Eleanor Powell

biography  |  films  |  images  |  merchandise  |  movie clips
links and acknowledgments

Eleanor Powell

eleanor_powel-danceI was first drawn to Eleanor Powell because she had the same last name as me, but I soon learned to like her more because of her amazing talent.

The title, “The Queen of Tap Dancing” is not an exaggeration when you talk about Eleanor Powell. During the 1930’s and 1940’s she starred in the biggest musicals for MGM that there were. She danced her way through them tirelessly, making it all look so easy.

She was known as one of MGM’s top dancing stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood in a series of musical vehicles tailored especially for her talents, such as Born to Dance (1936), Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) and Rosalie (1937), believed to be equalled only by Fred Astaire in terms of dancing talent. In 1965, she was named the World’s Greatest Tap Dancer by the Dance Masters of America.

She was well received in her first starring role in 1935 At Home Abroad (in which she was supported by Jack Benny and Frances Langford), and delighted 1930s audiences with her endless energy and enthusiasm, not to mention her stunning dancing. According to dancer Ann Miller, quoted in the “making-of” documentary That’s Entertainment! III, MGM was headed for bankruptcy in the late 1930s, but the films of Eleanor Powell, particularly Broadway Melody of 1936, were so popular they made the company profitable again. Miller also credits Powell for inspiring her own dancing career, which would lead her to become an MGM musical star a decade later.

Please click on the links above to see all the Eleanor Powell information located here on CMF.

Eleanor Powell married stardom when she wed the also famous Glenn Ford. Together they had one son named, Peter.

Eleanor Powell, Peter Ford and Glenn Ford

Eleanor Powell, Peter Ford (as a child) and Glenn Ford.

I have known Peter Ford for over ten years now as I have designed and now manage his site “GlennFordBio.com.” I also update his personal site and he has sanctioned my efforts for his mother. Peter recently published a biography about his father called, “Glenn Ford: A Life” and while the book is about Glenn Ford, there is also much in it about his mother. I strongly recommend it.

Read our EXCLUSIVE five part interview with Eleanor Powell’s son, Peter Ford by clicking on the image below:

PETERFORDINTERVIEW600_B

Eleanor Powell was our Favorite of the Month for March 2015. See all the posts we made about him during the month by clicking on the banner below:

March 2015 Favorite of the Month
Eleanor Powell

favoriteofthemonthpowell600-2

53 Comments

  1. Ms Powell was truly one of the most beautiful HoIIywood stars in the 30’s & 40’s. She is probably the best tap dancer ever…even better than
    Fred Astaire. Her skiIIs are so unique and creative that one can hardly believe her how creative her talent is when you see her movies! She also
    showed her traditional upbringing– when she married Glenn Ford, she quit the business to become a wife and mother. Glenn Ford may have not been the best of husbands, which is so sad for her. I am one of her biggest fans!
    There are too many adjectives to describe her great taIent — IoyaI, , loving, amazing, unique, fabulous, etc. etc., etc.
    America was blessed by a woman of her taIent, and character.

    1. PeppersMom – thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to reply. We are glad that there are fans still out there who remember her contribution.

      1. I am coming belatedly to know about Eleanor Powell, and am thrilled with the discovery. Her dancing is magnificent, every bit as good as Astaire. Poetry in motion.

      2. I suppose that I am losing it because the greatest ever seen dance was on a movie on cable that I swore to myself that I would recommend to anyone. Miss Powell was dancing and jumping from floor to table at heights that put the Apollo moonwalkers to shame. Just think what she could have done with one sixth of her weight there….. maybe ten feet high?
        Just an admirable woman in all respects. The ultimate combination of grace and beauty.

