Tyrone Edmund Power III (May 5, 1914 – November 15, 1958) was an American actor. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Power appeared in dozens of films, often in swashbuckler roles or romantic leads. His better-known films include The Mark of Zorro, Marie Antoinette, Blood and Sand, The Black Swan, Prince of Foxes, Witness for the Prosecution, The Black Rose, and Captain from Castile. Power's own favorite film among those that he starred in was Nightmare Alley.
Though largely a matinee idol in the 1930s and early 1940s and known for his striking looks, Tyrone Power starred in films in a number of genres, from drama to light comedy. In the 1950s he began placing limits on the number of films he would make in order to devote more time for theater productions. He received his biggest accolades as a stage actor in John Brown's Body and Mister Roberts. Power died from a heart attack at the age of 44, he was buried with full military honors.
In his career cut short by his early death, he had filmed a total of 16 movies in color, including the movie he was filming when he died.
Tyrone Power was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1914, the son of Helen Emma "Patia" (née Reaume) and the English-born American stage and screen actor Tyrone Power Sr., often known by his first name "Fred".
Power was descended from a long Irish theatrical line going back to his great-grandfather, the Irish actor and comedian Tyrone Power (1795–1841).
Through his paternal great-grandmother, Anne Gilbert, Power was related to the actor Laurence Olivier; through his paternal grandmother, stage actress Ethel Lavenu, he was related by marriage to author Evelyn Waugh.
Power went to 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.
But his father died soon after the same year in his arms, while preparing to perform in The Miracle Man.
Tyrone Power tried to find work as an actor, but after appearing in a bit part in 1932 in Tom Brown of Culver, a movie starring actor Tom Brown, he could not find decent role. He went to New York to gain experience as a stage actor. Among the Broadway plays in which he was cast are Flowers of the Forest, Saint Joan, and Romeo and Juliet.
Power went to Hollywood in 1936. The director Henry King was impressed with his looks and poise, and he insisted that Power be tested for the lead role in Lloyd's of London, and Darryl F. Zanuck decided to give Power the role. Although billed fourth in the movie, Power had by far the most screen time of any other member of the cast. He walked into the premiere of the movie an unknown and walked out a star, which he remained the rest of his career.
Power racked up hit after hit from 1936 until 1943, when his career was interrupted by military service.
In these years he starred in romantic comedies, dramas, musicals, westerns, war films, as well as the swashbucklers.
He was loaned out once, to MGM for Marie Antoinette (1938). Darryl F. Zanuck was angry that MGM used Fox's biggest star in what was, despite billing, a supporting role, and he vowed to never again loan him out.
Power was named the second biggest box-office draw in 1939, surpassed only by Mickey Rooney. His box office numbers are some of the best of all time.
Power was one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors until he married French actress Annabella (born Suzanne Georgette Charpentier) on July 14, 1939.
They had met on the 20th Century Fox lot around the time they starred together in the movie Suez. Power adopted Annabella's daughter, Anne, before leaving for service.
In 1940, the direction of Power's career took a dramatic turn when his movie The Mark of Zorro was released. The film was a hit, and 20th Century Fox often cast Power in other swashbucklers in the years that followed. Power was a talented swordsman in real life, and the dueling scene in The Mark of Zorro is highly regarded.
Power's career was interrupted in 1943 by military service. He reported to the United States Marine Corps for training in late 1942, but was sent back, at the request of 20th Century-Fox, to complete one more film, Crash Dive, a patriotic war movie released in 1943. He was credited in the movie as Tyrone Power, U.S.M.C.R., and the movie served as a recruiting film.
For his services in the Pacific War, Power was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Power returned to the United States in November 1945 and was released from active duty in January 1946. He was promoted to the rank of captain in the reserves on May 8, 1951. He remained in the reserves the rest of his life and reached the rank of major in 1957.
Power and his wife Annabella had experienced difficulty of their marriage during the war. When Power returned from military service, the couple tried to make their marriage work, but it did not.
