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RETURN OF THE MARINEPhotoplay
May 1946 issue
written by Adela Rogers St. Johns, whose brother, Thorny Rogers,
served with Ty and became his close friend
"The top moment of my life was when I saw Annabella on the dock", said Ty (right, with Annabella)
"Of course the guy started with two strikes on him, being who he was. They sort of waited for him, if you know what I mean. But now he’s the most popular man at Quantico, and that’s as it should be, but, believe me, it takes something for a movie star to make the grade with this gang we’ve got here.”
I had come across the letter, written from the Marine Corps OCS, by one of my younger brothers, Thorny.
The guy he referred to was Tyrone Power.
I kept thinking about what Thorny had written as Ty and I sat talking. It takes a good deal to make a home run with two strikes on you. Usually it takes a champion.
The young man sitting opposite me looked like a champion. I found myself staring at him, trying to estimate the change. For it was there, a marked and vivid change, one you would always have to take into consideration. He looked even handsomer than I remembered him, and I had always thought him by far the best looking of any of the young men on the screen. He looked lean and hard and in fighting trim; he looked as though he found life a fine thing. But the difference lay deeper, for, as you remember, Tyrone Power was always like that.
Then I knew what it was. Even in civilian clothes, even in dark brown slacks and a light brown tweed sport coat and a most flamboyant tie, you thought of Tyrone Power as a Marine, not as a movie star; you thought of him as a pilot landing medical supplies in an area where the atomic bomb had landed not so long before. It occurred to me that ,by the time he got to Quantico, the Marines from boot camp had probably forgotten he had ever been a movie star. It occurred to me that probably Ty Power had forgotten it, too.
I said, “My brother Thorny wrote me once that you had kind of a rough time in boot camp.”
Ty’s dark brown eyes twinkled at me. He said mildly, “Everybody has a rough time at boot camp.
“But you had it rougher,” I said.
“In a way, “ Ty said with a chuckle. “They made me do everything twice. They never believed me the first time.
The way he said it, I could see the top kick not quite believing his eyes when Marine boot Power without a murmur sweated it out the hard way, but, in the end, paying him the highest compliment known to the Corps: “That guy Power - he’s a Marine.”
From the big chair where he lounged easily, Ty broke into my thoughts. He said gently, “I felt bad about Thorny. I knew him awfully well. In the Marine Corps they do everything by the alphabet , and my name began with a P and Rogers’ began with an R and there weren’t any Quackenbushes in our outfit, so we were always in the same group. Until he made Aviation and Intelligence and went to Quonset, and I went to Corpus Christi for my flying, we were together all the time. I lost three close friends - and Thorny was one of them. I wish he had come back.”
I wished he had come back, too. He was one of the finest brothers any woman ever had. I said, “He would be so pleased to know …”
We didn’t say anything for a minute. What I had meant to say was that I knew how pleased Thorny would be that Ty Power had appeared at my front door soon after he got back to say, “I’m sorry about that. He was a great guy.” It was a tribute and an act of kindliness my brother would have appreciated - does appreciate, perhaps. Those who went over in this war must always be glad to know their comrades do not forget them.
As I watched Ty’s young face, I thought - he is one of the men who really suffered in this war, he has too much imagination not to. He would see the smiling mask put on over feat. He would break his heart over the incredible bright courage of a boy in pain. He never got really impersonal over Saipan and Okinawa. Setting his transport down between artillery bursts, landing aid of all kinds on airfields where bombs were still falling, he would always have known those fighting were men and his brothers. Some pilots could shut out the little things - the way a boy fell with one young hand outstretched, the faces of mean going in to take a beach - but Ty Power wouldn’t be able to shut them out. He would have to go ahead knowing all of it.
That must have hurt. Yet he had come back to us all stronger, and, in an odd way, more charming and more in love with life than ever.
Annabella, his beautiful French wife, had said to me, “You will find Tyrone changed.” (She pronounces it Teerrrone and she never calls him Ty.)
“For the better?” I had said.
She had looked at me seriously for a moment, her enormous, dark brown eyes in strange and lovely contrast to her gold hair. Then she had nodded. “Oh yes - for the better. You will see.”
