” I’ve done an awful lot of stuff that’s a monument to public patience”- Tyrone Power (May 5th,1914-November 15th,1958)
An immensely talented gifted actor renowned for his dark, classically handsome looks that made him a matinee idol from his first film appearance, Tyrone Power played a wide range of film roles, from film noir to light romantic comedies, but in the 1950s he began placing limits on the number of movies he would make in order to have time for the stage. He received his biggest accolades as a stage actor in John Brown’s Body and Mr. Roberts. Born in Cincinnati Ohio on May 5th, 1914, the only son of the English born American stage and screen actor Tyrone Power, Sr and Helen Emma “Patia” Reaume, Power was descended from a long theatrical line going back to his great- grandfather, the Irish born actor and comedian Tyrone Power (1795-1841). After his parents’ divorce in 1920, his mother began work as a stage actress. In 1921 @ the age of 7, young Tyrone appeared with his mother in a mission play La Golondrina @ San Gabriel, California, his first real taste of the theatre. Power went to the Cincinnati area Catholic schools and graduated from Purcell High School in 1931.
Upon his graduation, he opted to join his father to learn what he could about acting from one of the stage’s most respected actors. Tyrone Power joined his father for the summer of 1931, after being seperated from him for some years due to his parents’ divorce. His father suffered a heart attack in December 1931, dying in his son’s arms,while preparing to perform in The Miracle Man. Tyrone Power Jr, as he was then known, decided to continue his pursuit of an acting career. He went to Hollywood in 1936, where he was signed by 20th Century Fox. He would become their top leading man for years to come. He would have bit parts in movies before eventually landing his bearkthrough role in Lloyd’s of London, directed by Henry King. He was 4th billed in the movie, but he had by far the most screen time of any actor. He walked into the premiere of the movie an unknown and walked out a star, which he stayed for the remainder of his career. Tyrone Power rocked hit after hit from 1936 until 1943, when his career was interrupted by military service.
The 1939 Henry King western Jesse James, based on the life of the notorious outlaw, starred Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda as outlaw brothers Jesse and Frank James, respectively. It was both Power’s first location shoot as well as his first Technicolor picture. The film was a big hit @ the box office, though it received some criticism for fictionalizing and glamorizing the famous outlaw. Before his career was over, he would have filmed a total of 16 movies in Technicolor, including the film Solomon and Sheba, when he died. He was named the second biggest box office draw in 1939, only surpassed by Mickey Rooney. But it was not until 1940 when he scored the pinnacle hit of his film career: The Mark of Zorro, starring Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, and Linda Darnell became a hit earlier in 1920 by Douglas Fairbanks; Tyrone’s performance in the 1940 film version was excellent and masterfully portrayed. Earlier when the 1940 film version hit movie theaters, it was shown in black and white-later on, it was shown in color. In the years that followed, 20th Century Fox would often cast Power in swashbucklers.
Power was actually a superb swordsman and the dueling scene in The Mark of Zorro is considered one of the finest in screen history. The great Hollywood swordsman/actor Basil Rathbone, who starred with him in The Mark of Zorro, commented:” Power was the most agile man with a sword I’ve ever faced before a camera. Tyrone could have fenced Errol Flynn into a cocked hat”. Despite being kept busy making films @ 20th Century Fox, he found time to do radio and stage work. In the years that followed, his life was plagued with certain difficulties including 2 failed marriages and an extramarital affair with Judy Garland. Despite this, he continued with his film work and on May 7th, 1958 he married Deborah Ann Montgomery Minardos. Despite her health concern for him, he continued and pushed ahead for what was to be his final film, 1959’s Solomon and Sheba starring Yul Brynner, Gina Lollabrigada, and George Sanders. On November 15th, 1958 while filming a strenuous dueling scene with George Sanders for the film, Tyrone Edmund Power, Jr suffered a fatal heart attack; he was just 44 years old. Actor Charlton Heston, who was filming scenes from Ben-Hur following Power’s death, came to terms with his own mortality when he heard the news of Tyrone Power’s passing, who was only a decade older than Heston. Nearly 3 months after his death on January 22nd, 1959, his wife Deborah gave birth to his son Tyrone Power IV. Cesar Romero gave the eulogy, using it as 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 Power in eleven movies. Tyrone Power was buried on November 21st, 1958 in a military service. Among the pallbearers were Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Cesar Romero and Geprge Sanders. He was laid to rest, by a small lake, in one of the most beautiful parts of Hollywood Cemetary, now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetary. 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 the transcription “Good night,sweet prince”. At his grave, British actor Laurence Olivier read the poem “High Flight”.
In his 26 year film career, Tyrone Power appeared in a total of 48 feature length films, including the 1957 Billy Wilder classic Witness for the Prosecution starring Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. On the 50th anniversry of his death, Power was honored by American Cinematheque with a weekend of films and rememberances by co-stars and family, including his 3 children and notable actresses Coleen Gray and Jayne Meadows, along with a memorabilia display. The event was held at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles California from November 14-16th, 2008. There are yearly memorial services at Hollywood Forever Cemetary on the anniversary of his death, November 15th. Today, Tyrone Power is fondly remembered for his beloved film roles and for the way he touched the lives of classic movie lovers everywhere…one of my favorite actors to have ever graced the silver screen & one in which the classic film world has lost too soon.