William Horatio Powell
July 29, 1892
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||March 5, 1984 91) (aged|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.|
(m. 1915;div. 1930)
(m. 1931;div. 1933)
|Children||William David Powell|
William Horatio Powell (July 29, 1892 – March 5, 1984) was an American actor. A major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the Thin Man series based on the Nick and Nora Charles characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: for The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947).
Born in Pittsburgh in 1892,William Powell was the only child of Nettie Manila (née Brady) and Horatio Warren Powell, who worked as an accountant. In 1907, young William moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri, where he graduated from Central High School four years later.
After high school, Powell enrolled at the University of Kansas, because his parents wanted him to prepare to study law, but after only a week there, he left and relocated to New York City where he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.In 1912, Powell left the AADA at the end of one year, and worked in several vaudeville and stock companies. After several successful experiences on the Broadway stage, he began his Hollywood career in 1922, playing a small role as an evil henchman of Professor Moriarty in a production of Sherlock Holmes with John Barrymore. He later performed as Francis I in When Knighthood Was in Flower with Marion Davies, which was considered the most expensive film production to date.
Under contract to Paramount throughout most of the 1920s, Powell played villains in the early part of his career. As he gained experience, he gradually shifted into leading-man roles paired with such leading ladies as Bebe Daniels, Evelyn Brent, and Kay Francis. When Powell left Paramount to sign with Warner Bros., Francis joined him. One of their most successful films together was One Way Passage . Between Paramount and Warner Bros., Powell and Francis made seven films together.[ citation needed ]
His most memorable role in silent movies was as a vengeful film director opposite Emil Jannings' Academy Award-winning performance as a fallen general in The Last Command (1928). This success, along with Powell's commandingly pleasant speaking voice, led to his first starring role as amateur detective Philo Vance in the "talkie" The Canary Murder Case (1929). He played Philo Vance at Paramount Pictures three more times, and once at Warner's in his final appearance in the role in The Kennel Murder Case .[ citation needed ]
Powell was loved by many people in Hollywood. Actress Marion Shilling worked with him in Shadow of the Law , and called him, "Self-effacing, deferential, exceedingly thoughtful of other people, he was one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. He sensed that I was in awe of him, so from the start, he did what he could to put me at ease."
Powell's most famous role was that of Nick Charles in six Thin Man films, beginning with The Thin Man in 1934, based upon Dashiell Hammett's novel. The role provided a perfect opportunity for Powell, with his resonant speaking voice, to showcase his sophisticated charm and witty sense of humor, and he received his first Academy Award nomination for The Thin Man. Myrna Loy played his wife, Nora, in each of the Thin Man films. Their on-screen partnership, beginning alongside Clark Gable in 1934 with Manhattan Melodrama , was one of Hollywood's most prolific, and they appeared in 14 films together.[ citation needed ]
Loy and Powell starred in the Best Picture of 1936, The Great Ziegfeld , with Powell in the title role and Loy as Ziegfeld's wife Billie Burke. That same year, he received his second Academy Award nomination, for the comedy My Man Godfrey .[ citation needed ]
In 1935, he starred with Jean Harlow in Reckless . A serious romance developed between them, and in 1936, they were reunited on screen in the screwball comedy Libeled Lady , that also featured Loy and Spencer Tracy. Harlow became ill soon after, and died from uremia at the age of 26 in June 1937 before they could marry. [ citation needed ] Powell's career slowed considerably in the 1940s, although he received his third Academy Award nomination in 1947 for his role as the formidable Clarence Day Sr. in Life with Father . His last film was 1955's Mister Roberts , playing "Doc" alongside Henry Fonda in the title role, James Cagney as the ship's perfectionist captain, and Jack Lemmon in his Oscar-winning performance as Ensign Pulver.His distress over her death, as well as a cancer diagnosis of his own, caused him to accept fewer acting roles.
On April 15, 1915, Powell married Eileen Wilson, who was born Julia Mary Tierney. The couple had a son, William David Powell, his only child. They amicably divorced in 1930. Powell's son became a television writer and producer before a period of ill health led to his suicide in 1968.
On June 26, 1931, Powell married actress Carole Lombard. The marriage lasted just over two years. They were divorced in 1933, though they, too, remained on good terms, even starring together in the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey three years later. Powell was devastated by her death in an airplane crash in 1942.He was engaged to marry Jean Harlow, his co-star in Reckless (1935), until her sudden death in 1937. On January 6, 1940, three weeks after they met, Powell married his third wife, actress Diana Lewis, to whom he remained married until his death in 1984.
