Eleanor Powell

  1. Una Merkel, The Broadway Melody of 1936, 1935.     “I’d rather dance than eat.” Having just been through George White’s 1935 Scandals, “the  female Fred Astaire”  had no wish to play the same again but was too polite to say so.   MGM boss LB Mayer had found her in a Fox test and insisted. OK, she said,  playing hardball.   She didn’t want  Kitty, she wanted  the lead  and (plucking a number out of the air) $1,250 per week. To her surprise, LB caved.  A star was born.  Until quitting movies in 1943 to wed Glenn Ford.
  2. Lana Turner, Dancing Co-Ed, 1939.   The Hollywood Reporter insists (would it lie?) this was a Powell vehicle until the MGM decided to show, well, what Turner had got at 19! And what she got was her first marriage (of eight months!) to the musical’s bandleader, Artie Shaw.
  3. Hedy Lamarr, Ziegfeld Girl, 1940.      Odd MGMusical.  Monochrome, no one playing Broadway icon  Florenz Ziegfeld  (William Powell was busy?), and not about one girl but three. Powell ,  Joan Crawford and Virginia Bruce in the 1938 plan, churning into Lamarr, Judy Garland and Lana Turner. Powell more or less quit movies in 1943  to wed Glenn Ford.
  4. Judy Garland, Girl Crazy, 1943.  The Gershwin brothers’ musical dates back to 1930 and was filmed by RKO in 1932. Seven years later Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell were announced by MGM (with Van Johnson’s singing debut, future director Richard Quine and Virginia Weidler, the moppet always one step behind Shirley Temple and Judy Garland)  but the project never flew. This second Metro attempt was no better than RKO’s, even with, and for the very last time, Mickey Rooney and Judy. (The 1965 re-hash, When the Boys Meet the Girls, featured  Connie Francis and the Herman’s Hermits group!). Banjo–eyed Eddie Cantor (at 50) had been Metro’s first choice for the 1942 hero. He’s called, Danny Churchill, so, of course, someone  had to ask him: “Hiya Church, how’s your steeple?”
  5. Ginny Simms, Broadway Rhythm, 1943.     Ginny… whosis??  First due as the fifth of the Broadway Melody series, for Powell, Gene Kelly and Lena Horne. Only Horne remained (via songs filmed for Broadway Melody of 1943) as head lion LB Mayer churned the project into a vehicle for his singer-mistress. Powell quit MGM in digust.  And Mayer tore up Simms’ Metro deal when she refused to marry him. Total charmer!
  6. Martha Vickers, Love and Learn, 1946.       Powell refused point-blank to play Barbara Wyngate in the lousy script. (Or partners?). She was immediately suspended by her studio (Warner) for such insubordination! Vickers took over the musical, opposite Jack Carson and Robert Hutton as wannabe songwriters. Stand up anyone who remembers such piffle!


 Birth year: 1910Death year: 1982Other name: Casting Calls:  6