Column: Remembering Wilton’s Jane Powell. She made us want to sing. 

When Wilton’s Jane Powell died Sept. 16, at age 92, a chapter in movie musical history passed.

Always fresh, forever vibrant, Powell was the last of the grand MGM stars who sang and danced into our hearts in the 1950s. A pitch-perfect vocalist, with a natural screen presence, she will be remembered as one of the most joyous personalities to grace the screen. And, because the Hollywood archives are so easy to access today, we can savor her work any time.

Here are five of her best.

Actress Jane Powell at the Lunch Box in Weston.
Actress Jane Powell at the Lunch Box in Weston.Christopher Setter / For Hearst Connecticut Media

A Date with Judy (1948) 

As a teen star at MGM, Powell only needed a few minutes of screen time in this affectionate film to solidify her future as a screen presence. While this milk-shake musical was designed to spotlight Elizabeth Taylor, Powell steals the show with her beautiful voice and engaging presence. And, when she sings, “It’s a Most Unusual Day,” she lets us know she will lead a special movie career.

Royal Wedding (1951)

In a role first intended for June Allyson, and then scheduled for Judy Garland, Powell shines as a performer traveling to London to entertain during the wedding of Princess Elizabeth. Playing opposite Fred Astaire, Powell more than holds her own, never letting her limited screen experience define her impact. And their duet – “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life” – showcases Powell’s precise comic timing.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) 

Even if Powell had only made this classic musical, she still would have a permanent place in film history. The actress creates the foundation for this exuberant tale of brothers in the Northwest who go to town one day and come home with ladies they intend to marry. While the film’s sensibilities are dated, the numbers – staged by the wondrous Michael Kidd – light the screen with robust energy. And her interpretation of “When You’re in Love” is simply perfect.

Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Powell in a scene from the movie, “A Date with Judy,” MGM, 1948.
Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Powell in a scene from the movie, “A Date with Judy,” MGM, 1948.George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images

Athena (1954)

Today’s health enthusiasts might feel at home in this unusual but endearing musical about vegetarians. Rather than be confused by the offbeat material, Powell shows the range of her performing talents by grounding the exaggerated story in a sense of calm. And her voice, always crystal clear, perfectly pitched, effectively radiates the hope of a woman who wants true love, no matter what may be served for dinner.

Hit the Deck (1955)

As audience tastes began to change in the mid-1950s, MGM offered another big show with a military theme. In the spirit of the classic “On the Town,” this extravagant tuner still entertains with rich characters, amusing situations and, thanks to Powell and Debbie Reynolds’ delightful songs. The stars radiate as women celebrating the joys of time with men in uniform. And they deliver some fabulous dance routines staged by the great Hermes Pan.

In the 1970s, Powell replaced Debbie Reynolds on Broadway in the song-and-dance revival “Irene,” a role she also played on tour throughout the US. On stage, years after her first moments on screen, the Powell impact effortlessly filled theaters as she let us know, one more time, that musical magic is timeless.

Rest in peace, Jane Powell. And thank you.

Mark Schumann is a film enthusiast and columnist.