A Republican, Powell supported Thomas Dewey in the 1944 United States presidential election.
In March 1938, Powell was diagnosed with rectal cancer.He underwent surgery and experimental radium treatment, which put the disease in full remission within two years. Given his own health and sorrow over Jean Harlow's death, Powell did not undertake any film roles for over a year during this period.
Powell died in Palm Springs, California, on March 5, 1984, at the age of 91 from heart failure, nearly 30 years after his retirement. He is buried at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California, near his third wife Diana Lewis, and his only child, son William David Powell.
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in 1947 for Life with Father and The Senator Was Indiscreet .
William Powell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1636 Vine Street.
In 1992, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
|1936||Lux Radio Theatre||The Thin Man|
|1938||Lux Radio Theatre||My Man Godfrey|
|1939||Lux Radio Theatre||One Way Passage|
|1939||Lux Radio Theatre||The Ex-Mrs. Bradford|
|1940||Lux Radio Theatre||Love Affair|
|1940||Lux Radio Theatre||After the Thin Man|
|1940||Lux Radio Theatre||Manhattan Melodrama|
|1941||Lux Radio Theatre||Hired Wife|
|1942||Lux Radio Theatre||Love Crazy|
|1943||Lux Radio Theatre||The Lady Has Plans|
|1944||Lux Radio Theatre||Shadow of a Doubt|
|1944||Lux Radio Theatre||Suspicion|
|1946||Reader's Digest Radio Edition||He Fell in Love with a Picture : 33|
|1948||Lux Radio Theatre||I Love You Again|
|1948||Lux Radio Theatre||Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid|
|1949||Screen Directors Playhouse||Love Crazy|
|1953||Suspense||"The Man Who Cried Wolf"|
|1922||Sherlock Holmes||Foreman Wells||film debut|
|1922||When Knighthood Was in Flower||Francis I|
|1923||The Bright Shawl||Gaspar De Vaca|
|1923||Under the Red Robe||Duke of Orleans|
|1924||Dangerous Money||Prince Arnolfo da Pescia||lost film|
|1925||Too Many Kisses||Julio|
|1925||Faint Perfume||Barnaby Powers||lost film|
|1925||My Lady's Lips||Scott Seddon|
|1925||The Beautiful City||Nick Di Silva||lost film|
|1925||The New Commandment||uncredited lost film|
|1926||White Mice||Roddy Forrester|
|1926||Sea Horses||Lorenzo Salvia||lost film|
|1926||Desert Gold||Snake Landree|
|1926||The Runaway||Jack Harrison||lost film|
|1926||Aloma of the South Seas||Van Templeton||lost film|
|1926||The Great Gatsby||George Wilson||lost film|
|1926||Tin Gods||Tony Santelli||lost film|
|1927||New York||Trent Regan||lost film|
|1927||Love's Greatest Mistake||Don Kendall||lost film|
|1927||Special Delivery||Harold Jones|
|1927||Time to Love||Prince Alado|
|1927||Paid to Love||Prince Eric|
|1927||She's a Sheik||Kada||lost film|
|1928||The Last Command||Lev Andreyev|
|1928||Beau Sabreur||Becque||lost film|
|1928||Feel My Pulse||Her Nemesis|
|1928||Partners in Crime||Smith|
|1928||The Drag Net||Dapper Frank Trent||lost film|
|1928||The Vanishing Pioneer||John Murdock||lost film|
|1928||Interference||Philip Voaze||Powell's sound debut|
|1929||The Canary Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1929||The Four Feathers||Capt. William Trench|
|1929||The Greene Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1929||Charming Sinners||Karl Kraley|
|1929||Pointed Heels||Robert Courtland|
|1930||Behind the Make-Up||Gardoni|
|1930||Street of Chance||John D. Marsden / 'Natural' Davis|
|1930||The Benson Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1930||Paramount on Parade||Philo Vance|
|1930||Shadow of the Law||John Nelson|
|1930||For the Defense||William Foster|
|1931||Man of the World||Michael Trevor|
|1931||Ladies' Man||Jamie Darricott|
|1931||The Road to Singapore||Hugh Dawltry|
|1932||High Pressure||Gar Evans|
|1932||Jewel Robbery||The Robber|
|1932||One Way Passage||Dan Hardesty|
|1932||Lawyer Man||Anton Adam|
|1933||Private Detective 62||Free|
|1933||Double Harness||John Fletcher|
|1933||The Kennel Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1934||Fashions of 1934||Sherwood Nash|
|1934||Manhattan Melodrama||Jim Wade|
|1934||The Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1934||The Key||Capt. Bill Tennant|
|1934||Evelyn Prentice||John Prentice|
|1935||Star of Midnight||Clay 'Dal' Dalzell|
|1935||Rendezvous||Lieutenant Bill Gordon|