I was seeing.
Perhaps he read my thoughts, for he said suddenly in a warm voice, “I never knew it would be so good to be home. We were too busy out there to think as much about home as perhaps you at home figured we did. It was another life. One life had stopped, and you had crossed into another that was war. You lived with other men, you lived in ways you would never have thought possible, you had a job to do and it took everything you had to do it, all your thought and energy and time. But that moment when I saw Annabella standing on the dock in Seattle - well’ “ He stopped, he laughed a little, wanting to explain, yet a little embarrassed as young men always are in telling of a deep emotion. “Well - that was it. It was at the top moment I’ve ever lived when I stood there at the rail and saw her waiting for me and knew it was over and I was back in one piece, and my other life would begin again. It was as though once you’d died and gone to hell and then you’d come back, and there was an angel holding open the door of a heaven you’d cease to believe existed at all.”
He waited a moment and then said, “That was a great life, too, that other life - and what got you through it, in spite of hell, was the other guys. Once you’ve seen what men can be - men - once you’ve seen how brave and decent and unselfish they can be in the damnedest spots you can imagine - it makes you love humanity because it can rise to those heights. But - getting home - you know I always thought Annabella was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. But when I saw her there on the dock - I tell you that was something! And the thing is - when I looked around at the other guys - I knew they were thinking the same thing about the women that were waiting for them.”
The way he said it made me, for the first time, feel sorry for the women who hadn’t waited. They missed something.
(right) Saipan days - when Ty was with Air Control
“Now you’re home,” I said, “and pretty soon you’ll be back at work.”
“Yes,” he said, and hesitated a little.
“They’ve got a great set-up for you,” I said.
Over at Twentieth Century-Fox, Mr. Darryl Zanuck, the man who made “Wilson,” which I think is still my favorite motion picture, had been getting ready for Tyrone Power’s return for some time. No young star in the history of the motion-picture industry ever had such a break. “The Razor’s Edge,” that incredibly deep and beautiful novel by Somerset Maugham, who had been so pleased when they cast Tyrone Power as Larry that he had consented to come out and work on the script himself - Tom Costain’s best-selling romance of “The Black Rose” - and the dynamic adventure thriller, “Captain from Castile”. That was a lineup for any actor, even one as good as Power. For he is, as you remember, a very good actor, indeed. Remembering how good he was in “Blood and Sand,” “The Black Swan”, and “A Yank in the R.A.F.,” I got excited thinking about the fun and satisfaction it is going to be to have him back.
Yet I couldn’t help noticing his hesitation.
He said, “I’m an actor. I come of a family of actors. I love it. No man could be anything but happy beyond measure at the opportunity to play those parts in those stories. From the time I was a little boy, literally living in the theater, having my lessons in my mother’s dressing room, watching my father star in great Shakespearean roles, watching my mother - one of the loveliest actresses who ever walked on a stage - I never once thought of being anything but being an actor. Sometimes - “
He stopped and grinned, “Other people disagreed with me. I used to sit on park benches and wonder about that, when I was out of a job. Do you know to this day I can never see anybody sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus or a street car, without stopping and offering him a lift or trying to talk to him. I’ve got a sort of complex about people sitting on benches. Sometimes they look sort of surprised. I suppose they could just be sitting there because they wanted to, but to me it always seems they must be broke and defeated and cold at the pit of their stomachs . . . Anyway, it never entered my head to be anything except an actor - but right now -”
I said, “I don’t quite know what you mean.”
Tyrone Power said, “Neither do I, exactly. Except that I want to do something. I want to be in what’s done. Not just me, but every man that was overseas - we can’t just let it go and forget about it. Maybe for a little while in getting home, but not for all time, no matter how easy it would be. Of course I don’t know anything about - running things or government or - “
Then he said with quiet directness. “Do you think there is something else I ought to do?”
I saw then what he was aiming at. You find it in many men just returned from overseas.
“No,” I said, “I think you should do what you know best how to do. I don’t think anyone can do more than make such a picture as “The Razor’s Edge’. If most people in the world learned what Larry knows in that, it would help immeasurably. And as long as you are Tyrone Power, you can make yourself heard.
