Tyrone Power (May 5th, 1914 - November 15th, 1958
The Dashing actor Tyrone Power often starred in romantic or swashbuckling movies, including The Mark of Zorro, The Black Swan and Blood and Sand. He was known for his stage work , too, particularily in the play Mister Roberts. At the age of 44, Power had a heart attack and died while filming a dueling scene for Solomon and Sheba.
Power was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1914, the only son of Helen Emma "Patia" (née Reaume) and the English-born American stage and screen actor Tyrone Power, Sr. Power was descended from a long theatrical line going back to his great-grandfather, the actor and comedian Tyrone Power (1795-1841). His father's ancestry included Irish, English, and Protestant French Huguenots (the latter through his paternal grandmother's Lavenu and Blossett ancestors). His mother had Catholic French Canadian (through the Reaume family) and German (from Alsace-Lorraine) ancestry. 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, and through his father's first cousin, Norah Emily Gorman Power, he was related to the theatrical director Sir (William) Tyrone Guthrie, founder of the Stratford Festival (now the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) in Canada and the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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.
In 1940 the direction of Tyrone Power's career took a dramatic turn when his movie The Mark of Zorro was released. Power played the role of Don Diego Vega/Zorro, fop by day, bandit hero by night. The role had been made famous by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920 movie of the same title. The film was a hit, and 20th Century Fox often cast him 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. The great Hollywood swordsman, 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."
Power's career was interrupted in 1943 by military service. He reported to the U.S. Marines for training in late 1942, but he was sent back, at the request of 20th Century-Fox, to complete one more film, 1943's Crash Dive, a patriotic war movie. He was credited in the movie as Tyrone Power, U.S.M.C.R., and the movie served as much as anything as a recruiting film.
In August 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and then attended Officer's Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on June 2, 1943. Because he had already logged 180 solo hours as a pilot prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, Tyrone Power was able to go through a short, intense flight training program at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, where he earned his wings and was promoted to First Lieutenant. Power arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina in July, 1944 and was assigned to VMR-352 as an R5C transport copilot. The squadron moved to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California in October 1944. Power was reassigned to VMR-353 and joined them on Kwajalein in February 1945. He flew cargo in to and wounded Marines out during the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa.
Power was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal during his time in the service. He returned to the United States in November 1945 and he was released from active duty in January 1946. He was promoted to Captain in the reserves on May 8, 1951 but was not recalled for service in the Korean War.
Other than re-releases of his films, Power wasn’t seen on screen again after his entry into the Marines until 1946, when he co-starred with Gene Tierney in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel of the same name.
Power's venture into gritty drama was short lived, as he was next seen in a costume movie, Captain from Castile, directed by Henry King, who directed Tyrone Power in eleven movies. After making a couple of light romantic comedies, That Wonderful Urge (with Gene Tierney, his co-star from The Razor's Edge) and The Luck of the Irish (with Anne Baxter), Power found himself once again in swashbucklers – The Black Rose and Prince of Foxes. Next up for release was a movie that Power had to fight hard to make – the film noir, Nightmare Alley. Darryl F. Zanuck was reluctant to allow Power to make the movie; his handsome appearance and charming manner had been a marketable asset to the studio and Zanuck feared that the dark role might hurt Power's image. Zanuck eventually agreed, giving him A-list production values for what normally would be a B film. The movie was directed by Edmund Goulding, and, though the film died at the box office (Zanuck did not publicize it and removed it from release), Power received some of the best reviews of his career. The film was released on DVD in 2005 after years of legal battles, and Power once again received favorable reviews from 21st century critics.
Untamed, Tyrone Power's last movie made under his contract with 20th Century-Fox, was released in 1955, and same year saw the release of The Long Gray Line, a successful John Ford film for Columbia Pictures. In 1956, the year Columbia released The Eddy Duchin Story, another great success for the star, he returned to England to play the rake, Dick Dudgeon, in a revival of Shaw's The Devil's Disciple for one week at the Opera House in Manchester and nineteen weeks at the Winter Garden, London.
In September 1958, Tyrone Power and his wife went to Madrid and Valdespartera, Spain, to film the epic, Solomon and Sheba, to be directed by King Vidor. She was worried about his health and asked him to slow down, but he pushed ahead with the movie. He had filmed about 75 percent of his scenes when he was stricken with a massive heart attack, as he was filming a dueling scene with his frequent co-star and friend, George Sanders. He died en route to the hospital. Yul Brynner was brought in to take over the role of Solomon. The filmmakers used some of the long shots that Tyrone Power had filmed, and an observant fan can see him in some of the scenes, particularly in the middle of the duel.
Power's last role was a familiar one, with sword in hand. He is perhaps best remembered as a swashbuckler, and, indeed, he was reportedly one of the finest swordsmen in Hollywood. Director Henry King said, "People always seem to remember Ty with sword in hand, although he once told me he wanted to be a character actor. He actually was quite good – among the best swordsmen in films."
Flying over the service was Henry King, who directed him in eleven movies. Almost 20 years before, Tyrone had flown with King, in King's plane, to the set of Jesse James in Missouri. It was then that Tyrone Power got his first experience with flying, which would become such a big part of his life, both in the U.S. Marines and in his private life. In the foreword to Dennis Belafonte's The Films of Tyrone Power, King 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." Tyrone Power was laid to rest, by a small lake, in one of the most beautiful parts of the cemetery. 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 Laurence Olivier read the poem "High Flight"Power was buried at Hollywood Cemetery at noon on November 21, 1958, in a military service.
Tyrone Power's will, filed on December 8, 1958, contained an unusual provision. It stated his wish that, upon his death, his eyes would 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 retinal study.
Deborah Power gave birth to their son, Tyrone Power IV, on January 22, 1959, some two months after Power's death.