1930s Movie Star Eleanor Powell Danced ‘For The Lord’

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1930s Movie Star Eleanor Powell Danced ‘For The Lord’

By Movieguide® Contributor

A new book shares how 1930s movie star Eleanor Powell relied on faith to see her through life’s struggles. 

“She believed in God from a very early age,” Lisa Royère, who co-authored “Eleanor Powell: Born to Dance,” explained. “She told me that whenever she would dance, whether it was in Broadway or Hollywood, she would dance for the Lord. She would imagine that she was dancing for him. And that was the attitude that she had all through those years.”

Powell, “regarded as the best female tap dancer in the country,” per the New York Times, starred in movies like BROADWAY MELODY, BORN TO DANCE and LADY BE GOOD.

Royère also shared that Powell served as a Sunday school teacher at the First Presbyterian Church of Beverly Hills “for many, many years.”

“She became the first person to produce a children’s TV show (FAITH OF OUR CHILDREN) in Los Angeles. She won five Emmys for it… [The studio] wanted it to go national, but they had some demands, and she did not concede,” she continued. “She was also sticking up for racial inclusion. It’s probably one of the first TV shows to show a racially mixed group of children in a classroom. Some of the higher-ups didn’t like that, and she was reprimanded for it…The following week she came back with all Black children in her class.”

Powell eventually stepped back from the spotlight, spending her time at church. 

“Faith always stayed with Eleanor,” Royère said. “She developed cancer…and when you get cancer, you can do one of two things. You can either turn away from your faith, or you can reach out to God and ask for help. She did the latter. She said, ‘I trust the Lord. I know he’s holding my hand through this. I know he’s got me. Whatever happens, I trust him.’ That’s how she ended her life, clinging onto her belief in God and being comforted by it.”

A review of Royère’s book, written with Paula Broussard, commends the authors for shining a light on an often-forgotten Hollywood star. 

“Powell’s biographers write about a woman who befriended them, and they tell well a remarkable story not only of a great dancer but a wonderful mother, sustained by her own redoubtable mother, and a member of various religious communities, renowned for her generosity and charitable enterprises,” the New York Sun wrote.