Possessed of an extraordinarily wide-ranging operatic singing voice, Jane Powell was a radio performer from childhood. She took dancing and acting lessons, then made her film debut at 15 in Song of the Open Road (1944), a deliberate effort to recapture the charm of Deanna Durbin musicals of the 1930s. Signed by MGM in 1945, Powell was cast as the ingénue in several of the studio's top musicals: She introduced the song "It's a Most Unusual Day" in A Date With Judy (1948), and played Fred Astaire's sister/dancing partner in Royal Wedding (1950). After peaking with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Powell's film career leveled off, ending altogether with a misfire attempt at a dramatic role (complete with dark hair and "native" skin coloring) in Enchanted Island (1958). She kept busy thereafter with plenty of TV performances, concerts, summer stock, and even Broadway, replacing former MGM colleague Debbie Reynolds in the 1970s revival of Irene. Somewhat at odds with her girl-next-door image, Jane Powell was married five times: Her fifth husband was former juvenile star Dickie Moore, with whom she'd fallen in love while he was interviewing her for his book on child actors.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Began taking dance lessons at age three.
- Became a radio personality in Oregon by age 11, and toured as the state's "Victory Girl" During WWII, selling war bonds.
- Got her stage name from her character's name in her film debut, Song of the Open Road (1944).
- Was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth Taylor's 1950 wedding to Conrad Hilton.
- Starred in a Broadway revival of Irene in 1973.
- Met husband Dickie Moore when he interviewed her for his 1984 book Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, But Don't Have Sex or Take the Car.
- Published her autobiography, The Girl Next Door and How She Grew, in 1988.