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In 1952-1953 Tyrone Power took time off from filmmaking to perform in the stage play, John Brown's Body. He had acted on stage early in his career, having studied stage acting as a boy with his father, a fine classical stage actor. In 1950, he had played the lead role in Mr. Roberts, in London. This new role, however, was one that would be a challenge to actors with many times the stage experience of Tyrone, but he welcomed the opportunity to perform in John Brown’s Body.

The tour of the stage show took him over 30,000 miles. Traveling by bus, the stage production opened in Santa Barbara's Lobero Theater and went on to play engagements in forty of the states and three Canadian provinces. At the opening, Charles Laughton, the director, said to Tyrone and the other two actors, Raymond Massey and Dame Judith Anderson, "Well, my dears, you have done exactly what I asked of you. I think I have ruined my career and yours! This was, of course, said in jest, and the stage tour proved to be immensely popular, playing to sold-out audiences, in huge halls, across the country.

There were two tours, with eighty performances each, mostly one-night stands. The main players in the first tour were Dame Judith Anderson, Tyrone Power, and Raymond Massey.

At the end of the first tour, they played Broadway for eight weeks at the New Century Theatre, a large theatre. The play opened February 14th, 1953 at the in New York City and ran for 65 performances, closing April 11, 1953. The audiences and critics were very enthusiastic. Critic Brooks Atkinson said, "John Brown's Body is a work of art not only in print but on the stage. It refreshes the whole conception of theatre."

The second tour opened October 5th, 1953 at the Geary Theatre in San Francisco and closed at Liberty Hall in El Paso, Texas, on January 31st, 1954. In the second tour, Anne Baxter replaced Dame Judith Anderson.

The stage show was based on the poem John Brown's Body, by the great poet Stephen Vincent Benet. The reading was performed in evening clothes. The poem was divided among the actors in such a way that no one was identified by a particular character. The actors moved around informally during the reading, and sometimes stepped out of character for a bit. Sometimes one actor would be delivering a long speech; one actor would sit in a chair; the other would go offstage. In addition to the main trio, there was a chorus of twenty, which included two soloists. They sat in shadows at one side of the stage, and, on cue, would sing the songs of the period and chime in with appropriate sound effects.

During the tour, co-actor Raymond Massey and his wife, Dorothy, who traveled with the group, began a close friendship with Tyrone that lasted until Tyrone  s unexpected death in 1958. Massey said of Tyrone, "His performance in Steve's poem was to be in expiation of his desertion of the theatre and a tribute to his father. I have seldom seen such determination to succeed." He went on to say that Tyrone "proved to himself that in the theatre he could be as great as his father and as his father had hoped he would be."




Massey, Raymond. A Hundred Different Lives. Boston. Little Brown and Company. 1979.

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