Tyrone Power was one of Hollywood’s most popular heartthrobs, but his history is far more scandalous than people realize. No stranger to romantic scrapes, Power entranced some of Hollywood's finest leading ladies. After leaving a string of broken hearts in his wake, however, fate dealt him a hand so devastating—it’s unforgettable.
In 1914, Tyrone Power was born into a distinguished acting family. With theater in his blood, he had both a famous father and great-grandfather to look up to. Of course, fame had its drawbacks, and once the curtains closed, Power's father often indulged in illicit affairs offstage. Before long, these vices led to a devastating chapter in young Power's childhood.
Power's father had an impossible work schedule, and eventually, his penchant for adultery destroyed the family. After his parents divorced, Power almost never saw his father. Instead, his mother Patia took the reigns, raising her children in California all alone. But she also had an agenda. As an actress herself, she gave Power and his sister Anne a very important gift.
Under his mother's keen tutelage, Power picked up the basic tools he needed to succeed as an actor: diction, vocal control, and even fencing. But as Power grew into a striking young man, he soon realized he wanted more. Not only did he seek to emulate his father—the touted Shakesperean actor—but he also wanted to be better than him.
Luckily for Power, a long-awaited reunion was just around the corner.
At 16 years old, Power barely knew his father—but that was all about to change. Tyrone Power Sr. decided to burst back into his son's life, ready to shepherd Power toward his lofty goals. He took Power on a father-and-son camping trip, and they bonded for the first time in forever. Holed up in nature, the apprenticeship began. Unbeknownst to both parties, however, this rekindled relationship would be tragically cut short.
Power's determination to break into acting impressed his father greatly. As he learned to project his voice and accompanied his father on projects, Power felt—more than ever—that his dreams were finally in reach. When his dad landed a monumental role in The Miracle Man, their acting dynasty seemed more secure than ever. But it was all destined for heartbreak.
During the shooting of The Miracle Man, Power's father's health took a disturbing turn. When his father summoned him to his rooms, he knew immediately that something was seriously wrong...and he was right. While visiting him, Power watched in horror as Tyrone Power Sr. suffered a massive heart attack. Tyrone Power held his father as he breathed his last breath.
However, this was only the beginning of another uphill battle.
Without his father to direct his career, Power began to flounder. Not only was he going it alone, but he was also broke. As much as his illustrious name won him some interest, he completely lacked the necessary experience to make it big right off the bat. Even his handsome face couldn't snag him the work he lusted after. With his future now shrouded in uncertainty, Power had a difficult choice to make.
Faced with failure after failure in Hollywood, Power decided to switch things up. He moved to New York City in the hopes that Broadway might bring him closer to achieving his dream. Luckily for him, he caught the eye of the acclaimed actress and theater owner, Katharine Cornell, and eventually won his big break on stage with the role of Benvolio in Broadway's Romeo and Juliet.
But despite this first taste of success, Power still yearned to be a movie star.
Due to his breakout role as Benvolio, Power heard from a Hollywood talent scout who offered him a film contract with Universal Studios. But his response was utterly surprising. You see, when he took this exciting news to his mentor, Katharine Cornell, she urged him not to take it. In fact, she insisted that Power still needed far more experience and that he wasn't ready.
And so, he willingly let this opportunity slip through his fingers...for the time being.
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Having given up his one-way ticket to Hollywood, Power threw himself into his theater training. By the end of the season, however, another opportunity fell into his lap, and this time, he grabbed on tight and didn't let go. When he found out he had a screen test, he celebrated unabashedly; he ordered champagne and kicked up his heels.
After nailing his test with 20th Century Fox, the contract was his—and a new chapter began.
In 1936, with his feet firmly planted on the starting line, Power won fame right out of the gates. You see, he dazzled one very important person—director Henry King—who thought he'd be perfect for the lead role in Lloyd's of London. But this was no typical audition. The lead role had already been offered to Don Ameche, which meant that in order for Power to beat him out, he had to blow the test out of the water...
Power absolutely nailed the test, winning over Darryl F. Zanuck with flying colors. With his youth and handsome features, Power's undeniable star potential landed him the role of a lifetime. At the film's premiere, this nervous newcomer was practically unknown, but by the end of the night, his life would never be the same again...
For the next seven years, Tyrone Power absolutely dominated the box office. He absolutely entranced his female audience and fended off mountains of adoring fan mail. He was every girl's dreamboat, and as his career skyrocketed, the world of romance practically opened up to him. Not only did he become everyone's favorite romantic lead, but he also turned on his powers of seduction behind the scenes.
