeth Taylor), Royal Wedding (1951, with Fred Astaire), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954, with Howard Keel) and Hit the Deck

By the late 1950s, her film career slowed, leading her to transition to theatre with performances in various touring shows as well as two Broadway productions. In 1985, Powell relocated with her fifth husband, former child star Dickie Moore (who died in 2015), to New York City and Wilton, Connecticut, where she is occasionally active in local theatre.

ResidenceNew York City, New York, U.S.Wilton, Connecticut, U.S.
OccupationActress, singer, dancer
Years active1944–present (acting)
Height5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)

Early life

Jane Powell was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce, the only child born to Paul E. Burce (a Wonder Bread employee) and Eileen Baker Burce (a housewife), on April 1, 1929, in Portland, Oregon. Powell began dance lessons at the age of two. In an attempt to liken her appearance to Shirley Temple, Powell's mother took her to get her first perm the same year she began dance lessons.[1]

Aged five, she appeared on the children's radio program Stars of Tomorrow. She also took dance lessons with Agnes Peters, and there the Burce family met Scotty Weston, a talent scout and dance instructor. He convinced the family to move to Oakland, California, for Powell to take dance lessons, in hopes of her being discovered. However, Weston's lessons were held in a large, dark, damp ballroom packed full of other starlet hopefuls, and after three months of living in a hotel room and eating meals cooked on a hot plate, the family moved back to Portland. Paul Burce had quit his job of 14 years to move to Oakland, and was unable to get it back when they returned. The family moved into an apartment building owned by friends, and Paul soon became the manager after the friends left. While there, and while helping her father take the garbage out, Powell would sing. Tenants insisted that she should take lessons, and after saving their money, bought singing lessons for her.[2]

At 12, Powell had her career taken over by a local promoter, Carl Werner, who helped her get selected as the Oregon Victory Girl.

She began singing live on the local Portland radio station, KOIN,[3] and traveled the state for two years, singing and selling victory bonds. During this time, she first met Lana Turner. Powell presented her with flowers and sang for her. Years later, when they met again at MGM, Turner did not remember her. According to Powell, even after meeting her many times, Turner never remembered who she was.[2]

During her time as the Oregon Victory Girl, Powell had two weekly radio shows.

During the first, she sang with an organ accompaniment, and during the second, she sang with an orchestra and other performers.[2] At one time she was billed singing alongside Johnnie Ray, also from Oregon.[4] She had attended Beaumont Grade School in Portland.

In summer 1943, Paul and Eileen Burce took their daughter on vacation to Hollywood. There, she appeared on Janet Gaynor's radio show Hollywood Showcase: Stars over Hollywood.[5] The show was a talent competition, and among the other contestants were Kathie Lee Gifford's mother, Joan Epstein. Powell won the competition, and soon auditioned for Louis B. Mayer at MGM, as well as for David O. Selznick. Without even taking a screen test, Powell was then signed to a seven-year contract with MGM.[6][7] Within two months, Powell was loaned to United Artists for her first film, Song of the Open Road.[8] Powell's character in Song of the Open Road was named Jane Powell, and her stage name was taken from this.[9]

In 1945, Powell sang "Because" at the wedding of Esther Williams and Ben Gage.[10]


MGM contract

Powell in A Date with Judy

Powell in A Date with Judy

Powell dancing with Ricardo Montalbán in Two Weeks With Love

Powell dancing with Ricardo Montalbán in Two Weeks With Love

Powell in Royal Wedding

Powell in Royal Wedding

Within her first few years at MGM, Powell made six films, appeared on radio programs, performed in theatre productions (including The Student Prince)[11] and even sang at the inauguration ball for President Harry S. Truman on January 20, 1949. When not making films, Powell traveled to theaters around the country doing a vaudeville act, which she hated.[12] Powell's second film was Delightfully Dangerous, which she called the "worst movie I've ever made."[2] Holiday in Mexico was her first Technicolor film; her first two films had been black and white.

Powell's charm and spunk made her stand out in her follow-up vehicle, Three Daring Daughters, originally titled The Birds and the Bees,[13] in which she co-starred with Jeanette MacDonald, who took the young performer under her wing. The film proved another hit, and she was given top billing in a string of Joe Pasternak-produced musicals including A Date with Judy (1948) with schoolmate Elizabeth Taylor. She made Luxury Liner (1948), a romantic musical comedy, and Nancy Goes to Rio (1950) with Ann Sothern. She also started in Two Weeks With Love (1950) with Ricardo Montalbán.

