Tyrone Edmund Power, Jr. (May 5, 1914 – November 15, 1958), usually credited simply as Tyrone Power and known sometimes as "Ty Power", was an American film and stage actor who appeared in dozens of films from the 1930s to the 1950s, often in swashbuckler roles or romantic leads such as The Mark of Zorro, The Black Swan, Prince of Foxes, The Black Rose, and Captain from Castile. Though famous for his dark, classically handsome looks that made him a matinee idol from his first film appearance, Power was not just handsome but very versatile. He played a wide range of roles, from a protagonist with a darker side to light romantic comedy. In the 1950s, he began placing limits on the number of movies 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. He died of a heart attack at the age of 44.
After the divorce, Patia Power worked as a stage actress. In 1921, at the age of 7, young 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 well known Schuster-Martin School of Drama. Power's mother supported her family as a drama and voice coach at the Schuster-Martin School, and in her spare time, she coached him for several years in voice and dramatics. Tyrone grew up in the Martin household with his two cousins, Roberta and William [Bill], the children of his mother's aunt Helen and her husband, William Martin. 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.
Tyrone 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 friend, Arthur Caesar, to go to New York to get experience as a stage actor.
Along the way, he stopped in Chicago, where his friend, Don Ameche, a radio personality, convinced him to stay a while to work in radio. He wasn’t able to get a foothold in radio, however, and he eventually went on to New York. There, he met Katharine Cornell, the great stage actress, who cast him as an understudy for Burgess Meredith, for the play, Flowers of the Forest. A better stage break came, though, when Cornell put him in the role of Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet. During this time, Hollywood scouts saw him and offered him a screen test. Katharine Cornell advised against going to Hollywood, without a little more stage experience, and Tyrone Power took her advice. Cornell gave him a substantial role in her next stage play, St. Joan. Once again, Hollywood scouts saw him and offered him a screen test. Cornell told him that he was ready.
Tyrone Power went to Hollywood in 1936, where he was signed by 20th Century-Fox. He would be their top leading man for years to come. He got a false start at 20th Century-Fox, though, when he was assigned to Sing Baby Sing, at the request of Alice Faye, already a star for the studio. The director, Sidney Lanfield, didn’t recognize his potential and removed him from the cast, telling him that he should find another line of work, as he would never become an actor. Faye intervened again on his behalf, and she convinced the studio to give him another chance. He was assigned to a small part in Girls’ Dormitory. In this movie, he caught the eye of many fans, among them Hedda Hopper, who stayed for a second showing to find out who the young man was with just a few lines at the end of the movie. Following that, he was cast in a slightly larger part in Ladies in Love, which starred Janet Gaynor, Constance Bennett, and Loretta Young. It looked as though 20th Century-Fox was not going to pick up his option, however, and Tyrone Power then went to the office of director Henry King to ask him to consider him for a role. King was impressed with his looks and poise, and he insisted that Tyrone Power be tested for the lead role in Lloyd's of London, a role thought to already belong to Don Ameche. Despite Darryl F. Zanuck's reservations, he decided to go ahead and give him the lead role in the movie, once Henry King and Fox editor, Barbara McLean, convinced him that Power had a greater screen presence than did Don Ameche. He was fourth billed in the movie, but he had by far the most screen time of any other actor. He walked into the premiere of the movie an unknown, and he walked out a superstar, where he stayed for the remainder of his career.
Tyrone 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, 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 and Brigham Young; in the war films, Yank in the R.A.F. and This Above All; and, of course, the swashbucklers, The Mark of Zorro and The Black Swan. 1939's Jesse James was a very big hit at the boxoffice, but it did receive some criticism for fictionalizing and glamorizing the famous outlaw. The movie was filmed in and around the Pineville, Missouri, area and was Power's first location shoot and was also his first Technicolor movie. Before his career was over, he would have filmed a total of sixteen movies in color, including the movie he was filming when he died. He was loaned out one time, to MGM for 1939's Marie Antoinette. Darryl F. Zanuck did not feel that the movie showed Tyrone Power to best advantage, 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, Paris in King's Row, by Harry Cohn for several films throughout the years, and by 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, fop by day, and Zorro, bandit hero by night. The role had been made famous by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920 movie by the same title. Power's performance was excellent, and 20th Century Fox often cast him in swashbucklers in the years that followed. Power was actually an excellent swordsman, and the dueling scene in The Mark of Zorro is considered one of the finest in screen history. 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."
Despite being kept busy making movies at 20th Century-Fox, Tyrone Power found time to do radio and stage work. He appeared with his wife, Annabella, in several radio broadcasts, including the plays Blood and Sand, The Rage of Manhattan, and Seventh Heaven. He also appeared with her in the stage play, Liliom, in Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut, in 1941. He worked with other big names, in radio. Among those he starred with were Humphrey Bogart, Jeanne Crain, Loretta Young, Alice Faye, and Al Jolson.
