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Private Screenings: Jane Powell

Private Screenings: Jane Powell(1995)

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teaser Private Screenings: Jane Powell (1995)

In the first interview in the Private Screenings series, Jane Powell sits down with TCM host Robert Osborne to discuss her life and career. Powell comes across as genuine and down-to-earth in the interview a grown up version of the girl-next-door she always played on film. Her stories are candid and refreshing despite claims that she doesn't look to the past or watch her old movies. Powell also provides insight into those she worked with such as Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lawford and Louis B. Mayer. Private Screenings: Jane Powell (1995) also features clips from many of Powell's 19 films.

Powell and Osborne begin with a brief discussion of her unusual entry into Hollywood. Born Suzanne Burce in Portland Oregon, Powell won a spot on Stars Over Hollywood, a talent show hosted by Janet Gaynor, at age 12. The appearance led to a contract with MGM and a movie role in Song of the Open Road (1944); a loan-out to United Artists for her film debut. Without so much as a screen test or an acting lesson, Powell was suddenly in the movies. In Private Screenings she tells the story of how her screen name was chosen. It turns out the character in Song of the Open Road was named Jane Powell and one day the studio called her and asked to speak to Jane Powell. She politely replied they had the wrong number. No, the caller informed her, that's your new name. And so the choice was made and Jane Powell played Jane Powell in Song of the Open Road.

Her first picture for MGM was Holiday in Mexico (1946). Powell speaks candidly with Robert Osborne about life at MGM. She says she never felt at home there and the studio never let her know what a huge box office draw she was. Because of this, Powell claims she was always surprised when people recognized her. She tells Osborne an amusing story about getting recognized by a big star. One day someone came up to her in the MGM commissary, winked and said, "Hey Janie girl" it was Clark Gable. Not bad for a girl who expects no one to know her! Powell reminisces fondly about Sunday afternoons at Roddy McDowall's house, where many of the younger set from the studio would gather for a "family dinner." She also talks about the MGM schoolroom, where she was the only student in her grade.

Private Screenings: Jane Powell features a nice supply of film clips, including Powell's MGM debut in Holiday in Mexico. There's also a clip of Powell with Jeanette MacDonald in Three Daring Daughters (1948) and scenes from the musical-comedy Luxury Liner (1948). Powell is also featured singing "It's a Most Unusual Day" in footage from the 1948 film A Date with Judy. A clip from Royal Wedding (1951) shows off Powell's dancing ability. She proudly recalls learning all the dances in just three weeks. Scenes from Powell's favorite of her films, Two Weeks with Love (1950), is also included; Powell enjoyed the film's dream sequence and because it was her first period piece. And of course, there's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), which wasn't expected to be a hit by MGM.

Powell believes she always played herself on screen. But there's one role she always wanted to play - a femme fatale. Despite feeling the outsider in her younger days, Powell says she feels more a part of the Hollywood community now. Though, she admits, today she might've gone to cooking school instead.

Producer: Maureen Corley, Charlie Coates
Director: Tony Barbon
Film Editing: Darla Gore
Art Direction: Shannon Davis-Forsyth
Cast: Jane Powell, Robert Osborne.
C-45m. Closed captioning.

by Stephanie Thames

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