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He looks back -- at struggle; ahead -- to the ideals that are Tyrone Power
written by Adela Rogers St. Johns, whose brother, Thorny Rogers,
served with Ty and became his close friend
I LIKE THE PLACE where Tyrone and Annabella Power live better than any other in the motion picture colony.
Houses and their grounds and gardens are always a matter of taste. The old trees, the pleasantly informal rolling acres, the white clapboard house, the simple colorful gardens which make up the Power homestead have an air of home, of lived-in-ness, of being very, very personal to the Powers that I think no one could resist. You are completely sure that everything within the plain white fences was selected with care and thought by the people who live there. You get a feeling of it having been done a little bit at a time, lovingly and in fulfillment of dreams.
There are a good many gorgeous and expensive estates in Hollywood which you know instantly were done by interior decorators and landscape architects, given carte blanch and hurry up and a great deal of money to spend.
BUT I WASN'T AT ALL SURPRISED to find that Ty himself had laid out and rolled the gravel walks and edged them with bricks. He and Annabella bought the place six months before they were married, in 1939, and have been working on it ever since and will be working on it for another five years at least -- maybe more.
It must, to paraphrase a song, have been a nice place to come home to; to the much-used library with its long windows hung in fine, dark brown glazed chintz cheerfully splashed with yellow, the simple restful drawing room, the wide terrace of brick which looks down a long slope to a row of poplars and a small, plain swimming pool.
"The poplars," Annabella said, as we sat on the terrace after lunch, "will be in leaf soon. They remind me of places I knew in France when I was a little girl. I love to have them there because there are not so many trees in Southern California which lose their leaves and then come out bravely again in the spring." Her fine dark eyes were fixed on the bare shape of the trees against a winter-blue sky. "It always encourages me -- we all have to begin again every so often, don't we?"
I said, "Thomas Burke once wrote that worthwhile people are always beginning again."
"Yes," she said, "that's it. I like to look at them the way they are now and then see them put out all new green leaves. "Ty's small niece came up with her ball, and Annabella threw it down the sloping lawn, and pixie chased away shrieking with glee.
THERE IS NOT A GREAT DEAL OF PEACE in the world even yet, but for a time there was peace on that terrace, and I thought of it as a hard-won, strong peace made possible by stamina and decency and unselfish service. I thought of Annabella's deep love for the land of her birth, her perilous trips back there during the war to find her father and to see her brother's grave. I thought of Ty flying into bombed Hiroshima, seeing its destruction. But they had come back together, and they were beginning again, as worthwhile people must, with faith and courage and a high heart for life's adventures.
The whole place, I realized, had an air of permanence that was almost old-fashioned. Over in a far corner was an old red barn, with a small corral, where Annabella kept a couple of riding horses for herself and her small daughter by her former marriage. A vegetable garden was showing little green edges along the top of rich black furrows, and the fruit trees were already lacy pink and white.
There was, I felt, nothing easy about Ty Power and Annabella and this place into which they had put love and hard work and care. They had fought for it; they owned a piece of the United States of America, they had defended it and would continue to defend it always.
TY CAME IN, and I realized that he was thinner than I had ever seen him. He said that was because he had just been to the dentist's, which made anybody feel thin, and that he had also been to look at a new plane for himself.
"I don't want to be earth-bound," he said, and went over to kiss the top of his wife's shiny head.
They are charming young people to talk to, those two. We didn't talk much about Hollywood. We talked about a new book called The Anatomy of Peace, about civilian clothes, about how to keep color in your garden all the year around, about the American Veterans' Committee, which Ty has joined, about America's international policy and foreign policy.
Then I got up my courage and said to Annabella, "Could I ask you a very personal question?"
THEY BOTH LOOKED STARTLED, but Mrs. Power said, "Of course," politely.
I said, "Who cuts your hair? I've wanted mine cut like that for a year, but yours is so right --"
I stopped because Annabella looked peculiar, and Ty had begun to laugh.
I said, rather stiffly, "Of course if you'd rather not say -- I suppose it's like some recipes, you don't want anyone else --"
Ty guffawed and said, "Now you're in for it, my girl," to Annabella.
She made a lovely French gesture with her hands, and said, "But of course I will tell you only -- it is me -- myself. I do it with my fingernail scissors --"
"In the dark," Ty said.
"Not in the dark," his wife said reprovingly, "but I do not look in the mirror if that is what you mean. I just sit still and pull it out and then cut where it feels to be needed --"
"You'd better not try it," Ty said; "it scares me just to watch her, but it always comes out right."
Eventually we came back to Hollywood, and to Ty's return to the screen after four years' absence. I asked him if he was nervous about it, and he thought a moment and then said, "Oh, sure. But then -- I'm always nervous -- always scared. My mother says the only time I wasn't scared was when I played the boy Pablo in the mission play -- she was playing the leading role, you know, and I guess Mr. McGroarty thought I might as well be in it as just hanging around, and I thought so, too. In fact, that's the only time I've eveen been sure I was good. Even when I was seven and had quite a bi part in the next mission play - 'La Golondrina' -- I wasn't altogether sure, though I can still remember my mother telling me that Ed Schallert of the Times said Master Tyrone Power gave a masterful performance. Still, I was pretty well satisfied with myself in those early days. They kicked it out of me later, and I've never quite gotten it back.
"Did you always keep on acting?" I said.
