|Eleanor Powell and sailors in Born To Dance (1936)|
When I was younger, I wanted to be Eleanor Powell.
You know what I used to do? I would tap my feet along with hers whenever I'd watch one of her films. It certainly helped matters that I was a trained dancer! But despite my nimbleness I was never able to master her famous back bends. Alas, I was still content with being able to follow along with her frantic taps.
I would come home from school practically every day and pop in one of her MGM musical movies: Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, Broadway Melody of 1940 (my personal favourite), Rosalie, or Honolulu. If I was lucky, I'd have enough time to watch two of them back to back. There was something about her films that made me so darn happy and carefree - I'm fairly certain it was her smile. That smile stretched from ear to ear and her eyes lit up like a thousand stars in the night sky. Wow, that was poetic!
All kidding aside, I actually thought that because I was able to keep up with her taps, I must have been her in a previous life. It didn't occur to me that these were just the fanciful thoughts of a pre-teen discovering a new idol ... no, this was serious business. Before setting out on my long walk home from high school, I used to quickly pop into the library next door and borrow anything I could find regarding Eleanor Powell. I ordered countless books from other libraries too and would pour over them once they came in, searching for facts and pictures of my favourite Hollywood dancer.
I look back now and think how crazed I must have seemed, but at the time, my behaviour was warranted. I had found someone I could identify with, more so than the more glamorous stars I was used to watching onscreen (Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland). To me, Eleanor Powell seemed more genuine, more neighbourly, more REAL than the other female stars I was obsessed with. She seemed like the type of person who would go on a picnic with you and not be scared of staining the bottom of her dress on the grass.
Have you ever become fascinated with a classic film star you felt was instantly relatable? Someone you idolized in your youth that you shared what seemed like a deep connection with? Tell me about it in the comment section below!