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Eleanor Powell
Birth: Nov. 21, 1912
Hampden County
Massachusetts, USA
Death: Feb. 11, 1982
Beverly Hills
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Actress, Dancer. She is best remembered for her powerful and aggressive style of tap dancing, whose career spanned five decades, from the 1930s into the 1970s. She was born Eleanor Torrey Powell in Springfield, Massachusetts and started dancing as a young child. She got her professional start in Atlantic City clubs, from where she moved into in revue in New York City, New York, at the Ritz Grill and Casino de Paris at the age of 16. A year later, she got into on Broadway where she starred in various revues and musicals. During this time, she was dubbed "the world's greatest tap dancer" due to her machine-gun footwork, and in the early 1930s appeared as a chorus girl in a couple of early, inconsequential musical films. In 1935 she came to Hollywood, California and performed a specialty number in her first film, "George White's 1935 Scandals." The experience, which she described as a disaster because she was accidentally made up to look like an Egyptian, left her unimpressed with Hollywood and when she was courted by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), she initially refused their offers of a contract. She later accepted their contract when they agrees to her salary demands. He first starring role was "Broadway Melody of 1936" (1935) and she received instant popularity. She went on to star opposite many of the decade's top leading men, including James Stewart, Robert Taylor, Fred Astaire, George Murphy, Nelson Eddy, and Robert Young. Among the films she made during the height of her career in the mid-to-late 1930s were "Born to Dance" (1936), "Rosalie" (1937), "Broadway Melody of 1938" (1937), "Honolulu" (1939), and "Broadway Melody of 1940" (1940), all of which featured her amazing solo tapping, although her increasingly huge production numbers began to draw criticism. The characters she portrayed sang, but her singing voice was frequently dubbed. "Broadway Melody of 1940," in which she starred opposite Fred Astaire, featured an acclaimed musical score by composer Cole Porter entitled "Begin the Beguine," which is considered by many to be one of the greatest tap sequences in film history. She was then sidelined with gall bladder surgery, which had an effect on her movie career. In 1941, the film "Lady Be Good" gave her top billing and a classic dance routine to "Fascinatin' Rhythm", but Robert Young and Ann Sothern were the actual stars of the film. The same happened with Red Skelton in "Ship Ahoy" (1942) and "I Dood It" (1943), although in "Ship Ahoy," her character nonetheless played a central role in the story, and her dance skills were put to practical use when she manages to tap out a Morse code message to a secret agent in the middle of a dance routine. She parted ways with MGM after her next film, "Thousands Cheer" (1943), in which she appeared only for a few minutes to perform a specialty number (as part of an all-star cast), and the same year married Canadian-born lead actor Glenn Ford. She danced in a giant pinball machine in "Sensations of 1945" (1944) for United Artists, but this picture was a critical and commercial disappointment. Her performance was overshadowed by what was to be the final film appearance of W. C. Fields. She then retired from films afterwards to concentrate on raising her son, actor Peter Ford, who was born that year (although she did appear in a couple of documentary-style short subjects about celebrities in the late 1940s). Overseas audiences did get to see her dance one additional performance in 1946, however, when the compilation "The Great Morgan" was released, which included a number that had been cut from "Honolulu." In 1950 she returned to MGM one last time for a cameo in "Duchess of Idaho," starring Esther Williams. She returned to private life until May 1952 when she appeared as a guest star on an episode of "Four Star Revue" with Danny Thomas and June Havoc. Around this time, she was ordained a minister of the Unity Church and later hosted an Emmy Award-winning Sunday morning television program for youth entitled "The Faith of Our Children," that ran from 1953 until 1955. Her son, Peter Ford, was a regular on this show and would later find his own success as a rock and roll singer and as an actor. In 1955 she made her last-ever film appearance when she appeared in "Have Faith in Our Children," a three-minute short film produced for the Variety Club of Northern California in which she asked viewers to donate to the charity. The short, which other than its title had no relation to the TV series, marked the only time that she appeared on screen with her husband Glenn Ford, whom she divorced in 1959. That same year, encouraged by her son, she launched a highly-publicized nightclub career, including appearances at Lou Walter's Latin Quarter in Boston. She maintained her good figure and appearance well into her middle age. Her live performances continued well into the 1960s and she made several guest appearances on variety television programs, including "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Hollywood Palace." In 1965 the Dance Masters of America bestowed upon her the title of World's Greatest Tap Dancer. She made her final public appearance in 1981, at a televised American Film Institute tribute to actor and dance partner Fred Astaire. She died of cancer in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 69. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
Family links: 
  Clarence Gardner Powell (1894 - 1963)
  Blanche Helen Torrey Powell (1895 - 1977)
  Glenn Ford (1916 - 2006)*
  Eleanor Powell (1912 - 1982)
  Clifford Wallace Powell (1918 - 1989)**
*Calculated relationship

Cause of death: Cancer
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Los Angeles County
California, USA
Plot: Cathedral Mausoleum, Foyer niche 432, tier 3
GPS (lat/lon): 34.0883, -118.31683
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1634
Eleanor Powell
Added by: Sarah
Eleanor Powell
Added by: A.J.
Eleanor Powell
Added by: A.J.
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