|1935||The Casino Murder Case||"A new man"||uncredited cameo|
|1936||The Great Ziegfeld||Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.|
|1936||The Ex-Mrs. Bradford||Dr. Lawrence Bradford|
|1936||My Man Godfrey||Godfrey|
|1936||Libeled Lady||Bill Chandler|
|1936||After the Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1937||The Last of Mrs. Cheney||Charles|
|1937||The Emperor's Candlesticks||Baron Stephan Wolensky|
|1937||Double Wedding||Charles Lodge|
|1938||The Baroness and the Butler||Johann Porok|
|1939||Another Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1940||I Love You Again||Larry Wilson a.k.a. George Carey|
|1941||Love Crazy||Steve Ireland|
|1941||Shadow of the Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1942||Crossroads||David Talbot, a.k.a. Jean Pelletier|
|1943||The Youngest Profession||Himself|
|1944||The Heavenly Body||William S. Whitley|
|1945||The Thin Man Goes Home||Nick Charles|
|1945||Ziegfeld Follies||Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.|
|1946||The Hoodlum Saint||Terence Ellerton 'Terry' O'Neill|
|1946||The Great Morgan||Himself||Voice, Uncredited|
|1947||Life with Father||Clarence Day|
|1947||Song of the Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1947||The Senator Was Indiscreet||Senator Melvin G. Ashton|
|1948||Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid||Mr. Arthur Peabody|
|1949||Take One False Step||Professor Andrew Gentling|
|1949||Dancing in the Dark||Emery Slade|
|1951||It's a Big Country||Professor|
|1952||The Treasure of Lost Canyon||Homer 'Doc' Brown|
|1953||The Girl Who Had Everything||Steve Latimer|
|1953||How to Marry a Millionaire||J.D. Hanley|
|1955||Mister Roberts||Doc||(final film)|
Screwball comedy is a subgenre of the romantic comedy genre that became popular during the Great Depression, beginning in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s, that satirizes the traditional love story. It has secondary characteristics similar to film noir, distinguished by a female character who dominates the relationship with the male central character, whose masculinity is challenged. The two engage in a humorous battle of the sexes, which was a new theme for Hollywood and audiences at the time.
The Great Ziegfeld is a 1936 American musical drama film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by Hunt Stromberg. It stars William Powell as the theatrical impresario Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld Jr., Luise Rainer as Anna Held, and Myrna Loy as Billie Burke.
The Thin Man is a 1934 American pre-Code comedy-mystery directed by W. S. Van Dyke and based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. The film stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a leisure-class couple who enjoy copious drinking and flirtatious banter. Nick is a retired private detective who left his very successful career when he married Nora, a wealthy heiress accustomed to high society. Their wire-haired fox terrier Asta was played by canine actor Skippy. In 1997, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Libeled Lady is a 1936 screwball comedy film starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Spencer Tracy, written by George Oppenheimer, Howard Emmett Rogers, Wallace Sullivan, and Maurine Dallas Watkins, and directed by Jack Conway. This was the fifth of fourteen films in which Powell and Loy were teamed.
My Man Godfrey is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Gregory La Cava and starring William Powell and Carole Lombard, who had been briefly married years before appearing together in the film. The screenplay for My Man Godfrey was written by Morrie Ryskind, with uncredited contributions by La Cava, based on 1101 Park Avenue, a short novel by Eric S. Hatch. The story concerns a socialite who hires a derelict to be her family's butler, and then falls in love with him.
Warner Leroy Baxter was an American film actor from the 1910s to the 1940s. Baxter is known for his role as the Cisco Kid in the 1928 film In Old Arizona, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 2nd Academy Awards. He frequently played womanizing, charismatic Latin bandit types in Westerns, and played the Cisco Kid or a similar character throughout the 1930s, but had a range of other roles throughout his career.
