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Tyrone Power


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May 5th, 1914-November 15th, 1958

Early life

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1914, the only son of the English-born American stage and screen actor Tyrone Power, Sr., and Helen Emma "Patia" Reaume, Power was descended from a long theatrical line going back to his great-grandfather, the Irish-born actor and comedian Tyrone Power (1795-1841). He had French blood from both his parents, being descended from Catholic French Canadians through his mother's Reaume family, and from Protestant Huguenots through his paternal grandmother's Lavenu and Blossett ancestors. Through his paternal great grandmother, Anne Gilbert, Power was related to the actor Lord Laurence Olivier; through his paternal grandmother, Ethel Lavenu, he was related by marriage to author Evelyn Waugh and through his father's first cousin, Norah Emily Gorman Power, he was related to the theatrical director Sir (William) Tyrone Guthrie, founder of the Stratford Theatre in Canada and the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

During the first year of Power's life, he lived in Cincinnati. His father was absent for long periods due to his stage commitments in New York. Young Power was a sickly child, and his doctor advised his family that the climate in California might be better for his health. The family moved there in 1915, and Power's sister Anne was born there on August 26, 1915. The parents appeared together on stage and, in 1917, their movie, The Planter, was released. Tyrone Power, Sr., as he later became known, found himself away from home more frequently, as his stage career took him to New York. The Powers drifted apart, and they divorced around 1920.

After the divorce, Patia Power worked as a stage actress. In 1921, at the age of 7, young Tyrone appeared with his mother in the mission play, La Golondrina, at San Gabriel, California. A couple of years later the family moved back to Cincinnati, where they lived with the family of Patia's aunt, Helen Schuster Martin, founder of the Schuster-Martin School of Drama. Power's mother supported her family as a drama and voice coach at the Schuster-Martin School. For several years she coached her son in voice and dramatics during her spare time. Power grew up in the Martin household with his two cousins, Roberta and William [bill], his mother's aunt Helen and her husband, William Martin's children. Power went to Cincinnati-area Catholic schools and graduated from Purcell High School in 1931. Upon his graduation, he opted to join his father to learn what he could about acting from one of the stage's most respected actors.


Tyrone Power joined his father for the summer of 1931, after being separated from him for some years due to his parents' divorce. His father suffered a heart attack in December 1931, dying in his son's arms, while preparing to perform in The Miracle Man. Tyrone Power, Jr., as he was then known, decided to continue his pursuit of an acting career. He went door to door, trying to get work as an actor, and, while many contacts knew his father well, they offered praise for his father but no work for him. He appeared in a bit part in 1932 in Tom Brown of Culver, a movie starring actor Tom Brown. Power's experience in that movie didn’t open any other doors, however, and, except for what amounted to little more than a job as an extra in Flirtation Walk, he found himself frozen out of the movies but making some appearances in community theater. Discouraged, he took the advice of friend, Arthur Caesar, to go to New York to get experience as a stage actor.

Along the way, he stopped in Chicago, where his friend, Don Ameche, a radio personality, convinced him to stay awhile to work in radio. He wasn’t able to get a foothold in radio, however, and he eventually went on to New York. There, he met Katharine Cornell, the great stage actress, who cast him as an understudy for Burgess Meredith, for the play, Flowers of the Forest. A better stage break came, though, when Cornell put him in the role of Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet. During this time, Hollywood scouts saw him and offered him a screen test. Katharine Cornell advised against going to Hollywood, without a little more stage experience, and Tyrone Power took her advice. Cornell gave him a substantial role in her next stage play, St. Joan. Once again, Hollywood scouts saw him and offered him a screen test. Cornell told him that he was ready.

Tyrone Power went to Hollywood in 1936, where he was signed by 20th Century-Fox. He would be their top leading man for years to come. He got a false start at 20th Century-Fox, though, when he was assigned to Sing Baby Sing, at the request of Alice Faye, already a star for the studio. The director, Sidney Lanfield, didn’t recognize his potential and removed him from the cast, telling him that he should find another line of work, as he would never become an actor. Faye intervened again on his behalf, and she convinced the studio to give him another chance. He was assigned to a small part in Girls' Dormitory. In this movie, he caught the eye of many fans, among them Hedda Hopper, who stayed for a second showing to find out who the young man was with just a few lines at the end of the movie. Following that, he was cast in a slightly larger part in Ladies in Love, which starred Janet Gaynor, Constance Bennett, and Loretta Young. It looked as though 20th Century-Fox was not going to pick up his option, however, and Tyrone Power then went to the office of director Henry King to ask him to consider him for a role. King was impressed with his looks and poise, and he insisted that Tyrone Power be tested for the lead role in Lloyd's of London, a role thought to already belong to Don Ameche. Despite Darryl F. Zanuck's reservations, he decided to go ahead and give him the lead role in the movie, once Henry King and Fox editor, Barbara McLean, convinced him that Power had a greater screen presence than did Don Ameche. He was fourth billed in the movie, but he had by far the most screen time of any actor. He walked into the premiere of the movie an unknown, and he walked out a star, which he stayed for the remainder of his career.