On the set of 1938's Suez, Power met one woman that he just couldn't get out of his head—the alluring Annabella. This French starlet had flown over from France to star in an American film, and before long, she'd captured Power's special attention. After he asked her to dinner, the rest was history: This gorgeous couple became practically inseparable.
However, not everyone was thrilled with this blossoming romance.
Zanuck was far from happy with this new development. He recognized that Tyrone Power was a lot more valuable if he maintained his bachelor status. His singledom was pure gold and allowed young girls to cling to the hope that the dreamy actor could one day be theirs. In this way, Annabella posed a huge problem and Zanuck couldn't wait to be rid of her.
As such, he came up with a clever plan to squash this love affair as quickly as it had begun.
To get Power's new lover out of the way, Zanuck offered Annabella multiple movie deals that would send her straight back to Europe. However, he soon learned that he'd sorely underestimated the stubborn French actress, and she absolutely refused to be banished. More than anything, she wanted to stay with Power—and she was willing to pay the price.
When Annabella put her foot down and turned down Zanuck's proposal, he suspended her. Later, Annabella confessed that Tyrone Power didn't have quite the same gall as she did: "Tyrone, he had maybe one little fault. He didn't know enough to say, 'No,' to somebody like Mr. Zanuck." However, Zanuck wasn't the only problem standing in Power and Annabella's way.
You see, Tyrone Power's girlfriend was more of a paramour: Annabella had a husband waiting for her back home. Of course, after falling for Power, she couldn't wait to snag a divorce from the French actor, Jean Murat. And that's exactly what she did. Finally free to wed her American beau, Annabella gleefully faced down Zanuck once and for all...and won.
On April 23, 1939, Tyrone Power wed Annabella, destroying his bachelor status and inciting Zanuck's revenge. The enraged film producer refused to cast Annabella in anything. But as this couple would soon learn, this might have been the least of their worries. Although they didn't know it, their marriage was in for a bumpy ride filled with betrayal.
With the dawn of the new decade fast approaching, Tyrone Power and Annabella began scoping out a home to plant some roots. Unfortunately, this exciting venture only ended in a startling revelation...Tyrone Power was practically broke and couldn't afford to buy the house. The news blindsided Power, and when he got to the bottom of this bizarre situation—he couldn't believe it.
As it turns out, Power's trusted business manager, Uncle Frank, had been stealing much of his income. But Power was never one for confrontation and instead of making a scene, he did his best to keep this scandal on the down-low. Instead, Annabella stepped up and financed their dream home—but as the years passed, another heart-wrenching conflict arose.
About four years into their wedded bliss, Power and Annabella faced a monumental disappointment. With a grand dynasty behind him, Power wanted a son to carry his legacy forward. Unfortunately, however, Annabella just couldn't seem to bear him a child, and it weighed heavily on her. But that wasn't all. Beyond this frustration, rumors of infidelity began to circulate.
Both Power and Annabella were not faithful to one another. While Annabella pursued a tryst with author Roald Dahl, Power set his sights on a very popular leading lady—Judy Garland. Garland fell head-over-heels for the married actor and as their illicit romance grew serious, she tried to convince Power to leave his wife. Of course, Annabella being Annabella, she wasn't about to grant a divorce that easily.
Besides, as the Power family struggled to find their footing, an even greater horror began to overshadow the entire nation.
With the dawn of a new decade came the beginning of WWII. And by 1942, Power found himself caught up in military obligation. He served honorably as a talented pilot. But for his French wife, however, the war had started far earlier than that. In fact, she cited it as one of the reasons for the collapse of their relationship. This trying chapter made her increasingly unhappy, and soon, the couple began drifting away from one another.
Although his homelife suffered, Tyrone thrived as a pilot. He was an exceptionally good one and even had a penchant for danger. After he returned home from his time in the army, he decided to get his act together and patch up the cracks in his failing marriage. He enjoyed a happy reunion with Annabella and a hit film with The Razor's Edge—but this promising new chapter was never meant to last.
After the huge success of The Razor's Edge, Power wanted to make a film that challenged him. He wanted to veer away from the charming, lovable characters he usually played and try his hand at something much darker and dramatic. Zanuck was reluctant to let Power star in 1947's film noir, Nightmare Alley, but eventually caved and let his star act in what he considered a B film.
Unfortunately, Power should never have trusted Zanuck to have his back...
Although Nightmare Alley wasn't a box-office success, Power still reaped some of the most glowing reviews imaginable. He was rather pleased with himself. However, Zanuck was not. Instead of properly publicizing the film, he went ahead and dealt his "darling boy" a terrible betrayal: The film barely had time to take flight before Zanuck pulled the release.
