The enormous crowd of mourners became a disgraceful throng, pushing and shoving in a mad effort to view the casket of the once startlingly handsome star. A kid fell screaming into a pond. People picnicked on the cemetery lawn, trampled graves, and cheered for their favorite luminaries when they arrived to show their respect. Hundreds strained to hear the eulogy given by the dashing Cesar Romero. It was a carnival on the peaceful grounds next to a lake in the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery.
Tyrone Edmund Power Jr. was born May 5, 1913, in Cincinnati, to Shakespearian actors who had worked with some of the most famous players of their time. Tyrone Power Sr., whose grandfather was a famed Irish comedian, descended from a long line of actors and was an esteemed leading man in theater who later made movies. His wife, Patia Power, gave up her career to become a drama coach when their daughter Anne was born the following year.
The Powers decided it was best to take their beautiful but frail, sickly son, and his sister, to the warmer climate of southern California. Settling in a small apartment in San Diego, the boy was restored to health. While his father toured, Patia taught little Ty breathing exercises, and coached him in articulation, pronunciation, and enunciation. Years later, in 1946, her son was given the International Sound Research Institute Award for Diction.
After his parents divorced in 1920, young Tyrone returned to Cincinnati with Anne and Patia. Ty attended school and developed an obsession for acting. He corresponded often with his dad, who encouraged his aspirations. While performing in Quebec, Tyrone Sr. invited his son to visit, and gave him a personal crash course in acting. In 1931, upon graduation from Purcell High School, ecstatic Ty was given a small non-speaking part as an old man in his father's production of The Merchant of Venice, held in Chicago's Civic Theatre. After the run of the show, the pair took off to Hollywood on the Super Chief, where Tyrone Sr. won the lead role in the film The Miracle Man. During production, father and son settled into the Hollywood Athletic Club, where the elder Power had a sudden heart attack and died in his son's arms Dec. 23, 1931.
Tyrone persisted in his dream of acting, and constantly made the rounds of casting agents. Finally, he won a small part as a cadet in Tom Brown of Culver ( 1932 ) , and again as a cadet in the musical Flirtation Walk ( 1934 ) . His family moved to Santa Barbara, and Tyrone decided to head for New York hoping for a stage career. On the way, he stopped in Chicago to see the famed Century of Progress Exhibition, where he gained employment as an actor, along with his friend Don Ameche, in an exhibit on Hollywood moviemaking. He also acted in Circuit Theatre productions, radio shows, and an eight-week run in Romance at the Blackstone Theatre.
In New York Tyrone obtained roles on Broadway, which led to a screen test with 20th Century Fox, landing him a contract. After a few minor parts, producer Darryl F. Zanuck took a chance and cast him in the lead role in Lloyds Of London ( 1936 ) with Madeleine Carroll. Zanuck said of Power that he was 'the truest, handsomest, best of the lot.' Within a year, the five-foot-ten beautiful man with ebony hair, black eyes, impossibly long black lashes, thick brows, and an electric smile became a leading man in Hollywood. He adapted easily to both modern and period movies, where his looks often led to exotic and Latin roles.
In 1937 Power dropped Jr. from his name and basked in huge movie stardom, appearing in enormously popular films that include Thin Ice ( 1937 ) with Sonja Henie, In Old Chicago ( 1937 ) with Alice Faye and Don Ameche, Alexander's Ragtime Band ( 1937 ) , with Alice Faye and Ethel Merman, Marie Antoinette ( 1938 ) with Norma Shearer, Suez ( 1938 ) with Loretta Young and Annabella, Jesse James with Henry Fonda, in his first color movie, and Johnny Apollo ( 1940 ) with Dorothy Lamour. Tyrone created his signature role in the elaborate The Mark Of Zorro ( 1940 ) with Linda Darnell, and the following year he appeared in gorgeous Technicolor opposite the spectacular Rita Hayworth in Blood And Sand ( 1941 ) .
