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Mala Powers in Rage at Dawn (released 1955)
|Born||Mary Ellen Powers
December 20, 1931
San Francisco, California, USA
|Died||June 11, 2007
|Cause of death||Leukemia|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California|
|Spouse(s)||Monte Vanton (1954-1962, divorced) 1 son, Toren Vanton
M. Hughes Miller (1970-1989, his death)
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 Dead End Kids film Tough as They Come.
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.
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 on more than one hundred television series, 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, The Wild Wild West, and in the Wanted: Dead or Alive episode "Till Death do us Part", with Steve McQueen.
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."
She was married to Monte Vanton in 1954, but they divorced in 1962; they had a son, Toren Vanton, who survived his mother. Powers remarried in 1970 to M. Hughes Miller, a book publisher. Powers was a successful children's author of "Follow the Star" and "Follow the Year" and of "Dial a Story".
Shortly before her death from complications of leukemia on June 11, 2007 at age 75, she had been on a lecture tour at universities. She was a master teacher for the previous fourteen years in the summer program at the University of Southern Maine for the Michael Chekhov Theatre Institute, training actors and teachers of acting. Mala Powers co-founded the National Michael Chekhov Association with teaching colleagues Wil Kilroy and Lisa Dalton, who continue to teach the curriculum developed by the trio in Maine. Powers was the executrix of the Michael Chekhov estate and 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".
Powers also had a small but recurring role on Shirley Booth's Hazel series. In that capacity she became a close friend of Lynn Borden, who played Barbara Baxter in the 1965-1966 season. Later, she gave Borden several elephant figurines, one a jade piece and another purchased on a trip to India. Borden became a collector of both frog and elephant figures.
- Tom Weaver, Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes, 1991, McFarland & Company, Inc., ISBN 0-89950-594-5.
- ""Hands of Love", The Man and the City, September 15, 1971". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
- "Mala Powers". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved 16 Mar 2011.
- "Ken Hall, "Lynn Borden Collects Frog and Elephant Figures"". go-star.com. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
- Mala Powers at the Internet Movie Database
- Michael Chekhov Centre UK and Michael Chekhov Studio London
- National Michael Chekhov Association founded by Mala Powers