Powell worked side by side with Fred Astaire and Peter Lawford in Royal Wedding (1951), when she was brought in to replace June Allyson, who had become pregnant, and then Judy Garland, who had to withdraw due to personal problems. Film historian Robert Osborne noted that, in a six-minute musical number in the movie, Powell and Astaire match witty banter, sing, and dance in a performance that showcases the actress's energy and talent. "We can also see her comic ability, in that number [3] [43] ," Osborne said. "She's hilarious—chewing gum, swinging her hips, and acting like a 'tough broad.' It's too bad MGM didn't capitalize more on her comedic side."[7]

In 1954, Powell starred in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, opposite Howard Keel, which gave her the opportunity to play a more mature character than in previous films. Her other films include: Rich, Young and Pretty (1951), Small Town Girl (1953), Three Sailors and a Girl (1953), Athena (1954), Deep in My Heart (1954), Hit the Deck (1955) and The Girl Most Likely

Known mainly for musical comedy, Powell appeared in a rare dramatic role in The Female Animal from Universal Pictures in 1958, which turned out to be the final film of co-star Hedy Lamarr. In 1956, Powell recorded a song, "True Love", that rose to 15 on the Billboard charts and 107 on the pop charts for that year, according to the Joel Whitburn compilation. This was her only single to make the charts. Also in 1956, Powell performed the song "I'll Never Stop Loving You" at the 28th Academy Awards.[14]

Reflecting on her work in musical films, Powell said:

People are always fascinated by the so-called golden age of musicals, but it wasn't all that great.

Everything was glazed.

Those movies didn't reflect reality.

I was at MGM for 11 years and nobody ever let me play anything but teenagers.

I was 25 years old with kids of my own and it was getting ridiculous.

Publicity was froth.

Everything you said was monitored.

With me, they didn't have to worry.

I never had anything to say, anyway.

It was hard work, I had no friends, no social interaction with people my age and the isolation was tough.

But I had to support my family, so I did what I was told and had no other choice.[15]

Stage roles

Powell in Three Daring Daughters

Powell in Three Daring Daughters

Her roles include the touring productions of Unsinkable Molly Brown, Most Happy Fella, The Boy Friend, Brigadoon, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, Carousel, Meet Me in St. Louis, Peter Pan,[16] The Girl Next Door and How She Grew and Irene, in which she made her Broadway debut, following Debbie Reynolds in the title role.[17] Howard Keel and she also appeared on stage together in a revival of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I Do! I Do![17][18] and South Pacific.[17]

Powell also toured in 1964 in a musical review entitled Just 20 Plus Me! It was done to a recorded track and featured Powell with 20 handsome "chorus boys". Asked after the performance if the production was going to be made available on a commercial recording, she said simply, "No." In the early 1980s, she toured in the comedies Same Time, Next Year; The Marriage-Go-Round and Chapter Two. In 1996 and 1997, she appeared in the off-broadway production After-Play. She also performed the role of the Queen in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at New York City Opera. In 2000, she appeared in the off-Broadway production Avow, for which she received great reviews in a role which showed off her excellent comedic timing.


Powell plays a girlfriend to Red Skelton's "Junior" on The Red Skelton Show, 1968.

Powell plays a girlfriend to Red Skelton's "Junior" on The Red Skelton Show, 1968.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Powell appeared regularly on television.

These credits included guest spots on nearly all the major variety shows of the period, such as The Perry Como Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Kraft Music Hall, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Red Skelton Show, The Eddie Fisher Show, The Dinah Shore Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Jonathan Winters Show, This is Tom Jones, The Garry Moore Show, The Jerry Lewis Show and The Judy Garland Show

Powell twice appeared as one of the What's My Line? "mystery guests" on the popular Sunday-night CBS-TV quiz program as well as once as a panelist. She also was a guest on I've Got A Secret with Garry Moore and appeared on the ABC musical quiz program, Jukebox Jury. Her television specials included Meet Me in St. Louis, Young at Heart, Feathertop, The Danny Thomas Show 1967, The Victor Borge Show, Ruggles of Red Gap on Producers' Showcase and Hooray for Love. Dramatic guest spots included both The Dick Powell Show and The June Allyson Show. She also had a failed pilot for a television sitcom called The Jane Powell Show.

