Jane Powell (born Suzanne Lorraine Burce; April 1, 1929) is an American singer, dancer and actress.
After rising to fame as a singer in her home state of Oregon, Powell was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer while still in her teens. Once there, the studio utilized her vocal, dancing and acting talents, casting her in such musicals as Royal Wedding, with Fred Astaire, A Date with Judy, with friend Elizabeth Taylor, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with Howard Keel. In the late 1950s, her film career slowed, only to be replaced with a busy theater and television career.
As of 2010, Powell lives with her fifth husband, former child star Dickie Moore, in New York City and Connecticut, and is still active in television and theater.
The only child born to Paul E. Burce (a Wonder Bread employee) and Eileen Baker Burce (a housewife) in Portland, Oregon, Powell began dance lessons at the age of two. Powell was born a brunette, with straight hair. In an attempt to liken her appearance to Shirley Temple, Powell’s mother took her to get her first permanent the same year she began dance lessons. It wasn’t until she starred in Technicolor pictures that she became a blonde.
At five, she appeared on the children’s radio program Stars of Tomorrow. She also took dance lessons with Agnes Peters, and it was there that the Burce family met Scotty Weston, a talent scout and dance instructor. He convinced the family to move to Oakland 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 Powell should take lessons, and after saving their money, began singing lessons for her.
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 traveled around the state for two years, singing and selling victory bonds. It was during this time that 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.
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. She had attended Beaumont Grade School in Portland and Grant High School (Portland, Oregon).
During the summer of 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. 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 with Louis B. Mayer at MGM as well as David O. Selznick. Without even taking a screen test, Powell was then signed to a seven-year contract with MGM. Within two months, Powell had been loaned out to United Artists for her first film, Song of the Open Road.
“How Could You Believe Me?”
From Royal Wedding
Powell’s character in Song of the Open Road was named Jane Powell, and it was from this that her stage name was taken.
In 1945, Powell sang Because at the wedding of Esther Williams and Ben Gage. Within her first few years at MGM, Powell made six films, appeared on radio programs, performed in theatre productions (including The Student Prince) 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. 
“Love Is Where You Find It”
Powell’s second film was Delightfully Dangerous, which Powell called the “worst movie she’s ever made.” During her third film, Holiday in Mexico, Powell met her future friend, Roddy McDowall. Holiday in Mexico was her first Technicolor film; her first two films had been black and white.
“Jitterbug Whodunit” with Judy Garland and Ray Bolger
Powell’s charm and spunk made her stand out in her follow-up vehicle Three Daring Daughters, originally titled The Birds and the Bees, 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, and Nancy Goes to Rio (1950) with Ann Sothern.
Powell worked side by side with Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding (1951), when she was brought in to replace June Allyson, who had become pregnant, and then Judy Garland, who dropped out due to illness. According to film historian Robert Osborne, in a six-minute scene in the movie, Powell and Astaire match witty banter, sing and dance in a performance that showcased the actress’s energy and talent. “We can also see her comic ability, in that number”, 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.” Her best-known film is probably Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), opposite Howard Keel, which gave her the opportunity to play a more mature character than 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 (1957). 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.
“Wonder Why” with Vic Dimone
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, The Girl Next Door and How She Grew, and Irene, in which she made her Broadway debut, following Debbie Reynolds in the title role. She and Howard Keel also appeared on stage together in a revival of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I Do! I Do! and South Pacific
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.”
“Peanut Vendor” with Xaviar Cugat
In the early 1980s she toured in the comedies Same time next year, Marriage-go-round and Chapter Two.
In 1996 and 1997 she appeared in the off-broadway production After-Play.
In 2000 she appeared in the off-broadway production Avow, for which she received great reviews for a role which showed off her excellent comedic timing.
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 Perry Como, The Andy Williams Show, The Kraft Music Hall, Frank Sinatra, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Red Skelton Show, Eddie Fisher, The Dinah Shore Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Smothers Brothers, Jonathan Winters, This is Tom Jones, The Garry Moore Show, The Jerry Lewis Show and The Judy Garland Show. She did a stint as one of the What’s My Line? Mystery Guests on the popular Sunday night CBS-TV programme. She also appeared as guest panelist on the same show. TV specials included “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “Young at Heart”, “Feathertop”, “Danny Thomas Show 1967”, “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 TV pilot for a sitcom called “The Jane Powell Show”. Powell was also a regular guest on TV variety shows in Australia when she visited there to perform her nightclub act. She also had a one-off TV special in that country in 1964.
From Hit The Deck with Ann Miller and Debbie Reynolds
In the 1980s she again guested on “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island”. Another guest spot was on “Murder She Wrote”. In 1985 she started a 9 month run in the daytime soap Loving playing a tough mother and business woman.
