Jane Powell, 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' and 'Royal Wedding' star, dead at 92

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Jane Powell, an actress known for appearing in a number of movie musicals, has died at the age of 92.

Powell died of natural causes on Thursday in her Wilton, Conn., home, according to longtime friend Susan Grander.

Among her most well-known films in the 1940s and ’50s were the MGM musicals “Royal Wedding” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” She was known for her gorgeous voice which often surprised viewers given her small stature and tendency to be cast in gentler roles.

According to Variety, she easily nabbed a contract with MGM in 1943, starring first in their 1944 musical “Song of the Open Road.” She took the name of the character she played – Jane Powell, a child star who runs away – as her own.

Powell would go on to star alongside some of Hollywood’s most notable stars and musicians at the time, including Walter Pidgeon, Jose Iturbi, Xavier Cugat, Jeannette McDonald, Wallace Beery, Carmen Miranda and Elizabeth Taylor.

Actress and singer Jane Powell, known for roles in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and ‘Royal Wedding,’ has died at the age of 92.
(Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/De Carvalho Collection/Getty Images)

Many of her projects melted together in the minds of fans until “Royal Wedding,” in which co-star Fred Astaire famously dances on the walls and ceiling of a room, and saw Powell play half of a brother-and-sister act heading to London in 1947. The story was similar to that of Astaire and his own sister, Adele.

Several years later, in 1954, she starred in Stanley Donen’s Oscar-nominated “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and earned positive reviews for her performance.

Later that year, she starred in another of Donen’s flicks, “Athena,” a wild story about a family of weightlifting vegetarians. She saw herself play a woman involved in a star-crossed romance with a politician.

Her third movie of the same year was also directed by Donen: “Deep in My Heart.”

In 1956, Powell’s recording of “True Love” performed well on the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 15. She’d also perform “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” at the Oscars the same year.

In the late ’50s, Powell saw somewhat of a decline in her career after aging out of the younger roles she so famously played in the years before. Several of her films at the time were duds, though some were met with moderate success.

She transitioned to television around the same time, appearing in anthologies like “Goodyear Theatre” and variety shows such as “The Red Skelton Hour.” She famously appeared in a made-for-TV version of “Meet Me in St. Louis,” starring as Esther Smith, a role originally popularized by Judy Garland.

She’d also tour with a number of popular musicals such as “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “The Sound of Music,” “Oklahoma!,” “My Fair Lady,” “Carousel,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Peter Pan.” In 1973, she appeared on Broadway in the musical “Irene.”

She’d guest-star in a number of well-known television shows in the ’80s such as “Fantasy Island,” “The Love Boat,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Growing Pains.”

Jane Powell in 2004.
(Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)

Her final on-screen performance came during a 2002 episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” though she continued to make special appearances at concerts, once performing with Pink Martini in 2010 at the Hollywood Bowl, according to Variety.

The Portland-born performer secured her big break during a 1943 vacation to Hollywood, during which she won the Janet Gaynor radio talent competition “Hollywood Showcase: Stars Over Hollywood,” leading to her MGM contract.

The star married five times including to figure skater Gearhardt “Geary” Anthony Steffen. Taylor served as a bridesmaid at the wedding. She married her fifth and final husband, former child star Dickie Moore, in 1988 – he passed away in 2015.

She is survived by her children, Geary Anthony Steffen III, Suzanne Steffen and Lindsay Cavalli, as well as two granddaughters, Skye Cavalli and Tia Cavalli, per Variety.

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