His remarkable good looks helped to make him a star and leading man when he began in movies at the age of twenty-two and he made about fifty films during his career in a variety of genres. He died tragically young from a heart attack at the age of forty-four.
BiographyTyrone Power was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 5, 1914, into an acting dynasty. He was named after both his father, a stage actor, and his grandfather, an Irish comedian. Tyrone was a sickly baby and in 1915 for his health the family moved to the warmer climate of California, where his sister, Ann, was born later in the same year. His parents drifted apart and divorced in 1920 and his mother brought her young family back to live in Cincinnati with her aunt, Helen Schuster Martin, who, herself ran a drama school. Tyrone's mother taught at the school and also gave her son lessons in voice and drama when he was still young.
When Tyrone graduated from Purcell High School, Cincinatti, in 1931, he had already decided on an acting career. He had maintained contact with his father who was well known in acting circles, and aged 17 he went to join him in New York. At the end of the year his father died of a heart attack, supposedly in Tyrone's arms, and Tyrone was on his own in his search for an acting career.
After two small and unconvincing film roles in the early 1930's in 'Tom Brown of Culver', and 'Flirtation Walk', Tyrone opted to go back to New York to gain more experience on the stage. He was cast by Katharine Cornell in 'Romeo and Juliet' and his striking good looks got him noticed by Hollywood scouts. He was offered a screen test and given a contract with Twentieth Century Fox in 1936.
After several minor roles in movies such as 'Girls' Dormitory' and 'Ladies in Love' he became a hit with audiences and swiftly progressed to leading man status. His first major role was in 1936 in 'Lloyd's of London' and although he was fourth billed, the film made him a Hollywood star almost overnight.
The studio then starred him in the disaster movie 'In Old Chigago' in 1937, and continued to keep him in the public eye in a wide variety of genres: in extravagant musicals such as 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' in 1939, Westerns such as 'Jesse James' the following year and swashbuckling period dramas such as 'The Mark of Zorro' in 1940 and 'Blood and Sand' in 1941. Power became well known for his swashbuckling roles and actually developed into a genuinely talented swordsman. His duelling scene with Basil Rathbone in 'The Mark of Zorro' is considered one of the finest in Hollywood history.
He continued his dashing swordsmanship in a series of extremely popular and entertaining swashbucklers such as 'Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake' and 'The Black Swan' both in 1942 but he began to grow frustrated that his pin up good looks were preventing him from gaining more demanding roles.
During World War II he served as a pilot for the Marine Corps and saw action in the South Pacific during the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa. At the request of his studio he made one patriotic film during the war, 'Crash Dive' in 1943, but otherwise was not seen on screen again until 1946, when Twentieth Century fox finally indulged his ambition for more meaningful material and co-starred him with Gene Tierney in the Thriller 'The Razor's Edge'.
Power then played another atypical role as a conman mystic in 'Nightmare Alley' in 1947, which is one of his best screen works, showing great emotional range. Unfortunately the movie was one of the few which Power made which did not make money and the studio promptly returned him to his standard, swashbuckling roles.
Power remained a top box office draw and his movies continued to be profitable for Fox but most of his postwar movies such as 'The Black Rose' in 1950 and 'Diplomatic Courier' in 1952 were unremarkable. He acted in a few good Westerns such as 'Rawhide' in 1951, but by then his best years were behind him.
Nevertheless, fine performances in 'The Sun Also Rises' and 'Witness for the Prosecution' both in 1957, and some excellent postwar stage work suggest that Power had dramatic potential which remained sadly underused.
PersonalPower had a varied and active love life. Although rumours have surfaced that he had homosexual dalliances in his youth, he certainly maintained some very successful relationships with a large number of women. He was married three times, firstly to French actress, Annabella from 1939 to 1948, then to Mexican movie actress Linda Christian for 7 years from 1949, with whom he had 2 children. He finally married Deborah Ann Smith in 1958. They had one child and stayed together until his death. In addition he had lengthy affairs with a number of actresses including Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Mai Zetterling.
Power's last film work was on 'Solomon and Sheba' in September, 1958. His third wife, Deborah, who was pregnant at the time, accompanied him to Madrid for the shooting. On November 15 Power, who was a heavy smoker, collapsed while filming a duelling scene with George Sanders and died from a heart attack. His wife gave birth to his son, Tyrone Power IV, two months later. He was buried at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now called Hollywood Forever). The inscription on his tombstone reads, "Good night, sweet prince...".
Tyrone Power Academy AwardsNo Nominations:
Tyrone Power Filmography
School for Wives
Tom Brown of Culver
Northern Frontier (uncredited)
Ladies in Love
Lloyd's of London
In Old Chicago
Love Is News
Lovely to Look at
Ali Baba Goes to Town
Alexander's Ragtime Band
Rose of Washington Square
The Rains Came
Brigham Young: Frontiersman
The Mark of Zorro
Blood and Sand
A Yank in the R.A.F.
Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake
This Above All
The Black Swan