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reprint from American Movie Classics magazine
January 1992



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Born in 1914, the son of prominent stage actor and silent-era matinee idol Tyrone Power Sr., Power came from a long line of show people. After a Catholic education and a Broadway apprenticeship, the younger Power moved west and a new generation of moviegoers forgot there was ever a Power senior.

In the days when studios groomed and trained stars like prize racehorses, Power was the champion of the 20th Century-Fox stable. Under the watchful eye of Darryl F. Zanuck, he was put gingerly through his paces and showcased to manly advantage. Hollywood legend has it that when Zanuck first saw Power in a screen test, he said the actor looked like a monkey. But with eyebrows trimmed and hair combed back, Power metamorphosed into, well, Tyrone Power.

His featured debut was as the adult version of Freddie Bartholomew in Lloyd's of London (1936). Power got full coverage and came off to good advantage in the love scenes. When Fox publicists read the response cards from smitten females ("Tyrone Power can dance with me anytime!" gushed one mash note), his future was assured.

At Fox, he traded off male leads with friendly rival Don Ameche, the studio's other utility player and the actor he had supplanted in Lloyd's. Typically, Power was cast in the more youthful and effervescent parts. He was apt to be dashing across train cars (Jesse James, 1939), swashbuckling over yardarms (The Black Swan, 1942), and seeking -- or being sought by -- a shapely selection of regal ladies and swooning damsels. Thus, in Suez (1938) the visionary French architect Ferdinand de Lesseps is less concerned with constructing a marvel of engineering than in engineering assignations with Loretta Young and Annabella.

Though never much of a song-and-dance man, Power tried his hand (and feet) at orchestral maneuvers by leading the parade in Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), a brassy Irving Berlin musical. Propelled by a martial sound track, it moves briskly from 1911 to the "present" through dynamic montage and shifting set design. Curiously, no one seems to age a day in 25 years.

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