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Motion Picture
Feb 1938


"WILL I LAST?"

ASKS TYRONE POWER

BY JEAN BENEDICT

IN WORKING HARD
-- WITH BELIEF IN HIS BOSS --
AND REMEMBERING HE'S ONE OF MANY,
TYRONE TRUSTS HE'LL LAST


Will I last? --- This must be the burning question young stars ask themselves when, having made swift, sensational ascents to the Milky Way of Moviedom, they look down from that astonishing Alp and survey the distance they have covered.

Will I last? --- this must be the question asked by such young headline heroes as Tyrone Power, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Wayne Morris, Jon Hall, others (we are dealing, here, with heroes only -- heroines are, for once, eliminated).

They must feel more than a little dizzy standing there on the heights remembering those who have taken sickening nose-dives into oblivion and obscurity through defects of character, circumstances they could not control and temptations they could not conquer. They must feel curious thinking of those who have survived the ordeals of fame and notoriety and too-much-money-too-fast, Clark Gable being the most notable of these survivors. They must, or they should, study the patterns of Paul Muni, Spencer Tracy, men who have remained solid substance though compounded of stardust and crowned with success.

It is all a matter, or so Tyrone Power feels, of the caliber of the man. It is the stuff of which the man is made which answers this question as, actually, it answers all other questions. The metal of the man determines whether he will be catapulted into the limbo of forgotten stars or whether he will remain securely anchored to his peak of eminence.

Perhaps no other male star, with the exceptions of Gable and Taylor has ever scaled the Hollywood heights with so few steps as those taken by Tyrone, age twenty-three. He is much too handsome, one would certainly suppose, for his own good or for his own modesty. He is six feet tall, weighs 155 pounds, has a dark crown of hair, dark brown eyes -- with depths in them. He has such romantic appeal as all maidens' dreams are made of. I dare to prophesy that he will not be caught in the quicksands of flattery, passionate pursuit, inflation of ego, because he is fortified with a keen and salty mind, a sense of humor, a perspective, a stable background, a warm and eager heart.

He does study the patterns of Muni and Spencer Tracy. Though when I asked him if he would like, in time, to become "another Muni", he gulped and seemed unable to swallow an idea too big, too flattering for him to acknowledge. He laughed, then, and said: "I want to play in biographical pictures. The only time I get bored with myself is when I have to play myself." He does NOT want to capitalize on his youth, or that common commodity known as "sex appeal."

He has been active in pictures for only a year and a half. In that brief span of time he has played in Girls Dormitory, Ladies in Love (where he first met Janet Gaynor), Lloyds of London, Love is News, Cafe Metropole, Thin Ice, Second Honeymoon, now In Old Chicago, with Alice Faye.

He is rated near the top in the listings and statistics of those players most popular at the box-office. He is the young White Hope of the 20th Century-Fox lot. Every move he makes, every place he goes, every thing he says is News. He has eaten of the Fruit of Fame before it, or he, has really had time to ripen.

Is he dizzy? No.

"Will I last?" he asks himself. And if he should ask me that question I would answer without quibbling, "Yes."

It seemed to me that he passed the test when he answered the first question I put to him across the luncheon table in the Cafe de Paris on the 20th Century-Fox lot, as he lit my cigarettes, chatted with Irving Berlin and Peter Lorre, was courteous to the waitress, called greetings to extra girls and assistant directors and was so genuinely more interested in other people than in himself that I knew, even before we began to talk, that there is no danger ahead for Tyrone.

And then I put my first question. I said to him: "What is the first, the greatest temptation you had to meet -- and obviously have conquered -- since you have found yourself, like a man hurtled to Mars in a rocket, where -- well, where you are?"

And Tyrone answered at once, as one who has pondered the question before and knows the answer: "Finding myself saying 'I want' instead of 'May I?'"

He added: "That is always the treat temptation for anyone who has gained a little power too quickly. It is what happens to a spoiled child. He demands rather than makes requests. It is like any power, the whole problem being of use or abuse. There is only one hope for those who suddenly attain power of any kind -- to grow up, to learn how to handle power as one must learn to handle a high explosive.

"I found myself making demands instead of asking for favors. I soon got over that. Fortunately for me I cured myself before I was slapped down. I don't think that I will ever fall into the error of thinking myself wiser than my producer or director. Remember, I've had nothing to do with my career. Every step I have taken has been mapped out for me. All I've done has been my very best when I've been handed a script. That's all I've done. Mr. Zanuck has told me what to do, and, if I don't continue to do what he tells me to do, I'm crazy.

"I do believe that one of the best ways of 'lasting' in pictures, or anywhere else, is to fight off the ego-complex as you would a boa-constrictor. Otherwise it will strangle the success out of you. And one of the best ways of lasting is to resist the temptation of believing that you know more than those who have knowledge while you were still wondering how movies were made.

"And as for the ego running rampant -- well, I have only to look around me to realize that I am only one of many. For every fan who asks for my autograph, two more spring up and ask for the autographs of Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, Errol Flynn, Don Ameche, Warner Baxter and so on. I go to a cafe, any public place, and the people crane their necks to have a look at me, and I don't have time to feel my head swelling before another player comes in and they are doing head-twisters in the opposite direction to look at him, or her. Very tonic, the realization that you are not The One, but one of many.