Song of the Thin Man is a 1947 murder mystery-comedy directed by Edward Buzzell. The sixth and final film in MGM's Thin Man series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Nick Jr. is played by Dean Stockwell. Phillip Reed, Keenan Wynn, Gloria Grahame, and Jayne Meadows are featured in this story set in the world of nightclub musicians.
The Thin Man Goes Home is a 1945 comedy-mystery film directed by Richard Thorpe. It is the fifth of the six Thin Man films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Dashiell Hammett's dapper ex-private detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora. This entry in The Thin Man series was the first not directed by W.S. Van Dyke, who had died in 1943.
Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone was an American actor, producer, and director of stage, film and television. He was a leading man in the 1930s and early 1940s, and at the height of his career was known for his gentlemanly sophisticate roles, with supporting roles by the 1950s. His acting crossed many genres including pre-Code romantic leads to noir layered roles and many World War I films. He appeared as a guest star in episodes of several golden age television series, including The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour while continuing to act and produce in the theater and movies throughout the 1960s.
Paul Lukas was a Hungarian actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for his performance in the film Watch on the Rhine (1943), reprising the role he created on the Broadway stage.
Myrna Loy was an American film, television and stage actress. Trained as a dancer, Loy devoted herself fully to an acting career following a few minor roles in silent films. She was originally typecast in exotic roles, often as a vamp or a woman of Asian descent, but her career prospects improved greatly following her portrayal of Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934).
Jean Harlow was an American actress. Known for her portrayal of "bad girl" characters, she was the leading sex symbol of the early 1930s and one of the defining figures of the pre-Code era of American cinema. Often nicknamed the "Blonde Bombshell" and the "Platinum Blonde", Harlow was popular for her "Laughing Vamp" screen persona. Harlow was in the film industry for only nine years, but she became one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars, whose image in the public eye has endured. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Harlow No. 22 on its greatest female screen legends of classical Hollywood cinema list.
Ralph Rexford Bellamy was an American actor whose career spanned 65 years on stage, film, and television. During his career, he played leading roles as well as supporting roles, garnering acclaim and awards, including a Tony Award for Best Dramatic Actor in Sunrise at Campobello and Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for The Awful Truth (1937).
Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke II (Woody) was an American film director and writer who made several successful early sound films, including Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932, The Thin Man in 1934, San Francisco in 1936, and six popular musicals with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. He received two Academy Award nominations for Best Director for The Thin Man and San Francisco, and directed four actors to Oscar nominations: William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Norma Shearer, and Robert Morley. Known as a reliable craftsman who made his films on schedule and under budget, he earned the name "One Take Woody" for his quick and efficient style of filming.
Mischa Auer (born Mikhail Semyonovich Unkovsky was a Russian-born American actor who moved to Hollywood in the late 1920s. He first appeared in film in 1928. Auer had a long career playing in many of the era's best known films. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1936 for his performance in the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey, which led to further zany comedy roles. He later moved into television and acted in films again in France and Italy well into the 1960s.
Albert Maurice Hackett was an American actor, dramatist and screenwriter most noted for his collaborations with his partner and wife Frances Goodrich.
Frances Goodrich was an American actress, dramatist, and screenwriter, best known for her collaborations with her partner and husband Albert Hackett. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with her husband in 1956 for The Diary of Anne Frank which had premiered the previous year.
Skippy was a Wire Fox Terrier dog actor who appeared in dozens of movies during the 1930s. Skippy is best known for the role of the pet dog "Asta" in the 1934 detective comedy The Thin Man, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, and for his role in the 1938 comedy Bringing Up Baby, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Due to the popularity of The Thin Man role, Skippy is sometimes credited as Asta in public and in other films.
Double Wedding is a 1937 American romantic comedy film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, and featuring Florence Rice, John Beal, Jessie Ralph, and Edgar Kennedy. This was the seventh pairing of Powell and Loy, with another seven to go. It was directed by Richard Thorpe from a screenplay by Jo Swerling based on the unpublished play Nagy szerelem by Ferenc Molnár.
Reginald Lawrence Knowles, better known as Patric Knowles, was an English film actor. Born in Horsforth, West Riding of Yorkshire, he made his film debut in 1932, and played either first or second film leads throughout his career. He appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1970s.