After his return, Power co-starred with Gene Tierney and Anne Baxter in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel of the same title.
Next up for release 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.
Power was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his costume roles, and he struggled between being a star and becoming a great actor. When Fox tried renew his contract a third time, he turned it down.
Fox now gave Power permission to seek his own roles outside the studio, on the understanding that he would fulfill his fourteen-film commitment to them in between his other projects. Power was mostly active in the thearter during this period.
Following his separation from Annabella, Power entered into a love affair with Lana Turner that lasted for a couple of years.
Since 1946, Tyrone Power had been out on goodwill trips around the world. In 1948, on one of such goodwill trip with his own airplan "The Geek", he met and fell in love with Mexican actress Linda Christian in Rome.
Power and Christian were married on January 27, 1949, in the Church of Santa Francesca Romana, with an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 screaming fans outside.
Christian miscarried three times before giving birth to a baby girl, Romina Francesca Power, on October 2, 1951.
A second daughter, Taryn Stephanie Power, was born on September 13, 1953. Around the time of Taryn's birth, the marriage was becoming rocky.
In her autobiography, Christian blamed the breakup of her marriage on her husband's extramarital affairs, but acknowledged that she had had an affair with Edmund Purdom, which created great tension between Christian and her husband. They divorced in 1955.
After Tyrone Power made his last movie under his contract with 20th Century-Fox.Untamed (1955), Darryl F. Zanuck, persuaded him to play the lead role in The Sun Also Rises (1957), adapted from the Hemingway novel, with Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn. This was his final film with Fox.
After his divorce from Christian, Power had a long-lasting love affair with Mai Zetterling, whom he had met on the set of Abandon Ship. He also entered into an affair with a British actress, Thelma Ruby.
Although he had vowed never to marry again, after being twice burned financially by his previous marriages. On May 7, 1958, he married Deborah Jean Smith(who went by her former married name, Debbie Minardos) who he met a year earlier. Deborah became pregnant soon after with Tyrone Power Jr., the son he had always wanted.
In September 1958, Power and his wife Deborah went to Madrid and Valdespartera, Spain, to film the epic Solomon and Sheba, to be directed by King Vidor, co-starring Gina Lollobrigida. Power had filmed about 75 percent of his scenes when he was stricken by a massive heart attack while filming a dueling scene with his frequent co-star and friend, George Sanders. A doctor, Juan Olaguíbel, diagnosed Power's death as "fulminant angina pectoris." He died while being transported to the hospital in Madrid on November 15, aged 44.
Tyrone Power's last completed film role prior to his death was the accused murderer Leonard Vole in the first film version of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution (1957), directed by Billy Wilder.
Power was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (then known as Hollywood Cemetery) in a military service at noon on November 21.
Flying over the service was Henry King who 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.". Almost 20 years before, Tyrone had flown in King's plane to the set of Jesse James in Missouri. It was then that Power had his first experience of flying, which became a big part of his life, both in the U.S. Marines and as a civilian.
Power was laid to rest beside a small lake. His grave is marked by a unique gravestone, in the form of a marble bench. On the gravestone are the masks of comedy and tragedy, with the inscription, "Good night, sweet prince." At his grave, Laurence Olivier read the poem "High Flight."
Power's will, filed on December 8, 1958, contained a then-unusual provision. It stated his wish that, upon his death, his eyes be donated to the Estelle Doheny Eye Foundation, for such purposes as the trustees of the foundation should deem advisable, including transplantation of the cornea to the eyes of a living person or for retinal study.
Deborah Power gave birth to their son on January 22, 1959, some two months after Power's death. She would remarry within the year, to the producer Arthur Loew, Jr.
For Power's contribution to motion pictures, he was honored in 1960 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that can be found at 6747 Hollywood Blvd. On the 50th anniversary of his death, Power was honored by American Cinematheque with a weekend of films and remembrances by co-stars and family as well as a memorabilia display at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles from November 14–16, 2008.
In 2018, Tyrone Power was the 21st most popular male film star of all time.