"WHEN I was in New York recently," laughed Tyrone, "I can't say that I was bothered by autograph seekers. No howling hordes leapt upon my taxi. Not a single soul attempted to tear the clothes from my back. I'd been told about the wild ways in which visiting stars are molested. I was a little worried about it. I needn't have been. Very few people recognized me, and the few that did seemed to keep their equilibrium and to mind their own business admirably. Maybe they were protecting me," grinned Tyrone, "maybe I arouse the mother instinct, or something . . . .

"And I think," Tyrone continued, looking so young and speaking so wisely, "that my theatre background stands me in good stead now, even though it seemed, at first, to be more of a handicap than a help. For the son of a famous father does stand out with a handicap -- you know, the prejudice about the son trying to capitalize on his father's name, the prejudice, often well-founded, that the son of a famous father is pretty much of a flop. But eventually such a heritage works out for you.

"In the first place, I was brought up in the orbit of famous names. So that, while I am a great respecter of persons, I do not lose my balance and fall over backwards every time I meet the great and glamorous of Hollywood. I've been meeting the great and glamorous all of my life. I was raised in the atmosphere of backstage. And the foundation of the theatre is so earthy and real that it will always be firm under my feet no matter what I build on top of it.

"I believe that early environment affects all the after life. And my early environment was the stern stuff of the theatre, the Shakespearean theatre. I was bred to the tradition that the theatre is hard work, self-respecting work, but always work. I first appeared, I mean I was first on the stage before I was born. My mother, who is, as you know, an extraordinarily talented woman and actress, once said of me: 'Tyrone was a most considerate baby. I was appearing with Mr. Power in Shakespearean roles during his pre-natal period, and I worked on the stage until two months before his birth' -- which is amusing. But what matters is that I was steeped, before birth and after birth, in the Shakespearean theatre. I made my very first appearance on any stage at the age of seven when, my mother playing the leading feminine role in John Steven McGroarty's famous Mission Play, staged annually at the old San Gabriel Mission. I played the role of Pablo, a neophyte of the Franciscan padres. There was nothing," smiled Tyrone, his dark eyes serious, "nothing flibberty-gibberty about my foundation.

"THE theatre was no light matter to my family, to our friends. My work is no light matter to me. I mean, I work. I am not one of those who take it casually as a good racket. I study my scripts, I try to work out the development of the character I am to play, I try to co-operate with the studio, with the photographers, interviewers, in every way possible. I don't mind what is printed about me in the papers. I'll stand back of anything so long as it is true. I do object to stuff being printed that hasn't even a thin little basis in fact. But even then, I don't worry especially. I know all about 'nine day wonders.' I know that what is read today is forgotten tomorrow. I don't believe that publicity can make or mar your career unless it is sustained and pretty bad . . . . ." The fan letters I get keep my head clear and my hopes earnest. When I read a letter which says: 'I just want to thank you for the happiness you have given me,' I feel not only grateful, but awfully responsible. Because the ability to give happiness is a responsibility, a big one."

TYRONE believes one of the best ways of lasting in pictures is to grow up, to use youth wisely while you have it but to make preparations for relinquishing it when, in the inevitable course of time, it fades And he believes that working in pictures does mature you. He said: "When I was in New York I went to call on a friend of mine, a girl I hadn't seen since I came to Hollywood. I asked her whether she thought I had changed. She said: 'Yes, enormously'. That kind of scared me. I asked: 'How? How have I changed?' And she said: 'You have grown up. You have acquired poise.' I thought I had, but I wasn't sure. I know all kinds of people, able to meet situations and face problems that would have floored me two years ago.

"I often think that instead of people giving other people advice on How to Gain Self-Confidence they should give advice on How To Be Successful. Because only when you have attained a certain measure of success can you have any self-confidence. You can't be self-confident until you are successful.

"I think my desire to learn things in pictures and from pictures will help me to fast, too. I always try to learn from the character I play. "I worry only about my job and how I do it, and leave the rest to the other players and the studio."

I ASKED him: "What about getting married? Do you think marriage would endanger your career, have any effect upon your staying power?"

"I doubt it" said Tyrone thoughtfully. "I think a beginner getting married depends, as all major questions do, entirely upon the individual. It all depends on how you approach your work, the kind of thing you are trying to do."

I said: "Well, then are you going to get married?"

"I don't know," he answered so honestly that I knew that he didn't know -- yet. "I can't make any statement about it because I honestly don't know at this moments. It's an awfully difficult question to answer, as I well know. Because when I was asked in New York whether Miss Gaynor and I were to be married, and I said something about working so hard I couldn't answer, something was printed to the effect that my career was so important to me I had no time for marriage. I can only say that there's no way of predicting anything where the emotions are concerned. Two people in love are like an elastic band. They go along, apart, in parallel lines for a long time and then, suddenly, there is a snap and they come together. I'll say this, if I did know now that I am to be married, I'd say so."

(It seems to be the belief, in Hollywood, that Tyrone and Janet Gaynor will be married, sooner or later. And I gathered, from what Tyrone said and the way he said it, that that is his own belief. Those who know them best say that they are in love, that it is not a boy-and-girl romance.)

"I can only answer the question 'Will I last?'" Tyrone said, "by saying that if hard work, believing that the Boss knows more than the employee, remembering that I am not One, but one of the many helps, I'll go on like the good old brook forever."


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