May 5th, 1914– Tyrone Power a true matinee idol and he was one of the most beautiful men to ever appear on the Broadway stage or in American films. He was a major star at 20th Century Fox where he fought for, and was given great roles that allowed him show that he was more than just gorgeous.
Power was married three times and he had three children. He had a hugely heralded affair with Lana Turner and a reticent romance with Judy Garland. Power was so beautiful that everyone wanted him. His first wife, the one-name-only French actor Annabella stated:
“Ty just couldn’t say no!”
It seems that Power said yes to quite a few ladies and a bunch of gentlemen too.
According to highly readable, scintillating Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood And The Secret Sex Lives Of The Stars by Scotty Bowers, a favorite book from 2012, Power had steamy star sex with the author and joined in on three-ways with Bowers, and another man, or sometimes a girl. According to Bowers, Power was a sex machine and a sweetheart, a very winning combo, I must say.
Power had liaisons with many men during his career, including famed lyricist Lorenz Hart and elegant actor Cesar Romero. Power was so handsome that he could choose any of the most attractive men on any studio lot. Unlike other male stars of his era, Power was not afraid to be seen in the company of guys assumed to be queer: George Cukor, Clifton Webb, Reginald Gardner, Van Johnson, or notorious bisexual Howard Hughes. In Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (1980) writer Charles Higham claims that Power had an assignation with Flynn. Power was so loved by people in showbiz that they all gaily looked the other way when Power had a fling.
Yet, my research points to Power having a romantic relationship that lasted for decades with a 20th Century Fox stagehand, his one true lasting gay love affair.
Power was part of a theatrical family that dated back to the 1800s. He was just 22-years-old when he received fourth billing in his earliest success on film, Lloyds Of London (1936). In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Power had an uninterrupted string of hits, including great work in the starring role of The Mark Of Zorro (1940) and as the doomed bullfighter in Blood And Sand (1940) where he battled with Rita Hayworth to be the yummiest member of the cast.
Power joined the Marines in 1941. When he returned to Hollywood in 1946 he enjoyed an unlikely smash hit with a film version The Razor’s Edge, my favorite of his films. It is based on the popular gay writer W. Somerset Maugham‘s popular novel. His co-star was the nearly as gorgeous Gene Tierney. Anne Baxter won an Academy Award for this glossy film, a top grosser for Fox Studios, and one of the truly transcendent films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Power insisted on doing the film noir Nightmare Alley (1947) opposite Joan Blondell, where he plays a conniving carnival geek. Directed by the great gay director Edmund Goulding, it gave Power the best role of his career, along with terrific reviews. But studio head Darryl Zanuck refused to publicize it and the film vanished quickly. It became a cult favorite for film fans in the next century. I caught it on TMC in March. Few 1940s films ventured as deeply into cynicism as Nightmare Alley, or dealt so frankly with sexuality, with provocative peeks of polymorphous perversity and power-tripping.
In 1946, Power and Annabella’s marriage ended. He was still a marine, yet he managed to go on a six week trip to South America with Cesar Romero. Upon their return, he entered into that tempestuous relationship with Lana Turner, who was then the queen of MGM and between husbands. The Turner romance was too drama filled and alarmed the studio brass, so he married Mexican actor Linda Christian, a union that brought two daughters before the marriage ended in 1955.
Power had one more truly great role, the charming murderer in Witness For The Prosecution (1957) directed by Billy Wilder and co-starring that awesomely hammy homosexual actor Charles Laughton and Laughton’s scenery chewing wife, Elsa Lanchester. Power is superb as the charming, disingenuous ne’er-do-well. His performance is a revelation, but his hard living ways were catching up with him, and much like his fuck buddy Flynn, it showed. He was dead a year after filming this performance, and he looks much older than 44-years-old. Power was taken by a heart attack while filming Solomon And Sheba (1959) for director King Vidor on a hot Spanish summer afternoon.
Along with his two daughters, he left behind Tyrone Power Jr. who also became an actor. Like Clark Gable‘s only son, he was born after the death of his father. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. The first was his great-great-grandfather, the Irish actor Tyrone Power (1795–1841). He is known as Tyrone Power Jr. because his father is the most famous of the four.
In his 25 year career, Power appeared 50 films. Like most bisexual and gay stars of his era, Power lived in dread fear of being outed. Although studio head Zanuck liked Power personally, he was afraid of losing Fox’s biggest moneymaker should the film fans discover that Power was digging having sex with guys. Sure, he had that affair with Judy Garland, but what gay male working in films of that time didn’t?
How about a biopic starring Zac Efron as Power?
In a television commercial for underwear from the 1950s, spokesperson (and Marlon Brando main squeeze) Wally Cox chimed:
“I may look like Wally Cox, but inside I’m Tyrone Power”.