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Jane Powell (1929 - 2021)

A photo of Jane Powell
Jane Powell
1929 - 2021
Born
April 1, 1929
Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon United States
Death
September 16, 2021
Wilton, CT. in Wilton, Connecticut United States
Other Names
Suzanne Lorraine Burce
Summary
Jane Powell was born on April 1, 1929 in Portland, Oregon United States. According to her family tree, she married Dickie Moore in 1948. They were married until John's death in 2015. She died on September 16, 2021 at Wilton, CT., Wilton, Connecticut United States at 92 years old.
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Updated: September 16, 2021
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Jane Powell
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Jane Powell
Full name
Suzanne Lorraine Burce
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Jane Powell was born on in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon United States
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Jane Powell died on at Wilton, CT. in Wilton, Connecticut United States
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Jane was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce on April 1st, 1929. Her father worked for Wonder Bread and her mother was a housewife with ambitious show business aspirations for her daughter. At the age of two, Powell was taking dancing lessons and sporting a perm in an effort to be the next Shirley Temple. Along the way, Powell became intrigued by a career in entertainment, idolizing Sonja Henie’s delightful ice skating routines.

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Dickie Moore

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Jane Powell

Married: 1948 - 1954
Cause of Separation: John's Death
Jane Powell Jane Powell
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Jane Powell, Hollywood’s Girl Next Door, Is Dead at 92 Typecast from the outset, she was a star of movie musicals before she was out of her teens. But her big-screen career peaked when she was in her 20s. Jane Powell starred with Howard Keel in the 1954 movie “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.” It was one of the last great MGM musicals; it was also the movie with which Ms. Powell’s career peaked. Sept. 16, 2021 Updated 10:25 p.m. ET Jane Powell, whose pert good looks and lyrical soprano voice brought her Hollywood stardom before she was out of her teens — but whose movie career peaked when she was still in her 20s with a starring role in one of the last great MGM musicals, the 1954 extravaganza “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” — died on Thursday at her home in Wilton, Conn. She was 92. Susan Granger, her friend, confirmed the death. Ms. Powell, who was just over five feet tall and retained the guileless features of an innocent teenager well past adolescence, found herself typecast from the outset. She was only 15 when her first film, “Song of the Open Road” (1944), was released. She played a disenchanted young film star who finds happiness when she runs away from home and joins a group of young people picking crops while adult farmworkers are at war. The film is noteworthy mostly because the name of the character she played, Jane Powell, became hers as well when the movie was released. She was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce. Ms. Powell lived in Los Angeles, in 1944, the year her first film, Song of the Open Road, was released. "I should have been the happiest girl in the world,"; she said of becoming a movie star in her teens. "Well, I wasn't." Ms. Powell had already been signed by MGM, but the studio lent her to United Artists for “Song of the Open Road.” Her first several MGM movies were mostly forgettable musicals, with slender storylines that were little more than frameworks for the songs. In “Holiday in Mexico” (1946), she played the daughter of the American ambassador to that country (Walter Pidgeon), while the piano virtuoso José Iturbi, the bandleader Xavier Cugat and Ms. Powell provided the music. In “Luxury Liner” (1948), she was a stowaway on a cruise ship captained by her father (George Brent), with Mr. Cugat and the opera singer Lauritz Melchior among the passengers. Her breakthrough was “Royal Wedding” (1951), the first movie in which she played an adult. This time Ms. Powell had an outstanding director, Stanley Donen; an outstanding score, by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner. Set just before the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, “Royal Wedding” centers on an American brother-sister song-and-dance act (Astaire and Ms. Powell) on tour in London. Cast at the last minute to replace Judy Garland, who had been fired (and who herself had replaced a pregnant June Allyson), Ms. Powell had almost no time to learn her dance routines. But she acquitted herself well, notably in a knockabout vaudeville-style number with Astaire, “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life?” Her movie career appeared to be gaining steam. In fact, it was halfway over. After “Royal Wedding,” Ms. Powell, to her frustration, found herself once again cast as the girl next door in lightweight musicals like “Rich, Young and Pretty” (1951) and “Three Sailors and a Girl” (1953). It would be three years before she had another role of substance — but it was a memorable one. Set in a pioneer community in 19th-century Oregon, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” told the story of newlyweds (Ms. Powell and Howard Keel) whose first order of business as a married couple is to find wives for the groom’s six rowdy brothers. Directed by Mr. Donen, with a lively score by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer and acrobatic choreography by Michael Kidd, it earned a place on many lists of the greatest film musicals of all time. It was, Ms. Powell later said, “my last really wonderful role in a film.” Suzanne Burce was born on April 1, 1929, in Portland, Ore. An only child, she was still a toddler when her parents — Paul Burce, who worked for a bread company, and Eileen (Baker) Burce — began grooming her as a potential successor to Shirley Temple. By the time she was 5 she was taking singing and dancing lessons and appearing on the radio. When she was 14 her parents took her to Hollywood, where her performance on a popular radio talent show led to an audition for Louis B. Mayer of MGM and, in short order, a seven-year contract. Looking back on that time in her 1988 autobiography, “The Girl Next Door and How She Grew,” Ms. Powell wrote: “I should have been the happiest girl in the world. Well, I wasn’t.” All she wanted to do, she said, was return home, go to high school and make friends. Her parents’ relentless efforts to make her a star had made for a lonely, artificial childhood. Despite her almost immediate success, she wrote, “Sometimes I just wanted to run away from it all.” With musicals beginning to fall out of fashion, she had few film roles after “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” (“I didn’t quit movies,” she once said. “They quit me.”) Two middling musicals followed: “Hit the Deck” (1955), her last film for MGM, and “The Girl Most Likely” (1958), in which she was courted by Cliff Robertson and two other men. Her big-screen career came to an anticlimactic end in 1958 with the dramas “The Female Animal,” in which she played the alcoholic daughter of a fading movie star (Hedy Lamarr), and “Enchanted Island,” in which she was improbably cast as a Polynesian islander. (“It was a terrible movie,” she said. “The best thing about it was that it gave the family a great vacation in Acapulco.”) Ms. Powell found a new home on television. A 1961 pilot for a sitcom, “The Jane Powell Show,” was not picked up, but she appeared regularly on dramatic anthology series, variety shows, and musical specials, as well as in a recurring role as Alan Thicke’s mother on the sitcom “Growing Pains” in the late 1980s and in a long-running ad campaign for denture products. Her last TV appearance was on an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” in 2002. She also performed in touring productions of musicals, including “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music” and “Carousel.” She made her Broadway debut in 1974, when she replaced her friend and frequent MGM co-star Debbie Reynolds as the title character in the hit revival of the 1919 musical “Irene.” Ms. Powell in 1984 with Dick Moore, who, like her, had been a child star, and whom she would marry four years later. She never returned to Broadway, although she played the queen in a 1995 New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” and occasionally appeared Off-Broadway. She seemed headed back to Broadway in 2003, when she played the mother of the entrepreneurial Mizner brothers in the Stephen Sondheim musical “Bounce” in Chicago and Washington. But the show was poorly received and never made it to New York. (It was later reworked, retitled “Road Show” and staged at the Public Theater in New York in 2008, without Ms. Powell in the cast.) Ms. Powell’s first four marriages ended in divorce. In 1988 she married Dick Moore, whom she met when he was writing a book about child actors. Although, as Dickie Moore, he had once been a child actor himself, their paths had never crossed until he interviewed her for his book. Mr. Moore died in 2015, and Ms. Powell died in the home they had shared. She is survived by a son, Geary Anthony Steffen III; two daughters, Suzanne Steffen and Lindsay Cavalli; and two granddaughters. Looking back in 1988 on her youthful stardom and her place in the Hollywood studio system, Ms. Powell was philosophical. “I get angry when I hear other actors blame the studios for all their problems,” she wrote in her autobiography. “It really bothered me when Judy Garland used to say, ‘The studio made me do this, the studio made me do that.’ “Nobody makes you do anything. You make your own choices.”
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1929 - 2021 World Events