Tyrone Power racked up hit after hit from 1936 until 1943, when his career was interrupted for military service. In these years, he starred in romantic comedies such as Thin Ice and Day-Time Wife; in dramas such as Suez, Blood and Sand, Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake,The Rains Came, and In Old Chicago; in the musicals, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Second Fiddle, and Rose of Washington Square; in the westerns, Jesse James (1939) and Brigham Young; in the war films, Yank in the R.A.F. and This Above All; and, of course, the swashbucklers, The Mark of Zorro and The Black Swan. Jesse James was a very big hit at the box office, but it did receive some criticism for fictionalizing and glamorizing the famous outlaw. The movie was shot in and around the Pineville, Missouri area and was Power's first location shoot and his first Technicolor movie. Before his career was over, he would have filmed a total of 16 movies in color, including the movie he was filming when he died. He was loaned out once, for MGM for 1938's Marie Antoinette. Darryl F. Zanuck was angry that MGM used Fox's biggest star in what was, despite billing, a supporting role, and he vowed to never again loan him out. Though Power's services were requested for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, Joe Bonaparte in Golden Boy, Paris in King's Row, by Harry Cohn for several films throughout the years, and by Norma Shearer herself for her planned production of The Last Tycoon to play Irving Thalberg, Zanuck stuck by his original decision.

He was named the second biggest box office draw in 1939, only surpassed by Mickey Rooney.

In 1940 the direction of Tyrone Power's career took a dramatic turn when his movie, The Mark of Zorro, was released. Power played the role of Don Diego Vega, fop by day, and Zorro, bandit hero by night. The role had been made famous by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920 movie by the same title. Power's performance was excellent, and 20th Century Fox often cast him in swashbucklers in the years that followed. Power was actually an excellent swordsman, and the dueling scene in The Mark of Zorro is considered one of the finest in screen history. The great Hollywood swordsman, Basil Rathbone, who starred with him in The Mark of Zorro, commented, "Power was the most agile man with a sword I’ve ever faced before a camera. Tyrone could have fenced Errol Flynn into a cocked hat."

Despite being kept busy making movies at 20th Century-Fox, Tyrone Power found time to do radio and stage work. He appeared with his wife, Annabella, in several radio broadcasts, including the plays Blood and Sand, The Rage of Manhattan, and Seventh Heaven. He also appeared with her in the stage play, Liliom, in Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut, in 1941. He worked with other big names, in radio. Among those he starred with were Humphrey Bogart, Jeanne Crain, Loretta Young, Alice Faye, and Al Jolson.

Tyrone Power's career was interrupted in 1943 by military service. He reported to the U.S. Marines for training in late 1942, but he was sent back, at the request of 20th Century-Fox, to complete one more film, 1943's Crash Dive, a patriotic war movie. He was credited in the movie as Tyrone Power, U.S.M.C.R., and the movie served as much as anything as a recruiting film. Anne Baxter would become a leading lady of his, both on the screen and on stage. Other than re-releases of his films, he wasn’t seen on screen again until 1946, when he co-starred with Gene Tierney and Anne Baxter in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel of the same name.

With Maureen O'Hara in the trailer for The Black Swan (1942)Next up for release was a movie that Tyrone Power had to fight hard to make – the film noir, Nightmare Alley. Darryl F. Zanuck was reluctant to allow Power to make the movie; his handsome appearance and charming manner had been a marketable asset to the studio and Zanuck feared that the dark role might hurt Power's image. Zanuck eventually agreed, giving him A-list production values for what normally would be a B film. The movie was directed by Edmund Goulding, and, though the film died at the box office (Zanuck did not publicize it and removed it from release), Power received some of the best reviews of his career. The film was released on DVD in 2005 after years of legal battles, and Power once again received favorable reviews from 21st century critics.

Power's venture into gritty drama was short lived, as he was next seen in a costume movie, Captain from Castile, directed by Henry King, who directed Tyrone Power in eleven movies. After making a couple of light romantic comedies, That Wonderful Urge (with Gene Tierney, his co-star from The Razor's Edge) and The Luck of the Irish (with Anne Baxter), Power found himself once again in swashbucklers – The Black Rose and Prince of Foxes

As the 1950s rolled around, Power was becoming increasingly unhappy with his movie assignments, with such movies as American Guerrilla in the Philippines and Pony Soldier, so in 1950 he traveled to England to play the title role in Mister Roberts to sellout crowds, for twenty-three weeks, at the London Coliseum.

His movies had been very profitable for Fox and, as an enticement to renew his contract, they offered him the lead role in The Robe. He turned it down (the job ultimately went to Richard Burton) and, on 1 November 1952, left on a ten week national tour with John Brown's Body, a three-person dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benét's narrative poem, adapted and directed by Charles Laughton, and featuring Power, Judith Anderson and Raymond Massey; which culminated in a run of 65 shows between February and April 1953 at the New Century Theater on Broadway.

His studio had granted him permission to seek his own roles outside 20th Century-Fox, with the understanding that he would fulfill his fourteen-film commitment to them in between his other projects. In 1953 he made The Mississippi Gambler for Universal Studios, negotiating a deal entitling him to a percentage of the profits, and earned a million dollars from the movie.

The critics had applauded his performances in "John Brown's Body" earlier in the year, a second national tour with the show followed in October 1953, this time for four months, with Raymond Massey and Anne Baxter.

In 1953, actress and producer Katharine Cornell cast Power as her love interest in The Dark is Light Enough (play), a verse drama by British dramatist Christopher Fry. The play was set in the Austria in 1848. Between November, 1954 and April, 1955 he toured in that role in the USA and Canada ending with 12 weeks at the Anta Theater, New York and two weeks at the Colonial Theater, Boston. His performance in Julian Claman's A Quiet Place, staged at the National Theater, Washington, at the end of 1955 was warmly received by the critics.

Untamed, Tyrone Power's last movie made under his contract with 20th Century-Fox, was released in 1955, and same year saw the release of The Long Gray Line, a successful John Ford film for Columbia Pictures.

In 1956, the year Columbia released The Eddy Duchin Story, another great success for the star, he returned to England to play the rake, Dick Dudgeon, in a revival of Shaw's The Devil's Disciple for one week at the Opera House in Manchester and nineteen weeks at the Winter Garden, London.

Power as the accused murderer, in the 1957 adaptation of Agatha Christie's Witness for the ProsecutionHis old boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, persuaded him to play the lead role in The Sun Also Rises (1957), adapted from the Hemingway novel. Released that same year were Abandon Ship and John Ford's Rising of the Moon (narrator only). Tyrone Power's last film role turned out to be one of his most highly regarded, cast against type as the accused murderer, Leonard Vole, in Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution, directed by Billy Wilder. The critic for The National Post, Robert Fulford, commented on the "superb performance" of Power as "the seedy, stop-at-nothing exploiter of women" which was in sharp contrast to his earlier swashbuckling roles and romantic heroes. The movie was well received and a success at the box office.

Power returned to the stage in March, 1958 to play the lead in Arnold Moss's adaptation of Shaw's 1921 play, Back to Methuselah. In September 1958, Tyrone Power went to Madrid and Valdespartera, Spain, to film the epic, Solomon and Sheba, to be directed by King Vidor. He had filmed about 75 per cent of his scenes when he was stricken with a massive heart attack, as he was filming a dueling scene with his frequent co-star and friend, George Sanders. He died en route to the hospital. Yul Brynner was brought in to take over the role of Solomon. The filmmakers used some of the long shots that Tyrone Power had filmed, and an observant fan can see him in some of the scenes, particularly in the middle of the duel.

Tyrone Power's last movie, fittingly, was to be in a familiar role, with sword in hand. He is perhaps best remembered as a swashbuckler, and, indeed, he was one of the finest swordsmen in Hollywood. Director Henry King said, "People always seem to remember Ty with sword in hand, although he once told me he wanted to be a character actor. He actually was quite good – among the best swordsmen in films."

Personal Life

Tyrone Power was one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors when he married French actress, Annabella (born Suzanne Georgette Charpentier) on April 23, 1939. They met on the 20th Century-Fox lot, around the time they starred together in the movie Suez. Annabella was a big star in France when 20th Century-Fox brought her over to America, and she was given the big buildup as the next great French star for Hollywood pictures. When Darryl F. Zanuck, 20th Century-Fox studio boss, realized the seriousness of the romance between her and his top male star, however, he strongly objected, fearing that Power would lose part of his female fan base if he were married. Zanuck offered to give Annabella plum roles in movies to be filmed abroad, in order to get her out of the country and away from one of Hollywood's biggest heartthrobs. When Power and Annabella went against Zanuck's wishes and married, Annabella's career at 20th Century Fox suffered greatly. After the marriage, Zanuck refused to assign her to movies for the studio, in punishment for their disobedience. After her marriage, she had to wait until after Tyrone Power had left the studio for military service to make another movie. This lack of movie work caused the very talented actress to seek stage work in order to help satisfy her desire to act. In an A&E biography, Annabella said that Zanuck "could not stop Tyrone's love for me, or my love for Tyrone." Their marriage, by all accounts at the time, was a happy one for the first couple of years, but it was on rocky ground by the time Tyrone left for the U.S. Marines in 1943.

His extramarital affair with Judy Garland is said to have contributed to the failure of their marriage. However, those close to the couple say that there were also other reasons for the marriage failure. J. Watson Webb, close friend and an editor at 20th Century Fox, maintained, in the A&E Biography, that one of the reasons the marriage fell apart was the inability of Annabella to give him a child. He said that there was no bitterness between the couple. In a March 1947 issue of Photoplay, Power was interviewed and said that he wanted a home and children. Annabella shed some light on the situation in an interview that she did for Movieland magazine in 1948. She said, "Our troubles began because the war started earlier for me, a French-born woman, than it did for Americans." She explained that the war clouds over Europe made her unhappy and irritable and, to get her mind off her troubles, she began accepting stage work, which often took her away from home, for weeks, or in one case, months at a time. "It is always difficult to put one's finger exactly on the place and time where a marriage starts to break up," she said. "But I think it began then. We were terribly sad about it, both of us, but we knew we were drifting apart. I didn’t think then - and I don’t think now - that it was his fault, or mine." The couple tried to make their marriage work when Power returned from military service, but they were unable to do so. Annabella claimed that he had changed too much during the war. They were legally separated in the fall of 1946 and divorced a couple of years later. Despite the divorce, they remained close until his death.

Following his separation from Annabella, Power entered into a love affair with Lana Turner which lasted for a couple of years. In the fall of 1948, however, he went on a good-will trip to Europe and South Africa. On that trip, he saw and fell in love with Linda Christian, in Rome. Upon his return to the U.S., he broke the news to Lana Turner that their romance was over. In her autobiography, Turner said that MGM, her home studio, and 20th Century Fox, Power's studio, conspired to break up their romance. Each studio feared that they would lose their star to the other studio, if they were to marry. Turner claimed that, when Power made his goodwill trip to Europe and South Africa, the story of her dining out with Frank Sinatra, a friend, was leaked to Power, who became very upset with her "dating" another man, in his absence. Turner also claimed that there was just too much coincidence in Linda Christian's being at the same hotel as Tyrone Power, and she implied that Christian had obtained Power's itinerary from 20th Century Fox.

Tyrone Power, by Yousuf KarshPower and Christian were married on January 27, 1949, in the Church of Santa Francesca, with an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 screaming fans outside the church. Christian miscarried three times before finally giving birth to a baby girl, Romina Francesca Power, on October 2, 1951. A second daughter, Taryn Stephanie Power, was born September 13, 1953. Around the time of Taryn's birth, the Power marriage was rocky. In her autobiography, Christian blamed the breakup of her marriage on her husband's extramarital affairs. However, she acknowledged that she had an affair with Edmund Purdom, which created great tension between Christian and her husband. They divorced in 1955.

After his divorce from Christian, Power had a long-lasting love affair with Mai Zetterling, whom he had met on the set of Abandon Ship. At this point in time, however, he vowed that he would never marry again, because he had been twice burned financially from his previous marriages. He also entered into an affair with a British actress, Thelma Ruby.[10] In 1957, however, he met Deborah Ann Montgomery Minardos. They were married on May 7, 1958, and she became pregnant soon after. She accompanied her husband to Madrid in September 1958, for the filming of Solomon and Sheba. She was worried about his health and asked him to slow down, but he pushed ahead with the movie. On November 15, 1958, while filming a strenuous dueling scene for the movie, he had a heart attack and died. He is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. His wife gave birth to his son, Tyrone Power IV, on January 22, 1959.

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A quote about Tyrone and a quote about what Tyrone thought about his co-star in 4 films, Linda Darnell.

He was the most beautiful man I ever saw. No question. They would be lighting us for a closeup… and just watching him, studying his face, it was really a panoply of gorgeousness. The eyes were glorious, the shape of the face, the perfection of the mouth, profile, and he had a charm, an unforced charm…” -Anne Baxter

"To him she was a kid. They would be doing a love scene, and someone would come up behind her and tell her it was time for her history lesson. So it was a little bit off-putting. She was so nervous, she would giggle a lot and forget her lines, and he would cover for her. He would ask for another take, so he would say, “Well I need another one.” -Maria Ciaccia (Writer & Film Historian)

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