Tyrone 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. His leading lady, Anne Baxter, would become a favorite leading lady of his, both on the screen and on stage. Other than re-releases of his films, he wasn’t seen on screen again until 1946, when he co- starred with Gene Tierney in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of Somerset Maugham's novel of the same name. Next up for release was a movie that Tyrone Power had to fight hard to make – the gritty 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 may 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.
During the 1950s Power achieved major success on a stage tour and on Broadway, appearing opposite Judith Anderson and Raymond Massey in Charles Laughton's production of John Brown's Body, a play based upon the narrative poem by Stephen Vincent Benet. (Anne Baxter toured in the production in the Judith Anderson role.) The critics applauded his performances. He also performed the title role in Mister Roberts to sellout crowds for six months at the London Coliseum. He performed in The Devil's Disciple in 1956 at The Opera House, Manchester, England and for nineteen weeks at the Winter Garden, London. Additional Broadway credits include The Dark is Light Enough and Back to Methusaleh.
Untamed, Tyrone Power's last movie made under his contract with 20th Century-Fox, was released in 1955. That same year, The Long Gray Line, a hugely successful John Ford film was released by Columbia Pictures. Columbia also released The Eddy Duchin Story, also huge at the boxoffice, the following year. His old boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, pressed him into service for the lead role in 1957's The Sun Also Rises, adapted from the Ernest Hemingway novel. Released that same year were Abandon Ship and John Ford's Rising of the Moon (narrator only). Tyrone Power's last 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, Robert Fulford, for The National Post commented on the "superb performance" of Power as "the seedy, stop-at-nothing exploiter of womenwhich was in sharp contrast to his earlier swashbuckling roles and romantic heroes. The movie was critically acclaimed and a boxoffice success.
In September 1958, Tyrone Power went to Madrid and Valdespartera, Spain, to film the epic, Solomon and Sheba, to be directed by King Vidor. 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 enroute 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.
Tyrone Power's last movie, fittingly, was to be in a familiar role, with sword in hand. He is perhaps best remembered as a swashbuckler, and, indeed, he was 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."
Tyrone Power was one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors when he married French actress, Annabella -- birth name 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. Annabella was a big star in France when 20th Century-Fox brought her over to America, and she was given the big buildup as the next great French star for Hollywood pictures. When Darryl F. Zanuck, 20th Century-Fox studio boss, realized the seriousness of the romance between her and his top male star, however, he strongly objected, fearing that Power would lose part of his female fan base if he were married. Zanuck offered to give Annabella plum roles in movies to be filmed abroad, in order to get her out of the country and away from one of Hollywood's biggest heartthrobs. When Power and Annabella went against Zanuck's wishes and married, Annabella's career at 20th Century Fox suffered greatly. After the marriage, Zanuck refused to assign her to movies for the studio, in punishment for their disobedience. After her marriage, she had to wait until after Tyrone Power had left the studio for military service to make another movie. This lack of movie work caused the very talented actress to seek stage work in order to help satisfy her desire to act. In an A&E biography, Annabella said that Zanuck "could not stop Tyrone's love for me, or my love for Tyrone." Their marriage, by all accounts at the time, was a happy one for the first couple years, but it was on rocky ground by the time Tyrone left for the U.S. Marines in 1943.
His extramarital affair with Judy Garland is said to have contributed to the failure of their marriage and resulted in Garland having an abortion. However, those close to the couple say that there were also other reasons for the failed marriage. 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 two. 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 went on to explain that the war clouds over Europe made her unhappy and irritable and that, 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. Despite the divorce, they remained close until his death.
Following his separation from Annabella, Power entered into a love affair with Lana Turner that lasted a couple of years. In the fall of 1948, however, he went on a good-will trip to Europe and South Africa. On that trip, he saw and fell in love with Linda Christian, in Rome. Upon his return to the U.S., he broke the news to Lana Turner that their romance was over. In her autobiography, Turner said that MGM, her home studio, and 20th Century Fox, Power's studio, conspired to break up their romance. Each studio feared that they would lose their star to the other studio, if they were to marry. Turner claimed that, when Power made his goodwill trip to Europe and South Africa, the story of her dining out with Frank Sinatra, a friend, was leaked to Power, who became very upset with her "dating" another man, in his absence. Turner also claimed that there was just too much coincidence in Linda Christian's being at the same hotel as Tyrone Power, and she went on to imply 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 Power marriage was rocky. In her autobiography, Christian blamed her husband's extramarital affairs on the breakup of her marriage. However, she acknowledged that she had an affair with Edmund Purdom, which created great tension between her and her husband. They divorced in 1955.
