Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Dance Party: "She Put 'Em Down Like A Man"

So said Fred Astaire about the star of this week's Dance Party, Eleanor Powell. She was the dominant female tapper of the 30s and 40s, though is not as well remembered as other later hoofers such as Ann Miller and Ginger Rogers. She was considered the only star who could out-tap Astaire, and though he partnered with her several times, word was he was intimidated by her. Their dance routine to Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" is considered a classic.

She was ordained as a minister in the Unity Church in the early fifties, and on television, headlined a Sunday morning drama series called The Faith of Our Children. The program ran several years and won some regional Emmys; two of Powell's juvenile co-stars were her son Peter Ford (Glenn Ford was Powell's first husband) and John Stillman. Don't recognize the latter's name? He grew up to become porn legend Jack Wrangler, about whom I wrote when he died last year (bring your best bow-chicka-bow-wow here to read that entry).

I seem to have wandered off track here, how did that happen? Though she partnered with everybody, Powell was best known as a solo tapper. This week's Dance Party proves why. She rehearsed and shot this sequence in her own home, in order to get the best performance out of her co-star, who almost steals the show.

The 28th anniversary of Eleanor Powell's death was last week; she died February 11th, 1982, at the age of 69.