Susan Granger, a friend of Powell’s and a spokesperson for the family, confirmed to various outlets that the actress died peacefully at her home in Wilton, Connecticut on Thursday September 16.
Powell performed virtually her whole life, starting about age 5 as a singing prodigy on radio in Portland, Oregon. She made her first movie at 16 and graduated from teenage roles to costarring in the lavish musical productions that were a staple of 20th-century Hollywood.
Her first feature film appearance was in Song of the Open Road in 1944, and she quickly secured her reputation as a star of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals. Powell went on to star in musicals like A Date with Judy (1948), Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Hit the Deck (1955).
Her casting in 1951’s “Royal Wedding” came by default. June Allyson was first announced as Fred Astaire’s co-star but withdrew when she became pregnant. Judy Garland was cast, but was withdrawn because of personal problems. Jane Powell was next in line.
“They had to give it to me,” she quipped at the time. “Everybody else is pregnant.” Also among the expectant MGM stars: Lana Turner, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse and Jean Hagen.
Powell had just turned 21 when she got the role; Astaire was 50. She was nervous because she lacked dancing experience, but she found him “very patient and understanding. We got along fine from the start.”
She was also an accomplished theatre actor, beginning her stage career in the 1960s. Powell starred in high-profile productions such as The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady and also appeared in television, including in the sitcom Growing Pains in the 1980s and 90s.
By the turn of the millennium, Powell was back performing on stage, including in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Bounce.
Powell was married five times, with three children from the first two marriages. Her first marriage was to former figure skater Gearhardt “Geary” Anthony Steffen. At their November 1949 wedding, Elizabeth Taylor served as one of her bridesmaids.
Powell married her fifth husband, former child star Dickie Moore, in 1988. Moore predeceased Powell in 2015. She is survived by three children, Geary Anthony Steffen III, Suzanne Steffen and Lindsay Cavalli, as well as two granddaughters, Skye Cavalli and Tia Cavalli.