May 5th, 1914– Tyrone Power a true matinee idol & one of the most beautiful men to ever appear in American films or on Broadway. He was a major star at 20th Century Fox where he fought for & was given great roles that allowed him show that he was more than just gorgeous.
Power was married 3 times & had 3 children. He had a hugely heralded affair with Lana Turner & 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 & gentlemen.
According to Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood & The Secret Sex Lives of the Stars by Scotty Bowers, a favorite read from 2012, Power had steamy star sex with the author & joined in on 3 ways with Bowers & another man & a girl. According to Bowers, Power was a sex machine & a sweetheart, a very winning combo, I must say.
Power had liaisons with many men during his career, including Lorenz Hart & Cesar Romero. Power was so handsome that he could choose any of the most attractive men on the studio lot. Power was not afraid to be seen in the company of guys thought to be homos: George Cukor, Clifton Webb, Reginald Gardner, Van Johnson, or bisexual Howard Hughes. In Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, writer Charles Higham claims that Power had an assignation with Flynn. He was so loved by people in show biz that they all gaily looked the other way.
But my research points to Power having a romantic relationship that lasted for decades with a 20th Century Fox stagehand, his one true great gay love affair.
Power was part of a theatrical family that dated back to the 1800s. He was just 22 when he received 4th billing in his earliest success in film, Lloyds Of London (1936). In the late 1930s & early 1940s, Power had a string of hits, including great work in the starring role of The Mark Of Zorro & as the doomed bullfighter in Blood & Sand (1940) where he battled with Rita Hayworth to be the yummiest cast member .
Power joined the Marines in 1941. When he returned to Hollywood in 1946 he enjoyed an unlikely smash hit with The Razor’s Edge, my favorite of his films, based on the popular gay writer W. Somerset Maugham’s novel. His co-star was the nearly as gorgeous Gene Tierney. Anne Baxter won an Oscar for this glossy film, a top grossing film for Fox & one of the truly transcendent films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Power insisted on doing the film noir Nightmare Alley where he played a conniving carnival geek. Directed by the great gay director Edmund Goulding, it gave Power the best role of his career with terrific reviews were, but studio head Darryl Zanuck refused publicize it & the film vanished quickly. It became a cult favorite for film fans in the next century. I caught it on AMC in March.
In 1946 Power & Annabella’s marriage ended. He was still a marine, yet he still managed to go on a 6 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 & between husbands. The Turner romance was too drama filled to satisfy the studio, so he married actor Linda Christian, a union that brought 2 daughters before the marriage ended in 1955.
Power had another truly great role, the charming murderer in Witness For The Prosecution (1957) directed by Billy Wilder & co-starring that awesomely hammy homosexual actor Charles Laughton. Power’s performance is a revelation.
Power took his final bow in 1959, gone from a heart attack while filming Solomon & Sheba for director King Vidor on a hot Spanish summer afternoon. He was just 44 years old.
In his career of 25 years, Power appeared 50 films. Like most bisexual or gay stars of his era, Power lived in dread fear of being outed. Although 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?
In an underwear TV commercial from the 1950s, spokesperson Wally Cox chimed:
“I may look like Wally Cox, but inside I’m Tyrone Power”.