Her last major TV appearance was a guest spot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2002.
She has also appeared on numerous TV Talk shows and co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show in 1970.
Powell lives in Manhattan and (since 1985), in Wilton, Connecticut, with her fifth husband, former child actor Dick Moore. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Actors’ Fund of America, and still acts and performs to the present day, most recently in a 2002 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
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, Oregon, narrating Sergei Prokofiev‘s Peter and the Wolf with Pink Martini on December 31, 2007. She also appeared on March 9, 2008, with Pink 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.
“Its A Most Unusual Day”
She has three children from her first two marriages, and has been married five times in total.
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. They had two children, Gearhardt Anthony “G.A.” (pronounced Jay) Steffen III (born 1951) and Suzanne “Sissy” Ilene Steffen (born November 21, 1952) 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.
“Talk To The Trees”
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. Daughter Lindsey Averill Nerney (Powell states she named her for the California-based olive processor) was born from the union on February 1, 1956. The couple divorced in 1963.
“Quando Men Vo” from La Boheme
Powell’s fifth marriage, to former child star Dickie Moore, has been her longest. Powell and Moore have been married since 1988, when they met while Moore was researching for his own autobiography, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, But Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car.”
Her autobiography was published in 1988. For her 80th birthday, her husband and Robert Osborne, a film historian and host of Turner Classic Movies, organized a party at a New York hotel for forty-five of Powell’s friends and family members.
Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com
Quick Bio Facts:
AKA Suzanne Lorraine Burce
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Boyfriend: Stanley Catron (dancer, dated 1944)
Husband: Geary Anthony Steffen, Jr. (figure skater, m. 5-Nov-1949, div. 6-Aug-1953, 2 children)
Son: Geary (b. 1961)
Daughter: Suzanne Ileen (b. 1952)
Husband: Patrick Nerney (m. 8-Nov-1954, div. 1963, one daughter)
Daughter: Lindsey (b. 1956)
Husband: James Fitzgerald (m. 27-Jun-1965, div. 1975)
Husband: David Parlour (m. 21-Oct-1978, div. 1981)
Husband: Dickie Moore (actor, m. 21-May-1988)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Broadway: The Golden Age (Apr-2003) Herself
Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenét and the City of Boulder (27-Feb-2000)
The Female Animal (22-Jan-1958)
Enchanted Island (1958)
The Girl Most Likely (17-Dec-1957)
Hit the Deck (3-Mar-1955)
Deep in My Heart (9-Dec-1954)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (22-Jul-1954)
Three Sailors and a Girl (23-Nov-1953)
Small Town Girl (10-Apr-1953)
Rich, Young and Pretty (9-Jul-1951)
Royal Wedding (8-Mar-1951)
Two Weeks: With Love (23-Nov-1950)
Nancy Goes to Rio (10-Mar-1950)
A Date with Judy (21-Jun-1948)
Luxury Liner (1948)
Holiday in Mexico (15-Aug-1946)
Delightfully Dangerous (31-Mar-1945)
Song of the Open Road (2-Jun-1944)
Author of books:
The Girl Next Door and How She Grew (1988, memoir)
|1944||Song of the Open Road||Jane Powell|
|1945||Delightfully Dangerous||Sherry Williams|
|1946||Holiday in Mexico||Christine Evans|
|1948||Three Daring Daughters||Tess Morgan|
|A Date with Judy||Judy Foster|
|Luxury Liner||Polly Bradford|
|1950||Nancy Goes to Rio||Nancy Barklay|
|Two Weeks with Love||Patti Robinson|
|1951||Royal Wedding||Ellen Bowen|
|Rich, Young and Pretty||Elizabeth Rogers|
|1953||Small Town Girl||Cindy Kimbell|
|Three Sailors and a Girl||Penny Weston|
|1954||Seven Brides for Seven Brothers||Milly Pontipee|
|Deep in My Heart||Ottilie van Zandt in ‘Maytime’|
|1955||Hit the Deck||Susan Smith|
|1958||The Girl Most Likely||Dodie|
|The Female Animal||Penny Windsor|
|Enchanted Island||Fayaway||Also known as Typee|
|1975||Tubby the Tuba||Celeste||Voice|
|2003||Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There||Herself|
- Screen Snapshots: Motion Picture Mothers, Inc. (1949)
- 1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (1955)
- 1949 – Romance – Capitol Masterworks LP (ML 2034)
- 1949 – A Date with Jane Powell – Capitol Masterworks LP (ML 2045)
- 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.
- 2001 – Romance/A Date with Jane Powell – Collectables Records CD (COL-CD-6670 / Sony A-50271)