After he returned from military service in World War II Tyrone Power decided he wanted to change his screen image and try more challenging roles. He also decided to change his personal image, and a new car and new clothes were part of that change.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, updating our stars-and-autos-reports on Power, Twentieth Century Fox’s premiere star of the Forties and Fifties.
Before the World War II, Power was renowned for his romantic swashbuckler parts emphasizing his famously dark good looks. He played, for example, the title character in 1940’s The Mark of Zorro and a pirate in 1942’s The Black Swan opposite Maureen O’Hara.
But his war service changed things. Power felt he now wanted to take on more serious parts, and take firmer control of his career. This new-found sense of purpose is partially expressed in his choice of autos.
Our March 19 star-and-cars blog showed the actor posed in the Thirties with his luxurious Dusenberg. The above publicity photo taken after 1945, shows a slightly grimmer-looking Power alongside his expensive but super efficient Jaguar.
And, ok, ok. We have got say a few words about his Tyrolean getup.
We are not entirely sure, but we suspect this publicity shot was staged as Power was making one of his most popular hits, 1946’s The Razor’s Edge, director Edmund Goulding’s movie version of the W. Somerset Maugham novel about a wealthy Midwesterner who travels to Europe and points East to find enlightenment and sort out his romantic complications (involving costars Gene Tierney and Anne Baxter).
In any case, by 1947 Power’s career had taken an unexpectedly grim turn with the classic film noir, Nightmare Alley, with the actor assuming his most challenging role — that of a carnival hustler turned down-and-out entertainer reduced to biting off the heads of chickens as “entertainment.”
Power’s performance is mesmerizing, making (his character) one of the most compelling characters in all film noir,” wrote Eddie Muller in his definitive 1998 study, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir.
With The Razor’s Edge (remade with Bill Murray in 1984) and Nightmare Alley, Power had more than achieved his purpose. He was using his star clout to secure better starring roles for himself and, eventually, to produce his own films (he had a hand in producing at least three titles, including his last.)
In his 1960 book about himself — Memoirs of a Professional Cad — actor George Sanders noted that when stars became producers, their attachment to money grew. They started saving and acquiring financial acumen.
This of course was not true of all of them — Ty Power’s attitude for instance was different. He spent his money freely. He had a yacht, a private aeroplane, and gave lavish parties (not to mention owning that Dusenberg and Jaguar). And women, who are usually more expensive than yachts and aeroplanes, found ways of spending his money when he ran out of ideas.
Ty didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps he had some premonition that he did not need to save for his old age.
Sanders was a Power costar in director King Vidor’s biblical epic, Solomon and Sheba, filmed in Spain and released in 1959. After several strenuous sword-fight scenes with Sanders, Power — who also co-produced the picture — collapsed complaining of pains in his chest and arms.
The end came on Nov. 15, 1958, before the movie was completed. (Yul Brynner stepped in to refilm the actor’s scenes as Power’s replacement.) Power was just 44 when he died.