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In 1929, in the year that Jane Powell was born, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre happened on February 14th. In Chicago, seven men from the North Side Irish gang were gunned down by Al Capone's South Side Italian gang at the garage at 2122 North Clark Street. Al Capone was making a successful move to take over Chicago's organized crime. But the St. Valentine's Day massacre also resulted in a public outcry against all gangsters.

In 1931, by the time she was merely 2 years old, in March, “The Star Spangled Banner” officially became the national anthem by congressional resolution. Other songs had previously been used - among them, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", "God Bless America", and "America the Beautiful". There was fierce debate about making "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem - Southerners and veterans organizations supported it, pacifists and educators opposed it.

In 1943, she was just 14 years old when on March 31st, the Broadway musical Oklahoma! opened. Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (the first of their string of successful collaborations), audiences loved it. The musical ran for 2,212 performances originally and was made into a movie in 1954.

In 1951, when she was 22 years old, on June 25th, CBS began broadcasting in color. There were well over 10 million televisions by that time. The first show in color was a musical variety special titled "Premiere". Hardly anyone had a color TV that could see the show.

In 1962, she was 33 years old when on August 5th, actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe died in Brentwood California. She was ruled to have died from suicide due to a drug overdose. There has been controversy regarding the circumstances ever since, due to her relationships with Jack and Bobby Kennedy.

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