        1. What? You have already lost it! The Nicalous BROTHERS DEFIDE THE LAWS OF GRAVITY! YOU
          Need to look at The MOVIE STORMY WEATHER! TAP DANCING
          IS DIFFERENT FROM
          BREAK DANCING! Shows
          YOUR Ignorance.YOU Are
          A bunch of JEALOUS THIEVES, COPY CATS
          Who look like IDIOTS
          GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY WE WILL
          OUT SHINE YOU FROM
          DANCING TO SENDING A
          MAN TO THE MOON
          CHECK OUT “HIDDEN
          FIGURES ” YOUR FORTE IS
          VIOLENCE AND MURDER.

          1. I recommend reading the book AND seeing the movie of Hidden Figures. The movie telescopes the actions and has a few things that I would say are technically inaccurate but “spiritually” correct as a picture of the times, and is very powerful.

      1. “No one like her men or women in history she flew like a white dove on her dances besides the tap dancing the more I see her movies the more I fall in love and the more I want to see her dance simply The Very Best of the Best ever AMÉN”

  2. I just finished watching a clip of Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire dancing to the music of Begin the Beguine on You Tube. I couldn’t believe how great a dancer she was! I believe she was better than Astaire. And as I read about her life I learn that she was also a fine person and mother. … Norm

  3. Just watched Eleanor Powell in Lady be Good.
    What an amazingly talented, beautiful and vivacious lady.
    Great to see her commemorated on this site.

  4. I just saw Rosalie from 1937. I adore Eleanor Powell’s dancing! I re-watched the film several times to see her leading the West Point marching band. Incredible!! It is wonderful to see that so many others feel the same way I do.

  5. My favorite film is rosalie, but she was splendid in all of them. She was beautiful, a breathtaking dancer and a very good actress. I treasure her films immensely.

  6. Just saw “Born to Dance…” (1936). There is an actor in it who looks like Buddy Ebson, only much younger than on the “Beverly Hillbillies.” I was stunned by Eleanor Powell, she is simply incredible. Of course, as a kid in Hollywood (in the 1950s) I heard her name but never saw her in a picture. Jimmy Stewart was his usual self, giving an outstanding performance. Some of the other performers seem famillar. This picture is also quite interesting because of the ambiance, the world of the 30s rich is certainly amazing!

    1. Hi Tim, thanks for replying. Yes, that’s Buddy Ebson. He was a well known dancer before he was Jed Clampet, LOL!. We hope you’ll visit again!

  7. My mother, Lee Bailey, was Eleanor’s great friend and stand-in for many of the films she did. Mom had lost contact with Eleanor, but remained friends with her brother Cliff for many years. Lee passed away at 93 in 2001. My brother and I have some great stuff she saved from her years as a dancer.

  8. A beautifully talented, artistic, and intelligent woman whom I’m just heard of for the first time, ever, after watching Broadway Melody of 1940 this evening, December 20, 2015 on Turner Classic Movies – TCM. Wonderful performances.

  9. I just saw Broadway melody of 1940 last night and Eleanor Powell blew me away! I knew I had heard her name before, but I had no idea who she really was, and what an amazing dancer she was! I knew I had to look up her bio and find out what I could. After reading about her I’m even more impressed! Fred Astaire, Who? Sort of kidding, but I thought she was a better dancer by far, and she had a wonderful screen presence! I’m looking forward to more of her movies!

    1. Donna, thanks for commenting and for visiting the site. We featured Eleanor Powell with a whole month of posts about her films and life and I’ve interviewed her son, Peter Ford, so there’s lots to see here. We’re so glad that there are people out there that can see what a fabulous dancer she really was! See all the posts in her “Favorite of the Month” period here: https://www.classicmoviefavorites.com/category/classic-movie-favorites-original/favorite-of-the-month-march-2015/ and the exclusive interview with Peter Ford is here: https://www.classicmoviefavorites.com/exclusive-interview-with-peter-ford-son-of-eleanor-powell/. Thanks again, we hope you’ll visit our site often!

  10. Not only talented, but beautiful too. I have just watched three movies back to back starring Eleanor Powell. I had only previously seen snippets of her dancing and had never seen a full film My goodness, but that girl could dance. She leaves all other tap dancers in the dust. Her dancing routines were not only amazing, a lot of it was really physically outstanding and demanding. She must have worked hard to do what she did. I am so thankful the movies have been preserved for us to see because I considered my viewing a great treat.

