Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Tyrone Power
1914 - 1958

Hollywood Forever

Tyrone Power was the third of four actors in the Tyrone Power line, and one of the great romantic swashbuckling stars of the screen from the early 1930s until his sudden death in 1958.

Power was the son of classical stage and screen actor Tyrone Power Sr. (1869 - 1931), and the great-grandson of popular Irish stage actor and comedian Tyrone Power (1797 - 1841). His mother, Helen Emma Reaume Power, was a Shakespearean actress and a respected drama coach. And Power's son, Tyrone Power IV, born two months after Power's death, is currently building his acting career.

Power appeared in several high school plays and, after graduation in 1931, he toured the country with his father's Shakespearean acting troupe. When his father appeared in a production of "Hamlet" in New York, Power joined him onstage, playing a small role as a page. In late 1931, Power's father was to play the lead role in "The Miracle Man," and Power was also promised a small role in the film, so father and son headed to Hollywood. But, when Power's father died before the film was completed, Power's role in the film was eliminated. Power remained in Hollywood, and appeared in small roles in "Tom Brown of Culver" (1932) and "Flirtation Walk" (1934), starring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, but he had trouble finding larger roles, so he returned to New York to work on the stage.

In 1936, a talent scout for 20th Century-Fox studios saw Power, filmed a screen test and sent it to studio chief Darryl Zanuck, who was impressed enough to bring Power back to Hollywood. Power had one line in "Girls' Dormitory" (1936), but a larger role in "Ladies in Love" (1936), starring Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young and Constance Bennett. This was also the last film in which Power was billed as "Tyrone Power Jr." Based on the positive audience response to the young actor, Zanuck gave Power the starring role in "Lloyds of London" (1936), a part originally intended for Don Ameche.

The studio took full advantage of Power's growing reputation as a romantic leading man. In 1937, he was paired with Loretta Young in three films, "Love is News," "Café Metropole" and "Second Honeymoon," and with skating star Sonja Henie in "Thin Ice." He also starred in "In Old Chicago" (1937) and "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1938), and both films were nominated for the Academy Award as Best Picture. Power's star was rising quickly, though he seemed to be getting more attention for his dashing good looks than for his acting ability.

Power has become a major box-office attraction, and Zanuck wanted to keep him busy. Power appeared in eight films in 1939 and 1940, mostly costume dramas or light comedies, including "Jesse James" (1939), co-starring Henry Fonda; "Rose of Washington Square" (1939), co-starring Alice Faye and Al Jolson; "Second Fiddle" (1939), co-starring Sonja Henie; "The Rains Came" (1940), co-starring Myrna Loy; "Daytime Wife" (1940), co-starring Linda Darnell; and "The Mark of Zorro" (1940) -- Power's first major swashbuckling role. After the huge success of "Zorro," Power starred as a bullfighter torn between destiny and love in "Blood and Sand" (1941), co-starring Linda Darnell and rising star Rita Hayworth.

After such a long and busy schedule, Power took some time off and returned to the East Coast, where he appeared in several stage productions. Power returned to Hollywood and starred in the adventure epics "Son of Fury" (1942) and "The Black Swan" (1942), then left again for some real-life adventure -- he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, and quickly rose to the rank of first lieutenant. Power, who had been a licensed pilot since 1937, attended flight school and was assigned to a transport squadron carrying supplies in the South Pacific. By the time Power returned to Hollywood, he had been away from films for nearly four years. Zanuck wanted to bring Power back with a bang, so he cast him in the lead in "The Razor's Edge" (1946), a dark melodrama about the search for the meaning of life.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture, and critics praised Power's deep and passionate performance. His next film, "Nightmare Alley" (1947), co-starring Joan Blondell and Coleen Gray, was even darker. Power played a carnival barker who becomes a successful, if deceitful, mind-reader, then falls to the depths of carnival humiliation. Though Power delivered stellar performances in his first two post-war films, neither was popular with his fans, so Power returned to costumed, swashbuckling epics with "Captain from Castile" (1947), "Prince of Foxes" (1949) and "The Black Rose" (1950). In between, Power starred in light comedies, including "The Luck of the Irish" (1948) and "That Wonderful Urge" (1948).

In 1950, Power again returned to his stage roots, playing the lead for six months in a production of "Mister Roberts" in London, England. When Power returned to Hollywood this time, he discovered that the type of roles he had played in recent years, both as an adventure hero and a romantic leading man, were going to younger actors. Instead, Power appeared in several smaller films, including "Rawhide" (1951), "Diplomatic Courier" (1952), "Pony Soldier" (1952) and "The Mississippi Gambler" (1953). After taking more time off to appear in stage plays, Power starred in "The Long Gray Line" (1955), the story of a legendary coach at West Point. The film was a huge success, and helped to revive Power's career as an actor, instead of just a movie star and matinee idol.

Power next appeared in the title role in "The Eddy Duchin Story" (1956), another box-office hit, and followed with powerful performances in "The Sun Also Rises" (1957) and "Witness for the Prosecution" (1957). The following year, Power began work on "Soloman and Sheba," a Biblical epic he was also co-producing. The 44-year-old actor was filming a dueling scene with George Sanders on location in Madrid, Spain, when he complained of chest pains and went to his dressing room. The production company nurse was called, and she recommended that Power, who had suffered a heart attack, be taken to a hospital. Power was driven to the hospital in co-star Gina Lollobrigida's Mercedes, and was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival. Power's close friend, actor Yul Brenner, replaced him in the film.

Prior to his funeral, Power's third wife, Deborah Anne, requested that the actor's second wife, Linda Christian, and his two children stay away from the services. An estimated 3,000 fans showed up at the Chapel of the Psalms at the cemetery, while Power's widow knelt beside her husband's casket and held his hand throughout the services. Meanwhile, Christian and her two children, Romina Power, 8, and Taryn Power, 6, attended a memorial Mass about a mile away. Three hours after the funeral services at the cemetery were completed, Christian and her children were finally allowed to visit the cemetery to place a white wreath on Power's grave.

Two months after Power's death, Deborah Anne gave birth to Power's third child, Tyrone Power IV, an actor who currently performs under the name Tyrone Power Jr.

Power was born Tyrone Edmund Power III on May 5, 1914 (some sources say 1913), in Cincinnati, OH. He died Nov. 15, 1958, in Madrid, Spain.

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