Love That Jane Powell!
No doubt about it, Jane Powell is firmly set in the affections of the movie-going public—and they feel that her new maturity can only enhance her appeal as a star and as an actress.
Your answers to the Powell Poll in photoplay were in the amazing ratio of nineteen to one in Jane’s favor. Of the 9,788 tallies, some 9,367 were an emphatic no to the question, “Will maturity end Jane’s appeal?” Many of you accompanied your ballots with letters saying that although Jane’s progress to mature roles has been sudden, it has nevertheless been graceful and easy, a natural follow-up to her young adolescent roles.
Actually Jane continued her adolescent roles under protest long after her own effervescent girlhood had been left behind. And now at long last her roles are catching up with her. Her first young adult role was in “Royal Wedding,” and in the new “Three Sailors and a Girl,” she wears lovely, glamorous clothes, and her own carefully styled hairdo, boyishly short in the back and softly curled around the face.
“In a way,” Jane explains, “it seems as if I grew up overnight. There was nothing conscious about it. It was just that I fixed my hair differently—I had it cut short, styled it myself—and I found I liked suits, and dresses with more style. It all came about naturally!”
Hollywood is a place where you can’t stand still, you have to go forward or be dropped and forgotten, and no one knows this better than Jane. Still on the threshold of her adult career, she is alert and eager for each new opportunity, and smart enough to be prepared. Through her husband, Geary Steffen, she has found the inner security she needs, and in motherhood, the full flowering of her love. The pattern of her life is rich in youthful achievement, richer in mature promise. There can be no doubt that maturity has brought new beauty, and a new and glamorous appeal to the youngster with the lyric voice!
“My life may look to an outsider a little like a three-ring circus, but it isn’t really! A little confusing at times, perhaps—but not too difficult.
“It helps,” she says, “to have such an understanding husband. In fact, I don’t think it would be possible if the husband weren’t understanding. But I’m lucky—mine is!
“I can’t imagine myself being happy without my career—I’ve worked too hard, too long, it has been too big a part of my life! It may be pretty much of a merry-go-round, and there are times when you’d like to stay home, just relax and enjoy being the lady of the house. But after awhile, you begin to miss the work, you find you have too much time, and you are not accomplishing anything. Life seems to be at a standstill, and you can’t wait to be busy again!”
Outwardly, success seems to have come easily to Jane. But remember, this is a girl who has worked since she was a child. Ever since her first Hollywood break, when she was thirteen, her life has been dominated by hard work, to the exclusion of play, of the casual fun that is such a large part of the lives of most girls. And out of her early experiences, she has derived her philosophy. “I try to take things as they come,” she explains. “I know that time heals everything, takes care of all your problems. What is to be will be, and all you can do is accept it, and be ready for what comes.”
That means being on your toes, ready for each new challenge, each new break. In the past ten years, Jane has had little time off, except to have her babies. When you add to her screen work her tours, the radio and benefit performances, and more recently the night-club appearances, you I wonder where this tiny person finds the sheer physical stamina to keep up with it all!
But even this isn’t all, for in addition, there is her marriage, and the start of a family, in the small persons of Geary Anthony Steffen, III, and tiny Suzanne Ilene, better known as Sissy. Jay and Sissy were born exactly sixteen months apart, to the day.
Actually, having her babies did not interrupt Jane’s career for long. Eleven weeks after Jay’s birth, she was off on a tour. Five weeks after Sissy’s arrival she was at work again, on loan-out at Warners for “Three Sailors and a Girl,” with Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson. For one thing, she is careful not to gain too much weight, watches her diet, and exercises faithfully morning and night. Today, she weighs only ninety-six pounds, less than she has for some time, but she looks wonderful, feels fine, and hopes to stay that weight.
Lacking brothers and sisters of her own, Jane has always insisted that she wants a large family. Now that she has two babies, she says emphatically, “We want four more!”
But undeniably, the years, and the babies, have brought changes—changes however, that Jane feels have come about as naturally as has her own growing-up process. Just as a year or so ago, she found she had outgrown the long hair, the pleated skirts and Peter Pan collars of her teens, she accepts the need for a larger house for her growing family.
With quite typical Steffen prudence, Geary and Jane did not look for a larger place when they first knew there was to be another addition to the family. “If it should be a boy,” Jane murmured, “we won’t need to move—the two boys can certainly share a room.”
But with the arrival of Sissy, they got busy. Dreaming of a house was all right, but you couldn’t ask the stalwart young Jay to share his room with a sister, could you? The answer to their needs was a lovely colonial house in Westwood, with four bedrooms and plenty of yard space for the youngsters. They found it and bought it all in one day.
The larger house will entail changes, too: more furniture, more help. But Jane says simply, “We don’t have enough furniture, so part of the house will be shut off for awhile. Later, we’ll have to find a maid, to help Gladys.”
The indispensable Gladys has had a great share in smoothing out the path for her employers. What they would have done without her, Jane just can’t imagine.
“When we can afford it” prefaces all Jane’s plans for the house. Some day they will put in a pool, but first, they will have to redecorate, a room at a time, and gradually acquire more furniture.
I nevitably, in the Steffens’ three years of marriage, there have been difficulties, adjustments. “It is not career trouble,” Jane hastens to explain, “but just a matter of two people learning to live together.”