Powell was a regular guest on a television variety show in Australia when she visited there to perform her nightclub act. She also had a one-off television special there in 1964.

She has appeared on numerous television talk shows and co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show in 1970. In the 1970s, she appeared in three television movies, Wheeler and Murdoch,[19] The Letters [20]*Los%20Angeles]]*nd[21]

In the 1980s, she guest-starred on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote. In 1985, she started a nine-month run in the daytime soap opera Loving, playing a tough mother and businesswoman. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, she also had a regular guest spot on the comedy series Growing Pains (playing Alan Thicke's mother).

She was a temporary replacement on As the World Turns for Eileen Fulton as Lisa Grimaldi in 1991, 1993 and 1994.

In 2000, she appeared in two television movies in supporting roles in The Sandy Bottom Orchestra [22] and Perfect Murder, Perfect Town.[22]

Powell's last major television appearance was a guest star in "Vulnerable" on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit[23] in 2002.

Later years

Powell in 1998

Powell in 1998

Jane Powell's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Jane Powell's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

During her marriage to Dick Moore, Powell lived in Manhattan and (since 1985), in Wilton, Connecticut. When Moore died in 2015, she sold their New York apartment and now lives permanently in Wilton. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Actors' Fund of America.

In 2003, she made a return to the stage as Mama Mizner in the Stephen Sondheim musical Bounce. Despite Powell's great reviews in the part, Bounce was not critically successful and did not move to Broadway.

For one evening, she returned to her hometown, Portland, narrating Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with Pink Martini on December 31, 2007. She also appeared on March 9, 2008, with Martini at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City; she sang a duet of "Aba Daba Honeymoon" with lead singer China Forbes. In March 2009, she appeared and sang "Love is Where You Find It" in a show in which Michael Feinstein celebrated movie musicals and MGM musicals in particular. She performed again with Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl on September 10, 2010.

Powell filled in as "guest host" on Turner Classic Movies for Robert Osborne while he was on medical leave July 17–23, 2011.

Personal life

Powell has been married five times, and has three children from her first two marriages.

Her first marriage was to former figure skater Gearhardt "Geary" Anthony Steffen. He was a former skating partner to Sonja Henie, turned insurance broker. They married on November 5, 1949, and divorced on August 6, 1953.[24]*Los%20Angeles]]*ssy" Ilene Steffen (born November 21, 1952).[26] Friend and fellow actress Elizabeth Taylor served as one of her bridesmaids, with Powell returning the favor during Taylor's 1950 wedding to Conrad "Nicky" Hilton.

On November 8, 1954, Powell married Patrick W. Nerney, an automobile executive nine years her senior, in Ojai, California. Nerney had previously been married to actress Mona Freeman, with whom he had a daughter, also named Mona.[27]Los%20]] [29]

A Republican, she sang the National Anthem at the 1956 Republican National Convention.[30]

Powell's fifth marriage, to former child star Dickie Moore, was her longest. Powell and Moore were married from 1988 until his death in 2015. They met while Moore was researching his own autobiography, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, But Don't Have Sex or Take the Car. [31]

Her autobiography, The Girl Next Door... And How She Grew, was published in 1988.

For her 80th birthday, Robert Osborne, a film historian and host of Turner Classic Movies, and her husband organized a party at a New York hotel for forty-five of Powell's friends and family members.



1944Song of the Open RoadHerself
1945Delightfully DangerousSherry Williams
1946Holiday in MexicoChristine Evans
1948Three Daring DaughtersTess Morgan
A Date with Judy
Judy Foster
Luxury LinerPolly Bradford
1950Nancy Goes to RioNancy Barklay
Two Weeks with LovePatti Robinson
1951Royal WeddingEllen Bowen
Rich, Young and PrettyElizabeth Rogers
1953Small Town GirlCindy Kimbell
Three Sailors and a GirlPenny Weston
1954Seven Brides for Seven BrothersMilly Pontipee
AthenaAthena Mulvain
Deep in My HeartOttilie van Zandt inMaytime
1955Hit the DeckSusan Smith
The Girl Most Likely
The Female Animal
Penny Windsor
Enchanted IslandFayawayAlso known asTypee
1975Tubby the TubaCelesteVoice
1999Picture This
2003Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were ThereHerself

Short subjects

  • Screen Snapshots: Motion Picture Mothers, Inc. (1949)

  • 1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (1955)

Stage work

  • Allegro

  • Oklahoma!