  11. I just purchased Eleanor Powell’s Set of four best films from TCM! What an amazing dancer, a beautiful smile and personality! I plan to visit her grave site at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the near future!

    1. Bruce, she was certainly one of the best dancers in Hollywood; we think she is the “Queen of Tap!” Thanks so much for seeking us out and for visiting Classic Movie Favorites; there’s lots more to see here!

  12. She comes onscreen and I don’t even have to see her face. That style is unmistakeable! She is, in this woman’s opinion, the finest female dancer to appear onscreen EVER.

  13. I agree,she was the most stunning perfomer and so gifted and talented.I watch on a regular basis her film clips on YouTube,I never fail to be mesmerised,I particularly enjoy where she dances the Boogie woogie,incredible!! Some so called stars and celebrities of today leave a lot to be desired,but back in Hollywood’s heyday they certainly did shine! Mike.(Ireland)

  14. Eleanor’s dancing blew me away; she’s absolutely the greatest tap dancer EVER. I came to this site to learn more about her, and she seemed like such a sweet, wonderful person. I love her so much. She’s inspired me to start taking tap lessons!! I’m 26 so I’ll never be near her talent of course, but it’s so much fun. I’m so glad people are still watching Eleanor’s movies and remembering this amazing woman.

  15. She had it all. Talent, beauty, physical stamina for such a demanding art, but it appears real character and integrity on top of it. I can’t believe she has to be “rediscovered”, as her impact on film should have never been forgotten. I love Ginger, but I think Eleanor’s face should be there right beside Ginger’s in the dancers’ pantheon.

  16. I love her too, so much! I think Fred Astaire gave her the greatest compliment when he said, “She put down iron like a man, no ricky ticky sissy stuff with Ellie!” I love that whole generation of Hollywood Gods and Goddesses! And he was right. She transcended gender, generation, race- she was just human, a divinely gifted, deep hearted human being.

  17. Why doesn’t anyone mention 7 Brides For Seven Brothers? Great family entertainment. She was great! But she was great in everything!

    1. That’s because Eleanor Powell wasn’t in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. You’re thinking of Jane Powell. Eleanor Powell was one of the greatest tap dancers ever. Jane Powell was one of the greatest sopranos ever who could dance pretty well.

    2. Eleanor Powell had long been retired from films by the time Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was released in 1954. Eleanor starred in her last film in 1945. The only subsequent film appearance she made was a cameo in an Esther Williams film released in 1950.

  18. I just finished watching Broadway Melody of 1938 on TCM. I had never seen Eleanor Powell’s work before. Breathtakingly beautiful and so unbelievably talented. Wanted to read more about her and ran across your website. She was something special!

  19. Interesting that so many people feel moved to look up a bio of Eleanor Powell after watching one of her movies. I was familiar with the name, but when I caught a glimpse of Fred Astaire in Broadway Melody, on TCM, I knew I had to watch. At first, my eyes were on Fred, but eventually I began to pay more attention to Eleanor. She completely mesmerized me. What amazing, unbelievable talent. Truly a once in a lifetime takent. So glad there are other people who are just discovering, or continuing their love for her enormous talent!

  20. How could I have lived 62 years on this earth and not have known about this amazing woman until late this year? I am in love! Such talent, and so unjaded and unspoiled by the demons of Hollywood. To see that level of talent makes me realize just how past finding out God is… talent like that is God given. I know she worked incredibly hard, but so do many others, yet not nearly to that stunning effect. Once in a millennium, maybe once in forever. I am blessed…..

