Mala Powers

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Mala Powers
Mala Powers 1955.jpg
Powers in 1955
Born Mary Ellen Powers
(1931-12-20)December 20, 1931
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died June 11, 2007(2007-06-11) (aged 75)
Burbank, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1942-2005
Spouse(s) Monte Vanton (1954-1962, divorced) 1 son
Toren Vanton
M. Hughes Miller (1970-1989, his death)

Mary Ellen "Mala" Powers (December 20, 1931 – June 11, 2007) was an American film actress.

She was born in San Francisco, California. In 1940, her family moved to Los Angeles. Her father was an executive with United Press. In the summer of her relocation, Powers attended the Max Reinhardt Junior Workshop where she enjoyed her first role in a play before a live audience. She continued with her drama lessons, and a year later she auditioned and won a part in the 1942 Little Tough Guys film Tough as They Come.

Early life[edit]

At the age of 16 she began working in radio drama, before becoming a film actress in 1950. Her first roles were in Outrage and Edge of Doom in 1950. That same year, Stanley Kramer signed Powers to star opposite Jose Ferrer in what may be her most remembered role as Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her part in this movie.

While on a USO entertainment tour in Korea in 1951, she acquired a blood disease and nearly died. She was treated with chloromycetin, but a severe allergic reaction resulted in the loss of much of her bone marrow. Powers barely survived, and her recovery took nearly nine months.[citation needed]

She began working again in 1952, including a part in City Beneath the Sea and City That Never Sleeps and the lead in Rose of Cimarron, although she was still taking medication. Following her recovery, she appeared in B-movie westerns, such as Rage at Dawn (1955), and science fiction films, among them The Colossus of New York (1958), Flight of the Lost Balloon (1961), and Doomsday Machine (1972). She also had a large role in Tammy and the Bachelor (1957).

She appeared in more than one hundred television series episodes, including Appointment with Adventure, Crossroads, The Restless Gun, Bourbon Street Beat, The Rebel, Maverick (in an episode called "Dutchman's Gold" with Roger Moore), The Everglades, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, Bewitched, The Wild Wild West, The Silent Force, and in the Wanted: Dead or Alive episode "Till Death do us Part", with Steve McQueen.

In 1962, she portrayed the part of Loretta Opel, a woman with leprosy, in the episode "A Woman's Place" on CBS's Rawhide.

On CBS's Perry Mason, her most memorable role was as defendant Susan Brent, friend of Perry's secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) in the 1962 episode "The Case of the Weary Watchdog." In 1964 she portrayed murderer Helen Bradshaw in "The Case of the Frightened Fisherman," and in 1966 she played murder victim Elaine Bayler in "The Case of the Scarlet Scandal."

In 1971, Powers was cast, along with Mike Farrell and June Lockhart, opposite Anthony Quinn in the first of the fifteen episodes of the NBC television series The Man and the City.[1]

Personal life[edit]

She was married to Monte Vanton in 1954, but they divorced in 1962;[2] they had a son, Toren Vanton, who survived his mother. Powers remarried in 1970 to M. Hughes Miller, a book publisher who died in 1989.[3] Powers was a successful children's author of Follow the Star[4] and Follow the Year and Dial a Story.

Michael Chekhov Acting Technique[edit]

Mala Powers trained directly under Michael Chekhov for many years during her time in Hollywood in both group and private sessions. Over this period of time Mala and Michael grew very close and after his death she was named Executrix of the Chekhov Estate. She took it upon herself to continue the development and proliferation of the Chekhov Technique throughout the United States and the world. Mala was instrumental in publishing Chekhov's books On the Technique of Acting, To the Actor, and The Path of the Actor. She also published Chekhov's audio series "On Theatre and the Art of Acting", to which she added a 60-page study guide. She co-narrated with Gregory Peck a documentary on Chekhov entitled "From Russia To Hollywood" which was co-produced by her colleague Lisa Loving.

National Michael Chekhov Association (NMCA)[edit]

From 1993-2006 Mala taught the Chekhov Technique during the summer acting program at the University of Southern Maine for the Michael Chekhov Theatre Institute, training actors and teachers of acting. It was during this time that Mala Powers co-founded the National Michael Chekhov Association (NMCA) with teaching colleagues Wil Kilroy and Lisa Dalton, who continue to teach the curriculum developed by the trio in Maine.


Shortly before her death from complications of leukemia on June 11, 2007, she had been on a lecture tour at universities.

She was patron of the Michael Chekhov Studio London and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


  • Tom Weaver, Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes, 1991, McFarland & Company, Inc., ISBN 0-89950-594-5.
  1. ^ ""Hands of Love", The Man and the City, September 15, 1971". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Mala Powers". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved 16 Mar 2011. 
  3. ^ "Mala Powers, 1950s Film Star, Dies at 75". New York Times. Associated Press. June 14, 2007. Archived from the original on March 7, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ Mala Powers and Suzy-Jane Tanner (1980) Follow the Star, Celestial Arts ISBN 978-0897420464

External links[edit]