There have been some rough spots in their marriage. After all, no marriage is perfect. But no matter what—whether their disagreements have been trivial or serious—Geary and Jane have always talked them out. They’ve learned to compromise.
The hardest compromise of all came several months ago, when there was even talk about their separating. But they both knew, then as always, that their marriage is too important to let anything happen to it.
On Geary’s insistence, a careful fifty-fifty arrangement has been worked out financially, but in other matters, when arguments arise, Jane insists a sixty-forty arrangement is necessary, on both sides!
“You have to work at marriage,” Jane believes, “but if your marriage is the most important thing in your life, then you’re more than willing to make sacrifices, to give everything you’ve got to it. It isn’t a matter of trying to change each other, but to adapt to each other! Geary likes music a little less than I do. I care less for sports. I am nervous and high strung. He is very easy-going. I like to have everything in its proper place, am a do-it-now sort of person, and Geary is inclined to leave things around—his socks, his neckties, a messed-up newspaper. The important thing is understanding.
“Jealousy? Yes—I’m jealous! I’m jealous of his tennis if you want to call it jealousy! I’m going to take lessons—when I have time—but I don’t expect ever to be as good as Geary.”
Early in her marriage, Jane insisted that she and Geary liked all the same things, did everything together. As far as possible, she has made that come true. For a girl who had no time to learn sports, it has taken some doing to keep up with Geary, who was not only a professional skater, but an all-round athlete. Jane has learned to skate, to ski, to water-ski “Not too well,” she interrupts. “I couldn’t do any of those things while awaiting the babies, so I haven’t had much time!”
She is frank about not caring too much for ice shows, but knowing that Geary never tires of them, happily drives a hundred miles to see one with him. He has a lot of friends among the skaters, for one thing. On the other hand, Geary deftnitely does not care for the theatre, though he will go without too much protest. They both like movies, and badminton; both like to dance, but seldom appear at night clubs, unless they are entertaining friends.
Their friends are mostly non-professional, except for Elizabeth Taylor—Liz and Jane have been close friends since school days on the Metro lot—and husband Mike Wilding, the Marshall Thompsons, and a few others. The Thompson daughter plays with Jay frequently, and Liz and Jane fully expect Sissy and young Mike Wilding to be close pals.
Jane has no hobbies, but has a notable collection of records, both classical and popular, and she knits occasionally. Her present project is a pair of sox for Geary.
Of the two, Jane considers herself the more frugal. Geary joyously produced diamond earrings when Jay was born, and when Sissy arrived, happily presented Jane with gold earrings and a ring to match which he had had made for the occasion. This was in spite of the fact that Jane had insisted that he should not give her anything!
Jane’s eyes twinkle as she tells about it. Geary’s generosity is only one of his many endearing qualities, even when that generosity sometimes creates problems, as when he has to take a taxi because he has loaned his car to someone he felt needed it more at the time than he did.
Nowadays, you see Geary around town wearing the air of a successful young business man, and wearing it with the warmth and charm that are his special attributes. As an insurance salesman, he is doing very well. He takes his work seriously and works hard.
By taking no vacations and developing opportunities in distant places, he manages to accompany his wife on her tours, for at least part of the time. He doesn’t feel he can afford to be idle, but by arranging business in Florida, he was able to join Jane there when she appeared in Miami, and they had a few days of relaxation and water sports. He can be a lot of help to Janie on the tours, and besides, these two do not take separations casually. Last year, Jay accompanied his mother, too, but now that he is toddling about, she realizes it would be too difficult, and besides, she has decided it is better for both youngsters to remain at home, where their normal routine can go on undisturbed.
This isn’t easy to take, for Jane spends as much time as possible with her babies. She always puts them to bed at night, and weekends, Jay goes out to dinner with his proud parents. Jay even accompanies his mommie to her singing lessons, and tries to sing along with her! Last summer, while Gladys was away on a well-earned vacation, Jane kept house for sixteen weeks, doing all the cleaning, washing, cooking and baby care, and loved every minute of it. She particularly likes fancy cooking—there is no thrill to preparing just ordinary fare! Geary, too, can be a handy man around the house, if he wants to be. Mostly, though, he feels that is woman’s sphere, and wants no part of it.
Geary and Jane do not believe studying books of psychology is necessary in raising children; the important ingredients are love and common sense. They believe it is most important to make the children mind. “Who,” asks Jane, “likes little brats?”
They have no definite plans for the children. “How can we tell what they will like, or want to be?” Jane comments. Naturally, Geary hopes his sons will be athletic, but neither would ever try to force a child to be anything he was not.
Jane balances her divided life with twin careers of night club singing and movies (this includes tours, radio spots and benefits) against the satisfying but ever-increasing responsibilities of home and family. “More children can’t make it any more difficult than it is now,” she says, and laughs merrily. And when you ask her how she manages this three-ringed circus, her eyes widen, she creases her forehead thoughtfully. “I’ve always been busy—I have to be busy! And I’ve been so lucky.”
In other words, Jane puts first things first, and in that lies her strength. Three careers or one, it all adds up to a well-adjusted young woman who has matured graciously—off-screen and on!
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1953