After his divorce from Christian, Power had a long lasting love affair with Mai Zetterling, whom he met on the set of Abandon Ship. At this point in time, however, he vowed that he would never marry again, because he had been twice burned financially from his previous marriages. In 1958, however, he met Deborah Ann Montgomery Minardos. They were married on May 7, 1958, and she became pregnant soon after. She accompanied her husband to Madrid in September 1958, for the filming of Solomon and Sheba. She was worried about his health and asked him to slow down, but he pushed ahead with the movie. On November 15, 1958, while filming a strenuous dueling scene for the movie, he was stricken with a massive heart attack and died. His wife gave birth to his son, Tyrone Power IV, on January 22, 1959.
Tyrone Power's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can be found at 6747 Hollywood Blvd.
Tyrone Power was buried at Hollywood Cemetery, now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California, at noon, on November 21, 1958, in a military service. The memorial service was held at the Chapel of the Psalms, Hollywood Cemetery, with Chaplain Thomas M. Gibson, U.S.N.R. officiating. The active pallbearers were officers of the United States Marine Corps. Honorary pallbearers were Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Tommy Noonan, Theodore Richmond, Murray Steckler, Cesar Romero, Watson Webb, Milton Bren, James Denton, George Sidney, George Cohen, Lew Schreiber, Lew Wasserman, and Harry Brand. Cesar Romero gave the eulogy, using in it a tribute written by Tyrone Power's good friend and frequent co-star, George Sanders. Sanders had written the tribute on the set of Solomon and Sheba, within the first few hours after Power's death. It read as follows:
"I shall always remember Tyrone as a bountiful man, a man who gave freely of himself. It mattered not to whom he gave. His concern was in the giving. I shall always remember his wonderful smile, a smile that would light up the darkest hour of the day, like a sunburst. I shall always remember Tyrone Power as a man who gave more of himself than it was wise for him to give, until in the end, he gave his life."
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 transcription, "Good night, sweet prince."
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.
However, women with whom Power was married or had relationships have denied any knowledge of homosexual leanings. His second wife, Linda Christian, asserts that she and Power shared an intense love and described his love for other women.Lana Turner, in her 1983 book The Lady The Legend The Truth, and Mai Zetterling, in All Those Tomorrows (1986) describe their two year long affairs with Power. Other women with whom he was involved include Sonja Henie, Judy Garland, Anita Ekberg and Mary Roblee, an editor. People who knew Power as a close friend have refuted the claims of bisexuality: Bob Buck, a pilot who served as Power's co-pilot on a trip to Europe and South Africa in 1947, in his autobiography North Star Over My Shoulder stated (in responding to rumors that he had read) "And while talking of Ty, I want to make this clear, and as loudly as I can: he was not a homosexual..." .
When asked about the subject on the Phil Donahue Show in 1982, Lana Turner said, "I can only say this, naturally I only heard about it after his death. I think some terrible person wrote a book, but all the time I knew him there was never a sign of it. Believe me he was all man." While appearing on behalf of Pfizer in 1985, Alice Faye said, "Well, we were all babies. We had a great time working together...I never saw any sign of any such thing." In On Sunset Boulevard by Ed Sikov [describing a trip that Billy Wilder took with Power and Charles Laughton] "Wilder saw no evidence of homosexuality in Power." William Martin, Tyrone's cousin and close boyhood friend, who also lived with Tyrone in Hollywood from 1936 to 1939, always maintained that such rumours were completely preposterous. "If Ty became bisexual, it happened after 1939", Martin said. His daughter Romina states: "Tyrone Power was not gay or bi-sexual. It's too easy to make a fast buck off of someone who is not around anymore to tell the true story. It's interesting to see what people suppose about one's parent. But more interesting yet, is the truth. Further references to Power's heterosexual relationships can be found in the following: Investigation Hollywood by Fred Otash, The Gift Horse by Hildegard Knef, Linda: My Own Story by Linda Christian, Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth by Lana Turner, Whisper magazine, 1954, No More Tomorrows by Mai Zetterling, Debbie: My Life by Debbie Reynolds, People Will Talk by John Kobal and Queen of Ice, Queen of Shadows: The Unsuspected Life of Sonja Henie by Raymond Strait.
Dorothy Kilgallen, whom Power once dated, claimed his height at 6' (as did Power and John Daly) on an episode of What's My Line in 1955. While blindfolds were on, Kilgallen asked, "Are you over 6 feet?" Power answered in his fake voice, "No". When Arlene Francis correctly guessed that it was Power, Kilgallen was upset. "What do you mean Tyrone you're not six feet tall?" she wanted to know. Both Daly and Power corrected her together, "You said over 6 feet". Daly further joked, "Just six feet. We had him measured with an echlochenstuphenstrophis and he came out just right at 6 feet." Based on Daly's nonsense word, it was clear that he had not in fact been measured, but that they were going on Power's word.
Other sources cite his height as 5' 10" (1.78m).
Passport lists height as 5'11-1/2 and military records say 6 feet.