  • The Most Happy Fella

  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown

  • Carousel

  • The Boy Friend

  • The Sound of Music

  • My Fair Lady

  • I Do! I Do!

  • Meet Me in St. Louis

  • Brigadoon

  • Irene

  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

  • South Pacific

  • The Marriage-Go-Round

  • Sweethearts

  • Cinderella

  • After-Play (1996)

  • Ancestral Voices (2000)

  • Avow (2000)

  • Nothing Like a Dame (2000)

  • 70, Girls, 70

  • Bounce


  • 1944 - Powell played the title role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on Screen Guild Theatre on CBS.[32]

  • 1947 - Powell co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Songs by Sinatra.[33]

  • 1952 - Lux Radio Theatre (episode Royal Wedding)[34]


  • 1949 - Romance - Columbia Masterworks LP (ML 2034)[35]

  • 1949 - A Date with Jane Powell - Columbia Masterworks LP (ML 2045)[35]

  • 1956 - Can't We Be Friends? - Verve Records LP (MGV 2023), re-released as a Limited Edition Japanese import CD in a mini-LP slip case in 2004.

  • 2000 - Hansel and Gretel/Alice in Wonderland - Collectables Records CD[35]

  • 2001 - Romance/A Date with Jane Powell - Collectables Records CD (COL-CD-6670 / Sony A-50271)[35]


Citation Linksearch.proquest.comHopper, Hedda (November 23, 1943). "Drama and Film". Los Angeles Times.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkarchive.orgPowell, Jane (1988). The Girl Next Door ... and How She Grew (1st ed.). ISBN 0-688-06757-3.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkwww.juilliard.eduBeaudreau, Mary Ellen (April 2008). "A Date With Jane Powell". The Juilliard Journal. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkarchives.chicagotribune.comWolters, Larry (March 16, 1952). "Johnnie Ray, Their Darling Cry Baby". The Chicago Tribune. pp. 8, 15.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linksearch.proquest.comHopper, Hedda (September 24, 1944). "Radio Offers Springboard Into Swim of Hollywood". Los Angeles Times.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linksearch.proquest.com"Jane Powell Has New Film Pact Approved". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 1946.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThomas, Nick, "Wilton's Jane Powell, 80 years young", p 1B, The Wilton Bulletin (and other Hersam Acorn newspapers), September 10, 2009
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgHedda Hopper (November 24, 1943). "Drama and Film". Los Angeles Times.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgReel Memories: Jane Powell, Turner Classic Movies, 1995 (included with the DVD release Classic Musicals Double Feature: Nancy Goes to Rio/Two Weeks with Love (Warner Home Video, 2008)).
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkbooks.google.comWilliams, Esther (1999). The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography (1st ed.). ISBN 978-0-15-601135-8. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linksearch.proquest.com"Young Star". Los Angeles Times. August 30, 1948.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgPowell, Jane (1988). The Girl Next Door and How She Grew. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 978-0-68806-757-1., p. 60.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linksearch.proquest.comScheuer, Phillip K. (December 23, 1946). "Flynn Cast as '49'er; 'Van' Writes for Self". Los Angeles Times.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linksearch.proquest.comSchuer, Phillip K. (March 22, 1956). "Oscar Plays 2nd Fiddle to Auto". Los Angeles Times. p. 2.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkobserver.comReed, Rex (July 31, 2000). "Jane Powell on Aging, Acting and MGM". New York Observer. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkwww.nwitimes.comPotempa, Phil (May 25, 2011). "OFFBEAT: Long list of notable names have stepped into flying slippers of 'Peter Pan'". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linksearch.proquest.comMahoney, John C. (October 9, 1977). "Life Just Beginning for Jane Powell". Los Angeles Times. p. R50.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Coming Up: Powell and Keel in a Musical Comedy About Marriage". Los Angeles Times. May 23, 1980. p. SD A6.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgSmith, Cecil (March 29, 1972). "It's Pilot Time for Networks Again". Los Angeles Times. p. G17.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"ABC Delivers 'The Letters' Trilogy". Los Angeles Times. March 4, 1973. p. O3.
Sep 26, 2019, 6:57 AM