Publicity photo, 1940s
|Born||Tyrone Edmund Power, Jr.
May 5, 1914
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||November 15, 1958
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Other names||Ty Power|
|Spouse(s)||Annabella (1939–1948; divorced)
Linda Christian (1949–1956; divorced; 2 children)
Debbie Ann Minardos (1958; his death; 1 child)
|Parents||Tyrone Power, Sr. (father)
Helen Emma Reaume (mother)
Tyrone Edmund Power, Jr., (May 5, 1914 – November 15, 1958) was an American film and stage actor. From 1930s to the 1950s Power appeared in dozens of films, often in swashbuckler roles or romantic leads. His better-known films include The Mark of Zorro, Blood and Sand, The Black Swan, Prince of Foxes, The Black Rose, and Captain from Castile.
Though largely a matinee idol known for his striking looks, Power starred in films from a number of genres, from drama to light comedy. In the 1950s he began placing limits on the number of films he would make in order to have time for the stage. He received his biggest accolades as a stage actor in John Brown's Body and Mister Roberts. Power died from a heart attack at the age of 44.
Power was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1914, the only son of Helen Emma "Patia" (née Reaume) and the English-born American stage and screen actor Tyrone Power, Sr., often known by his first name 'Fred'. Power was descended from a long theatrical line going back to his great-grandfather, the actor and comedian, Tyrone Power (1795-1841). His father's ancestry included Irish, English, and Protestant French Huguenots (the latter through his paternal grandmother's Lavenu and Blossett ancestors). His mother was Roman Catholic, and of French Canadian (through the Reaume family) and German (from Alsace-Lorraine) ancestry. Through his paternal great-grandmother, Anne Gilbert, Power was related to the actor Laurence Olivier; through his paternal grandmother, stage actress 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 Festival (now the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) in Canada and the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
During the first year of his life Power 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., was 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 (Tyrone's mother) worked as a stage actress. In 1928, at the age of 14, 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 mother's aunt Helen, her husband William, and their two children, his cousins, Roberta and William [Bill].
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.
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 a friend, Arthur Caesar, to go to New York to get experience as a stage actor.
Power went to Hollywood in 1936. The director Henry King was impressed with his looks and poise, and he insisted that Power be tested for the lead role in Lloyd's of London, a role thought already to belong to Don Ameche. Despite his own reservations, Darryl F. Zanuck decided to give Power the role, once King and Fox editor, Barbara McLean, convinced him that Power had a greater screen presence than Ameche. Power 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 remained the rest of his career.
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, A 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.
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/Zorro, fop by day, bandit hero by night. The role had been made famous by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920 movie of the same title. The film was a hit, and 20th Century Fox often cast him in other swashbucklers in the years that followed. Power was a talented swordsman in real life, and the dueling scene in The Mark of Zorro is highly regarded. 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."
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.
In August 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and then attended Officer's Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on June 2, 1943. Because he had already logged 180 solo hours as a pilot prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, Tyrone Power was able to go through a short, intense flight training program at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, where he earned his wings and was promoted to First Lieutenant. Power arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina in July, 1944 and was assigned to VMR-352 as an R5C transport copilot. The squadron moved to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California in October 1944. Power was reassigned to VMR-353 and joined them on Kwajalein in February 1945. He flew cargo in to and wounded Marines out during the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa.
Power was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal during his time in the service. He returned to the United States in November 1945 and he was released from active duty in January 1946. He was promoted to Captain in the reserves on May 8, 1951 but was not recalled for service in the Korean War.
In the June 2001 Marine Air Transporter newsletter, Jerry Taylor, a retired Marine Corps flight instructor, recalls memories of World War II. He speaks of training Tyrone Power as a pilot, saying, "He was an excellent student, never forgot a procedure I showed him or anything I told him." Others who served with him have commented that he was well respected by those with whom he served.
Post-war career resumption
Other than re-releases of his films, Power wasn’t seen on screen again after his entry into the Marines until 1946, when he co-starred with Gene Tierney in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel of the same name.
Next up for release was a movie that 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. A second national tour with the show followed in October 1953, this time for four months, with Raymond Massey and Anne Baxter.
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. Also in 1953, actress and producer Katharine Cornell cast Power as her love interest in The Dark is Light Enough, a verse drama by British dramatist Christopher Fry. The play was set in 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.