The stunning 28-year-old actor joined the Marines in 1942. He returned from World War II a changed man. Still handsome, but with noticeable lines on his perfect features and fatigued eyes, he developed a sad, grim, quality. He had logged over 1,100 hours of flying time, frequently under enemy fire, and was discharged as a First Lt. Jan. 14, 1946.
Tyrone settled back in Hollywood where his early matured looks served him well in The Razor's Edge ( 1946 ) with Gene Tierney, Nightmare Alley ( 1947 ) with Joan Blondell, and Captain From Castile ( 1947 ) with Cesar Romero. He won acclaim in The Long Gray Line ( 1955 ) with Maureen O'Hara, The Eddie Duchin Story ( 1956 ) with Kim Novak, and in his last film Witness For The Prosecution ( 1957 ) , with Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and Elsa Lanchester. Power had completed 53 films throughout his career.
Power married his Suez co-star Annabella, who was five years his senior, April 23, 1939, and they divorced seven years later. Tyrone had an affair with Lana Turner, and the couple was so physically gorgeous that their presence drew gasps from the crowd when they entered a room or a restaurant. Lana told the press, 'Ty Power's the only man I've ever loved.' On Jan. 27, 1949 he married one of the world's great beauties, actress Linda Christian, who played Annabella's maid in Suez, and their elaborate wedding in Rome drew over 10,000 spectators. The union produced two daughters, Romina and Taryn, but they divorced in 1956.
Power had relations with various men, but due to the climate of the times, he kept his affairs as private as possible. Power savored physical encounters with men, yet was able to avoid emotional connections with his partners. Some believe his three marriages were covers for his homosexuality, but it seems that he enjoyed both sexes. A friend of his, Kurt Kasznar, characterized the type of woman Tyrone liked, 'A real whore in bed excited Tyrone.'
On May 7, 1958, the star married one Deborah Ann Montgomery Minardos, in Mississippi. Six months later they flew to Madrid, for Tyrone to begin filming Solomon and Sheba. While playing the King, after shooting the eighth take of an intense dueling scene with George Sanders, Power, like his father, had a heart attack, and died Nov. 15, 1958. He was only 44. Patia Power was never told of her son's death, and she followed him to the grave 10 months later.
It was always very important to Tyrone that someday he would have a son who would perpetuate the family name, and shortly before his demise he spoke of this desire. His wish was fulfilled when slightly more than two months later, on Jan. 22, 1959, Deborah gave birth to Tyrone William Power IV, who grew up to look like his father, and made his film debut as Tyrone Power Jr. in Cocoon ( 1985 ) with his dad's old friend Don Ameche.
Cesar Romero, also a matinee idol, summed up his friend in his eulogy when he remarked, 'He was a beautiful man. He was beautiful outside, and he was beautiful inside.' Six Marines carried the flag-draped casket to its burial site beside a lake, and Annabella told the press, 'The most wonderful man in the world is gone.' His tombstone is decorated with the masks of Comedy and Tragedy, and inscribed: 'Good night, sweet prince...'
Sources: The Great Movie Stars—The Golden Years by David Shipman; Tyrone Power The Last Idol by Fred Lawrence Guiles; The Secret Life of Tyrone Power by Hector Arce; Power Web sites.
Steve Starr is the author of Picture Perfect—Deco Photo Frames 1926-1946, published by Rizzoli International Publications, 1991. A designer, artist, and writer, his collection of over 950 gorgeous Art Deco frames is filled with images of Hollywood's most elegant stars. Visit his studio and read other stories at www.SteveStarrStudios.com or e-mail at SSSChicago@ameritech.net . You can also come to the Steve Starr Satellite Studio in the Edgewater Antique Mall, 6314 N. Broadway, ( 773 ) 262-2525.
Photo of Steve Starr by Albert Aguilar
One hundred performers are featured in an exhibition of stars in a portion of Starr's collection of original Art Deco frames at the Washington Library, 400 S. State, 8th floor, just below the Winter Garden, through June 1.