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The Mark of Zorro - a signature role!

Tyrone Power was one of the top leading men of Hollywood's golden era, from 1936 until his untimely death in 1958. He became an overnight star and leading man at the age of twenty-two and made about fifty films in a career that was cut short by a heart attack at the age of forty-four. On May 31, 1937, just six months after his breakout role in Lloyd's of London, his hands and feet were placed in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater. For three straight years - 1939 through 1941, Ty was named "King of the Movies" by fans. Some critics of the day viewed his huge box-office appeal as being largely due to his extraordinary good looks, but, many today say that he was quite a good actor, one of the most underrated of his era.

He appeared in a variety of film genres, showing a remarkable acting range. He made several musicals, including Alexander's Ragtime Band, Second Fiddle, Rose of Washington Square, and The Eddy Duchin Story. He also was in several westerns, including Jesse James, Rawhide, Pony Soldier, and Brigham Young Frontiersman. Then there were the dramas, like Johnny Apollo, Witness for the Prosecution, Crash Dive, and The Razor's Edge. Now and then, he even played in a comedy, like That Wonderful Urge, Luck of the Irish, and Love is News, to which he generally received very favorable reviews for his comedic style. His swashbuckler roles were among some of the best, and he is most closely identified by them -- The Mark of Zorro, The Black Swan, Prince of Foxes, The Black Rose, and Captain from Castile. Tyrone Power appeared with some of the best actors and actresses of his era, and he was directed by some of the best directors. He seemingly lead a charmed life, traveling in circles of influential filmmakers, loved by moviegoers, and recognized as King of the Fox lot. It was not an easy road getting there, though.

Tyrone and sister with parents

Power was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1914, the only son of English born stage and screen actor Frederick Tyrone Edmond Power and his wife, actress Helen Emma "Patia" Reaume. Power was descended from a long theatrical line going back to his great-grandfather, the Irish born actor and comedian William Tyrone Power, sometimes referred to as Tyrone Power I, and known professionally as Tyrone Power (1795-1841).

During the first year of Tyrone Power's life, he lived in Cincinnati. His father was absent for long periods, due to his stage commitments in New York. Young Tyrone was a sickly child, and his doctor advised his family that the climate in California might be better for his health.

just a tiny tot

with sister, Anne

The family moved to California in 1915, and there they welcomed a sister, Anne Power, into their family on August 26, 1915. The parents appeared together on stage and, in 1917, their movie, The Planter, was released. Tyrone Power, Sr., as he later became known, found himself away from home more frequently, as his stage career took him to New York. The Powers drifted apart, and they divorced around 1920.

After the divorce, Patia Power worked as a stage actress, performing in regional stage and with stage stock companies. In 1921, at the age of seven, young Tyrone appeared with his mother in the mission play, La Golondrina, at San Gabriel, California. In 1923, they returned to Cincinnati, where she became a drama and voice coach at the Schuster-Martin School of Drama. She also coached Tyrone in voice and dramatics at home. Tyrone went to Cincinnati-area Catholic schools.

from high school yearbook
As he grew up, Tyrone held a keen interest in acting, encouraged by his father. After graduating from Cincinnati's Purcell High School in 1931, at age seventeen, young Tyrone joined his father that summer to learn more from him about acting. He spent a few great months with his dad, observing him on stage and learning from him. The year would not end happily, however. In December 1931, the older Power became ill on the set of the movie, The Miracle Man. As young Tyrone held him in his arms, his dad died of a heart attack.

small role in Tom Brown of Culver
His death brought young Tyrone not only great sadness but also an uncertain future of pursuing an acting career without the help of his father. Tyrone Power, Jr., as he was then known, was determined to follow in his father's footsteps. 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. His 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.

in St. Joan
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 awhile 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.

a small role in Girls' Dormitory
Tyrone Power returned 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.

Lloyd's of London - the movie that made him a star!
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 4th 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.

20th Century-Fox relied heavily on Tyrone Power, putting him in many of their most important movies in the late 1930's and early 1940's. 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. 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. Through the years, other studios asked for his services, but Zanuck stuck by his original decision.

Ty and Annabella on their wedding day!
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 Tyrone 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.

Ty and Annabella in the stage play, Liliom
When Tyrone 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. This lack of movie work caused the very talented actress to seek stage work in order to help satisfy her desire to act. Tyrone Power 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.

Lt. Tyrone Power
In the early 1940's, Tyrone Power's movie career was interrupted by military service. In August 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, starting out as a private, having refused his studio's offer to get him an officer's commission. Upon completion of boot camp training at San Diego, he was selected for Officer's Candidate School at Quantico, where he was promoted to Second Lieutenant on June 2, 1943. Because he had already logged many solo hours as a pilot prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, he was able to go though a short, intense flight training program at Corpus Christi, Texas, where he earned his wings and was promoted to First Lieutenant. Power served in the Pacific theater, with the VMR-352, carrying supplies aboard a R5C into the embattled Iwo Jima and carrying the wounded out, often under heavy fire.

When Tyrone left for military service, he and his wife were having marital troubles, but they committed themselves to working out their problems. When he returned from the war, he talked of how happy he was to see his wife waiting on the dock in Seattle for him. They took a second honeymoon to give him time to recover from his wartime experiences and to strengthen their marriage. In October of 1946 - just a few short months of his return from the war, she announced their separation, naming "incompatibility of careers" as the grounds. The years would drag on before they were finally divorced, in January 1949.