His old boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, persuaded him to play the lead role in The Sun Also Rises (1957), adapted from the Hemingway novel opposite Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn. 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.
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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. In an A&E biography, Annabella said that Zanuck "could not stop Tyrone's love for me, or my love for Tyrone." 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.
Following his separation from Annabella, Power entered into a love affair with Lana Turner which lasted for a couple of years. While on a 1948 good-will trip to Europe and South Africa, he saw and fell in love with Linda Christian in Rome. Turner claimed that the story of her dining out with Power's friend Frank Sinatra was leaked to Power, and Power became very upset that she was "dating" another man in his absence. Turner also claimed that it could not have been a coincidence that Linda Christian was at the same hotel as Tyrone Power, and she implied that Christian had obtained Power's itinerary from 20th Century Fox.
Power 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 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 the time, 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. In 1957, he met Deborah Ann Montgomery Minardos. They were married on May 7, 1958, and she became pregnant soon after.
In September 1958, Tyrone Power and his wife went to Madrid and Valdespartera, Spain, to film the epic, Solomon and Sheba, to be directed by King Vidor. She was worried about his health and asked him to slow down, but he pushed ahead with the movie. He had filmed about 75 percent 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.
Power's last role was a familiar one, with sword in hand. He is perhaps best remembered as a swashbuckler, and, indeed, he was reportedly 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."
Flying over the service was Henry King, who directed him in eleven movies. Almost 20 years before, Tyrone had flown with King, in King's plane, to the set of Jesse James in Missouri. It was then that Tyrone Power got his first experience with flying, which would become such a big part of his life, both in the U.S. Marines and in his private life. In the foreword to Dennis Belafonte's The Films of Tyrone Power, King said, "Knowing his love for flying and feeling that I had started it, I flew over his funeral procession and memorial park during his burial, and felt that he was with me." Tyrone Power was laid to rest, by a small lake, in one of the most beautiful parts of the cemetery. His grave is marked by a unique tombstone, in the form of a marble bench. On the tombstone are the masks of comedy and tragedy, with the inscription "Good night, sweet prince." At his grave Laurence Olivier read the poem "High Flight."
Tyrone Power's will, filed on December 8, 1958, contained an unusual provision. It stated his wish that, upon his death, his eyes would be donated to the Estelle Doheny Eye Foundation, for such purposes as the trustees of the foundation should deem advisable, including transplantation of the cornea to the eyes of a living person or retinal study.
Deborah Power gave birth to their son, Tyrone Power IV, on January 22, 1959, some two months after Power's death.
Tyrone Power was honored with having his handprints and footprints put in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater on May 31, 1937. It was a joint ceremony with Loretta Young, on the occasion of the premiere of their movie Cafe Metropole. Tyrone was just 23 years old and had been a major star for only six months. He signed the cement block, "To Sid - Following in my father's footsteps", which was a tribute to his father, stage and film star Tyrone Power, Sr.
Tyrone Power's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be found at 6747 Hollywood Blvd. On the 50th anniversary of his death, Power was honored by American Cinematheque with a weekend of films and remembrances by co-stars and family, and a memorabilia display. The event was held at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles from November 14–16, 2008.
In popular culture
A character named Tyrone Power appears in three plays: Gossip (1977), Filthy Rich (1979), and The Art of War (1983), though Filthy Rich, a film-noir parody, is most often performed. Written by George F. Walker, the main character is named after the actor, he states in Filthy Rich, "because my mother is an incurable romantic."
Flags of Our Fathers (2006): The character of Rene is referred to as "Tyrone Power" because of his good looks.
Fade to Black (2006): In this fictional film about Orson Welles in post-war Italy, Tyrone Power is mentioned throughout as he is in Italy at the same time; reporters rush by Welles in the airport to see him in the beginning.
In the 1955 episode of I Love Lucy titled "Lucy and John Wayne", Ethel Mertz points out Tyrone Power's footprints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Later, a policeman puts his feet into Tyrone's footprints, and his partner says, "Well, Tyrone..."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tyrone Power|
- Tyrone Power at the Internet Movie Database
- Tyrone Power, Jr. at the Internet Broadway Database
- Tyrone Power, King of 20th Century-Fox
- The Tyrone Power Pages
- (French) Tyrone POWER : Biographie, filmographie, galerie, etc.
- Works by or about Tyrone Power in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Tyrone Power at Virtual History
- Tyrone Power at Find a Grave