She is still regarded as the top tap dancer ever. She was a superstar at MGM. And yet, she is overlooked by too many classic movie fans.
We’ll try to make amends by running this private photograph (below) of Powell with our pal, Donald Gordon, from The Donald Gordon Collection.
Now then, we declare what we believe is the truth — that no one could hold a candle in the dance department to Eleanor Powell, considered the best terpsichorean ever to grace the silver screen.
She had started on Broadway at 17. A few years later Eleanor hit films with a bang in 1935 in George Whites Scandals and dazzled audiences with her dancing. She could do it all. She could sing, dance, act and she was pretty.
But her tapping was what gained her the most praise. MGM signed her and starred her opposite their top leading men such as James Stewart and Robert Taylor.
Joe’s favorite of her films is Broadway Melody of 1940, where she co-stars with Fred Astaire (see photo above). Through the years Astaire danced with the top stars of the genre: Ginger Rodgers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron, even Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly.
But none overshadowed him except Eleanor Powell. Perhaps that’s why they made only one film together.
Her career seemed to die in the early Forties, probably because she didn’t find it gave her the satisfaction it once did. She’d married actor Glenn Ford and had become a mother. Their son Peter became an actor and rock singer.
Powell made a few films in the middle and late forties, then after divorcing Ford in 1959, made a highly successful comeback as a nightclub performer. Although Joe never met Eleanor Powell he did interview Ann Miller several times over the years. Miller told him she considered Powell the best tap dancer ever.
We agree. Final word: In remembering Powell we also toast Frank’s seven-year-old granddaughter whose first name is…Eleanor.