His first movie after coming back from the war was the drama, Razor's Edge. It was a huge movie for that year. 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 him to make the movie, because Tyrone Power's handsome face and charming manner had made a lot of money for the studio, and he feared that the dark role might hurt his image with the fans. But he finally 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, largely due to his studio's lack of promotion of the film, Tyrone Power received some of the best reviews of his career. Tyrone Power's venture into gritty drama was short lived, as he was seen next in a costume movie, Captain from Castile, directed by Henry King, who directed Tyrone Power in eleven movies. After making a couple light romantic comedies, That Wonderful Urge and The Luck of the Irish, Tyrone Power found himself once again in swashbucklers - The Black Rose and Prince of Foxes.

Ty and Linda
Soon after his separation from Annabella, Ty began a much publicized romance in 1946 with MGM star, Lana Turner. Gossip went into high gear when she visited him on the set of Captain from Castile, early in 1947. Their friends assumed that they would eventually marry. But, on September 1, 1947, Ty began a 32,000-mile journey, piloting his airplane, "The Geek", with Bob Buck, as co-pilot; Bill Agner, flight engineer, Bob Stevens, navigator, Bill Ritter, radio operator; Jim Denton, 20th Century Fox public relations; Bill Gallagher, Ty's secretary). The trip took them to Puerto Rico, Liberia, S.W. Africa, Italy, British Guyana, Gold Coast, South Africa, Ethiopia, Brazil, Belgian Congo, Portugal, Sudan, Ireland, Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, Kenya, Greenland, England, Iceland, France, and Greece. The most important part of that trip was when they were in Rome, and Ty met the beautiful starlet, Linda Christian. Ty was vulnerable to another romance, since he was having doubts about Lana. Word had gotten back to him, while on the trip, that she had been seen "dating" Frank Sinatra. Lana always maintained that there was nothing more than friendship with Sinatra, but Ty was not convinced that this was true. He became romantically involved with Linda, while in Rome. On January 27, 1949, in the Church of Santa Francesca, with an estimated 8,000 - 10,000 screaming fans outside the church, Ty and Linda were married. Lana was left heartbroken.

Beautiful daughters!
Right away the couple said that they were eager to have children. Linda suffered three miscarriages before, happily, giving birth to daughter Romina, on October 2, 1951. A couple years later, on September 13, 1953, they welcomed daughter, Taryn. Despite the complete joy that the children brought to their lives, the marriage became increasingly unhappy, and the couple divorced in 1955.

As the 1950's rolled around, Power was becoming increasingly unhappy with his movie assignments, with such movies as American Guerrilla in the Philippines and Pony Soldier. He asked his studio to grant him permission to seek out his own roles outside 20th Century-Fox. Permission was granted, with the understanding that he would fulfill his fourteen-film commitment to 20th Century-Fox, in between his other movie roles. Immediately following the filming of American Guerrilla in the Philippines, he went into rehearsals for the stage version of Mister Roberts. He performed the title role in the play to sellout crowds for six months at the London Coliseum.

In 1953, he made The Mississippi Gambler for Universal Studios. He worked a deal to get a percentage of the profits, and he ended up making one-million dollars from the movie, a very large sum in those days. His movies had been very profitable for 20th Century-Fox, and the studio tried to get him to sign another contract with the studio when his contract ended. As enticement, they offered him the plum role that eventually went to Richard Burton in The Robe.

Ty and Raymond Massey.
He turned the role down and, instead, went on a year's tour with the stage play, John Brown's Body, based upon the narrative poem by Stephen Vincent Benet. He appeared on Broadway in the show, opposite Judith Anderson and Raymond Massey. (Anne Baxter toured in the production in the Judith Anderson role). The critics applauded his performances.

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 released The Eddy Duchin Story, also huge at the box-office, 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.

Ty and Debbie
On May 7th, 1958, Tyrone Power married Deborah Ann Montgomery Minardos, a dark-haired Southern beauty. The couple soon had the happy news that Debbie was going to have a baby. Tyrone Power hoped for a boy to carry on his name, though he adored his two little girls. He confessed to his friends that he was sure that, this time, he would have a boy.

In September of 1958 Tyrone Power and his wife went to Madrid, Spain, so that he could begin filming the epic, Solomon and Sheba, to be directed by King Vidor. He had filmed about seventy-five percent of his scenes when, on November 15, 1958, 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 was buried at Hollywood Cemetery, now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California, at noon, on November 21, 1958, in a military service. (Tyrone Power had remained in the Marine reserves after his active duty was over. At the time of his death, he was a major.) 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 a transcription from Shakespeare's Hamlet, as follows:

There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow
If it be now, tis' not to come;
If it be not to come, it will be now;
If it be not now, yet it will come;
The readiness is all. 1

Good Night, Sweet Prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to they rest.2

Debbie with Tyrone Power IV
On January 22, 1959, Tyrone and Debbie Power's son, Tyrone William Power IV, was born in Los Angeles. Ty's greatest wish, to have a son to carry forth his name, was fulfilled. And, years later, his son would carry on the name when he and his wife had a baby boy - Tyrone Keenan Power.

1 spoken by Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet
2 spoken by Horatio upon Hamlet's death in Act V, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet

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