"Almost always," Ty said. "Everybody in my family did. One summer -- when I was fifteen -- I worked in a drugstore. And when I was sixteen, I ushered. But you see my mother was a beautiful actress -- she still is. And my father -- everybody knows he was a great actor. I wish I'd been a little older; I wish I'd realized a little more how lucky I was -- that summer --"
IT WAS THE SUMMER of 1931, that summer. Ty had been graduated from Purcell High School, and there had been quite a family conference as to whether or not he would go to college. Young Tyrone said he didn't want to go to college; he wanted to learn to be a good actor. And so his father, who was to do a Shakespearean repertoire in the Chicago Civic Auditorium that fall and winter, decided to give his son and namesake the desire of his heart.
They went away together, just the two of them, to a quiet retreat in Quebec, and there Tyrone the elder, known as one of the greatest actors the American theater has ever produced, gave the boy a long summer of lessons in the art -- a long, lazy, happy summer, with fishing trips and mountain walks and endless talks to vary the study of great plays and great parts and small parts.
That winter Tyrone Power made his professional debut in The Merchant of Venice, with the illustrious Franz Lieber in the title role.
"I played an old man," Ty said reminiscently, "and nearly got killed when Mr. Lieber, who was waving around a huge knife, let it slip and it whizzed past my head and scared my lines right out of me. I decided playing Shakespeare was more dangerous than I'd been warned it was."
When the engagement closed, Tyrone Power and his son came back to Hollywood, and, within a few weeks, the elder Power died suddenly in the midst of The Miracle Man motion-picture production, and the tough times had begun for young Ty and his mother and sister.
Hollywood would have nothing whatsoever to do with Tyrone Power. They made it flat; they made it final; for two long, lean and hungry years.
"I never knew why they were so set about it," Ty Power says thoughtfully. "I mean I was only a kid, but I had had some stage experience; my father and mother were both well known in the theater; I had two eyes and two legs and arms --but they didn't seem to like me. In fact, it got so they opened the window, glared at the very sight of me and shut it before I could open my mouth. Two years was a long time then. I got leaner and hungrier and blacker, I suppose, until finally I probably looked like part of the mob scenes out of a picture about the French Revolution. Finally, I got sore. I said, all right, I'll show them; I'll make them sorry; I'll give up pictures."
He started for New York and Broadway and got as far as Chicago. There his money ran out, and he got his first break -- though radio wasn't considered so much of a break in those days. There on a radio show he met Don Ameche, which began a friendship that endured even when both later went out hammer and tongs for the lead in Lloyd's of London -- with Ty winning in a photo finish.
NEW YORK DIDN'T YIELD any more easily than Hollywood -- but in the end, through the friendly help of Helen Mencken and the great Katharine Cornell, it did yield.
Tyrone Power open on Broadway with Miss Cornell in Romeo and Juliet, as Benvolio, and his mother sat in a box to watch her son fulfill the family tradition.
"As his mother and his teacher, I was proud of him," Patia Power says today. "But afterwards I told him how much work he still had to do and that he must never let down that high standard. I still tell him that."
His success in Romeo and Juliet and in the following Cornell production of St. Joan had been noted. Who, asked the powers that be, is this young man? The critics say he is a fine young actor. He is extremely good looking; we hear from New York that he's already a matinee idol; why don't we get hold of some young actors like that for motion pictures?
So the scouts started out to get him -- and he ended up with a seven-year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox.
Life went along pretty smoothly after that -- for a while. His success in pictures was swift and sensational. Two years later, he met Annabella.
When I asked Tyrone if there had been any serious love affairs before that, he said with a perfectly straight face that if there had been, he didn't remember.
"Was it love at first sight?" I said, and Ty replied it most certainly was so far as he was concerned, but that it took him some months to persuade Annabella that it had been love at first sight on her side, too. They played together in Suez and were married the following April. That was in 1939.
In December 1941, the United States declared war on Japan, and in 1941 Tyrone Power enlisted in the Marine Corps.
NOW TYRONE POWER HAS COME BACK. He isn't the same. No man can be the same who has landed with those terribly needed supplies on Iwo Jima. Four minutes. It's a hideously short, nerve-racking time in which to put a big ship down on an airport -- and two seconds delay would blow you and your supplies to hell.
But in Ty's case the change is all to the good. He has learned a great deal. He has learned to fly an airplane, to fight in the skies, to take care of himself and his men and his cargo in danger.
He is glad to be back. he is excited about making The Razor's Edge because he believes it has something to say. He believes now that the search for what is right, the seeking for better things is all we need to know -- perhaps all we can know here.
But above all, this young Marine -- because so long as he lives Tyrone Power will be in his heart a United States Marine before he is a movie star or an actor or anything else -- has learned to love the things for his country stands.
Ty isn't, by nature, a serious young man. He loves fun and laughter and good times.
But there is no getting away from it, and he doesn't want to; he is very serous about world peace, and he intends to play an active part in helping himself and his fellow fighting men to get it. If the professional politicians and the professional leaders don't get on with it, clean cut and definite, Tyrone Power believes the men who fought the war will take a hand at that job, with the same strength and intention they used against the enemy.
It wasn't easy for him to become a pilot; he had a lot of training, and boot camp was just twice as tough for him as it was for most men -- but he took boot camp and went to Quantico and finally to the South Pacific.
Tyrone Power is back all right. I have a strong hunch that you'll be hearing a lot about him a lot about him and not just in the movies.
IT WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME at all if Ty Power, typical young American and a Marine, turned out to be one of the leaders the men back from overseas are looking for. He's got an Irish tongue, a big name, a great personality, pilot brains, Marine Corps training and a heart that is doggedly, violently determined to see that he and the other men who fought and some of whom died get what they fought and died for -- peace among nations
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