(left) Sun, snow and skis for Ty and Annabella's happy vacation in Montreal
It wasn’t, however, until I was in New York a few months later that the right phrase for Tyrone Power occurred to me. An invitation came to attend a reception to be given in his honor at the Hotel Pierre, and though I do not usually go to receptions, I went to that one. My respect and admiration for this young man are sufficient to make me feel that anyone invited to do him honor should accept that invitation. The big rooms were full of flowers and lights and people who hadn’t seen him since he came back from the war.
Across the crowded room I saw Ty greeting old friends, being introduced to new ones, looking very pleased and happy and alive, with his wife standing there beside him in the receiving line.
The phrase came to me then.
A young American.
The best we have to offer. Typical, in spite of his fame and his achievements, of our nation. There was nothing about him that suggested an actor or a movie star, and yet he looked as though he owned the earth. I have seen that same assurance, that same swagger about many other young men, coal miners and shoe clerks and bankers and mechanics. In Ty, perhaps because his profession is what it is, it seemed to come into focus sharply.
A young American.
Inside I felt proud and warm. And it came to me, too, that since he has been away for these long years, I would like to bring him back to you, to remind you of what he is and what he stands for and how proud all of us ought to be of this kind of young American. To show you how he lives and what his marriage is like, where he came from and how he got to be what he is.
(left) His "now" is a new life, he says. Ty, of "The Razor's Edge", with his wife and her mother
I suppose it’s typical, too, of young Americans that his ancestry is as mixed as it can be, French and Irish and English mostly. He is, in fact, the third of his family to be Tyrone Power, his great grandfather being the first. That magnificent old Irishman - there are many stories of him and his doings in County Tyrone -
was born in Ireland, as was his son Harold, one of England’s most famous concert pianists. Tyrone the second, a shining and proud name in American theatrical history, was born in London. Young Tyrone Power himself was the first of the long line to see the light of day in America, on the 5th of May, 1914, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mrs. Power had played Shakespeare with her husband until two months before he was born and then gone home to her own mother for the big and blessed event. So even Ty’s parental influences all had to do with the theater.
As a matter of fact, he was only two months old when his father and mother - some of us old timers remember Patia Power - went into the then new art of the motion picture and when he was a year old they brought him out to Hollywood, because they had signed a contract with the old firm of Selig Pictures.
The first really big event of his life came when he was seventeen months old. His sister, Anne, was born in Hollywood. Probably you have known a brother and sister who had an unusual closeness, who seemed to understand each other without words, as they had been cut from the same piece of cloth, or were especially attuned to each other. With only seventeen months between them, they grew up almost as twins. There was another reason for their closeness. Incredible as it seems to look at him today, the first seven ears of Ty’s life was a constant fight to keep him alive, he was so frail. Thus Anne became his inseparable companion.
The other day when I was at the Powers’ for lunch, I saw a small person called Pixie, with copper-gold curls and bright blue eyes who soon made it apparent how she got her name. Like a tiny Peter Pan, she flew between Aunt Annabella and Uncle Ty, then flitted off down the sloping lawns, under the orange trees, and came back to light on Annabella’s lap or Ty’s knee with the assurance only possible to a much-loved child. Pixie is the two-and-a-half year old daughter of Ty’s sister.
“You see,” Annabella explained, “Anne and I lived here together when our husbands were at war - and Pixie was born here. Sometimes I think she hardly knows which of us she belongs to most, because her mother has had to be in Honolulu with her husband for quite a long time. So Pixie is ours, aren’t you, Pix?”
So, you see, the love between Ty and his sister has gone on meaning much to him. It was for her and his mother that he fought through the grim days following his father’s sudden death in 1931.
At seventeen Ty found himself head of the family, a family without too much in the way of reserve funds. Hollywood not only closed all its doors to him, but, as he said to me the other day, “It actually kicked me right out of town. Starved me out, might be a better way to put it. We did have to eat and we weren’t, in Hollywood. And when I started out, broke and convinced I wasn’t any good to anybody, I was sure I’d never see it again.”
But Ty came back - the hard way.
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