  21. I am amazed by the talent of Eleanor Powell, and think she was under rated. She made dancing look so effortless. Her ability inspires. We have all experienced it…that one performance that just made you want to do it too. Playing the piano, a song, a painting, an instrument. You may never have really considered it before but after seeing someone else do it, you were inspired. This is how I feel about Eleanor Powell’s dancing. I never wanted to be a dancer or tap dancer but if I were, I would only want to be as perfect as Eleanor Powell or forget it! That how I feel when I watch her dancing. How lucky to have been her son, Peter. I could only imagine what it would be like to have your mom “the greatest tap dancer in the world” beyond cool…just epic!

  22. Hi. I’m composing this comment with tears in my eyes after reading all of the earlier comments which include almost all of my feelings about this wonderful person. A particular comment which resonates with me came from Rachel [Apr 1/16], where she relates how Eleanor has inspired her to take up dancing even tho she realizes that
    ‘I’ll never be near her talent of course, but it’s so much fun’.
    I’m having the same experience with another idol of mine – the singer Lead Belly [Huddie Ledbetter], whose 12-string guitar licks I’m trying to learn.
    Anyhow, there’s only one item I’d like to mention about Eleanor that has not already been covered – the ‘Lasso Dance’ or ‘Lariat Dance’ from the 1943 movie ‘I Dood It’. I have never seen an exhibition of musical talent and pure athletic ability to compare with what she displayed in that dance!!

  23. Just watched Eleanor Powell with Henry Fonda on Teddy Turner’s channel. My God ! What had I missed for over 75 years ! Natural beauty, warmth, energy and the most exceptional talent. Also, enduring is to know she evolved into a good marriage and with a continued offspring. Bring her Back !

  24. Holy Schlamoly, Miss Powell….those eyes, that smile, those legs and that incredible talent….I could watch her dance all night and I often do. She was a beautiful person and a great lady!!! Thanks for the nice article.

  25. Am 61 years old and had am not sure I heard of Eleanor Powell. I recently stumbled upon her and Fred Astaire dancing in Begin the Beguine. Am absolutely smitten! Before reading up on her career I knew she had no equal. Am now looking forward to watching her musicals. Have wasted too much time on rock and pop while overlooking some of the greatest music and talent from earlier periods.

    1. Thanks for your comment Andrew. You might want to read my interview with her son Peter Ford if you want to know more about her. The link is in the article above.

  26. Eleanor Powell is one of the three greatest tappers ever, along with Bill Robinson and Gene Kelly. While Robinson elevated tap from the Ruby Keeler style of stomping to something precise, clean, and sharp, it was Eleanor Powell who combined her ballet training with tap to create something magical. In Broadway Melody of 1940, she was paired with George Murphy and Fred Astaire. Murphy was a good dancer, but Astaire, of course, was considered a greater dancer. But in that movie, Astaire looked like a gangly kid compared to the elegant Ms. Powell. Astaire knew it, too. Decades later, choreographer Hermes Pan let it slip that while Powell would have liked to have starred with Astaire again, Astaire was dead set against it. He KNEW she outshown him in BMO1940. I can only imagine the magic she could have created with (I think) the only male tapper who could really equal her, Gene Kelly.

  27. I have seen all of Eleanor’s movies and she is just great.. I want to second the comments of Norm on 6/2/15. Eleanor was the best ever. When you watch Eleanor and Fred in Begin the Beguine, you can see she is not equal to Fred, she is better.

  28. Just saw “Born to Dance” (1936) today on TCM channel. Eleanor Powell was beautiful, elegant and her dancing was enchanting!!!! She was a remarkable lady!!!

  29. Having read both Peter’s and his father’s books recently, I am anxious to know if he is working on a book about his wonderful mother. I have fond memories of her when we purchased the Cove Way house from her in the late 60s. I would love to be able to contact Peter.

  30. “Eleanor Powell was one of the very greatest, period, bar none,” said Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers dance team, who understood greatness. “Not one of the greatest woman—one of the greatest, period.” Dynamic and versatile, Powell danced with a melodist’s sensitivity to the essential musicality of tap. “She was a musician,” Nicholas said, using the word tap dancers tend to reserve for their highest praise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *