Tyrone Power was a prominent American actor born on May 5, 1914, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the third generation of his family to enter show business, as his grandfather, father, and two uncles were all actors. Power attended Hollywood High School and later Pomona College, but he dropped out to pursue an acting career.
Power began his career on stage in 1931, appearing in a small role in John Drinkwater’s “Abraham Lincoln” in Los Angeles. In 1932, he landed his first film role in “Tom Brown of Culver,” a movie about a military school that also starred Ginger Rogers. He quickly rose to stardom, appearing in films such as “Lloyds of London” (1936), “Marie Antoinette” (1938), and “The Mark of Zorro” (1940), which cemented his status as a leading man.
Power was known for his good looks, athletic ability, and charm. He was often cast in romantic roles, playing opposite some of Hollywood’s leading ladies, including Lana Turner, Gene Tierney, and Susan Hayward. However, he was also versatile, and he showed his range by playing everything from swashbuckling heroes to tortured, complex characters. (Nightmare Circus)
Power was also married three times, and he had several high-profile affairs with both men and women. Power was bisexual, but he was never publicly out during his lifetime. He lived during a time when homosexuality was not accepted in society, and he feared that if anyone found out it would damage his career. However, he was known to be discreet, and he managed to maintain a successful career despite his private life. According to the “gossip” of the era Powell’s group of gay friends included director George Cukor and actors Clifton Webb, Lon McCallister (and his lover William Eythe), Cary Grant, Reginald Gardner, Van Johnson and bi-sexual billionaire Howard Hughes. Books and articles written about Power relate that the great “gay love” of Power’s life was a lowly technician at 20th Century Fox
In August 1942, Power enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, then Officer’s Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant on June 2, 1943. As he had already logged 180 solo hours as a pilot before enlisting, he was able to do a short, intense flight training program at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The pass earned him his wings and a promotion to first lieutenant. The Marine Corps considered Power over the age limit for active combat flying, so he volunteered for piloting cargo planes that he felt would get him into active combat zones
Next was a movie that Power had to fight hard to make, the film noir Nightmare Alley (1947). Darryl F. Zanuck was reluctant for Power to make the movie because his handsome appearance and charming manner had been marketable assets for the studio for many years. Zanuck feared that the dark role might damage Power’s image. Zanuck eventually agreed, giving Power A-list production values for what normally would be a B film. The movie was directed by Edmund Goulding, and though it was a failure at the box-office, it was one of Power’s favorite roles for which he received some of the best reviews of his career
In the 1950s, Power’s career began to decline. He had a few box office failures, and he struggled to find roles that challenged him. However, he continued to work in the film industry, and he remained a beloved figure to many fans. He died on November 15, 1958, at the age of 44, after suffering a heart attack while filming a movie in Spain.
Tyrone Power was an extremely handsome and talented actor who left an indelible mark on Hollywood. He was a trailblazer in many ways, and his legacy continues to inspire actors today. Despite the challenges he faced in his personal life, Power was a true professional who always gave his best on screen.
You can watch Tyrone Power’s powerhouse performance in the original Nightmare Alley posted below.
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