As Power grappled with this stunning disappointment, he also faced trouble on the homefront.
Despite their efforts to make it work, Power and Annabella came to standstill and separated. Later, she commented, "We were terribly sad about it, both of us, but we knew we were drifting apart. I didn't think then—and I don't think now—that it was his fault, or mine." The divorce was amicable as it could be, and once again, Tyrone Power became an eligible bachelor.
And when it came to romance, there was more heartbreak in the cards.
Soon, Tyrone Power had charmed his way into the heart of the leading lady, Lana Turner. But it soon became clear that her feelings for him far outweighed his feelings for her. It was destined for disaster. While Turner considered Power the love of her life, he had no intention of making her his wife. And then, in 1947, a huge problem arose.
As a result of their passionate affair, Lana Turner became pregnant with Power's child. But if she'd hoped to become one big happy family, she was sorely mistaken. Eventually, she opted for an abortion and the relationship started spiraling. You see, Power had his sights set on the horizon and his next big project took him farther away from Turner than ever before.
That very same year, Power decided to spread his wings. He wanted to travel around the world. And so, on September 1st, he and his flying mate, Bob Buck, set off in Power's personal plane, "The Geek." Together they traveled far and wide, through Europe and South Africa, dogged by adoring fans wherever they went. But, in the end, it was Rome that truly stole his heart.
While in Rome, Tyrone Power clapped eyes on the stunning Mexican actress, Linda Christian. Just like that, any thought of Lana Turner flew out the window. Christian remembers Power's phone ringing in his suite with Turner on the other end. Allegedly, Turner asked Power, "Where have you been all evening? Tell me that you love me." Power's response was both brutal and romantic in equal measure.
With Lana Turner in one ear, he turned to his new lover, Linda Christian, and said, "I love you." However, that wasn't the only drama. Turner claimed that there were many forces working against her. According to her, news of her spending an evening with Frank Sinatra got passed on to Power, who became rather upset that she had resorted to "dating" while he was away. And that wasn't all.
Turner also claimed that Power's new intrigue, Linda Christian, was far sneakier than she seemed. In Lana's jealous eyes, it seemed far too coincidental for both Power and Christian to have chosen the same hotel. Christian must have gotten her hands on Power's itinerary and planned the whole interlude...allegedly, of course. However, Lana Turner's heartbreak was the last thing on Tyrone Power's mind when he asked Linda Christian to be his wife.
In 1949, Linda Christian arrived late to her own wedding. Outside the church, throngs of hysterical fans barred her way to the altar as the groom waited patiently inside. Thankfully, the fairytale nuptials came to pass and the newlyweds were over the moon. However, as happy as the day proved to be—the marriage itself was another story.
For Power and Christian, having children was rather an uphill battle. Tragically, Christian suffered through three miscarriages before finally welcoming a baby girl, Romina Francesca Power. As happy as Power was to welcome his first child, his career kept delivering disappointment after disappointment. And as his frustration grew, his popularity fell.
Power, yearning for more freedom, turned down his next film role and took to the stage—a choice that baffled his wife. She couldn't understand why he'd opt for reaching such a small audience when his films had the power to reach millions. Of course, that wasn't the only thing that ruffled her feathers. Distracted by theater and far from his family, Power gave in to his forbidden desires.
Throughout Power's run with theater, a sordid trickle of rumors reached the ears of his wife. He wasn't being faithful to her and it didn't seem to bother him in the slightest. According to Christian, when Power arrived home, he told her, "Why do you worry? Why don't you get yourself a lover too?" This, of course, was a bad idea.
As he entertained the company of other women, Power's wife also took a lover, Edmund Purdom. However, this behavior only poisoned the marriage, until eventually, it was beyond repair. Despite welcoming another daughter in 1953, both Power and Christian had lost one necessary component of their relationship—trust.
That same year, Power returned to Hollywood with his first independent film, The Mississippi Gambler and it led to an awkward debacle that further enraged Linda Christian. You see, both she and Power were supposed to star in it together—a dream team both on-screen and off...that is until another beautiful actress strolled in for a screen test.
The casting for The Mississippi Gambler hit a snag when Piper Laurie nailed her audition and beat out Tyrone Power's own wife. Later, she remembered, "I had to walk on the burning coals to get the part." Stung by this blatant rejection, Linda Christian believed that her husband hadn't stood up for her and that he should have been "firmer."
By 1955, Power's marriage had crumbled beyond repair, and he and Christian split. However, there was one dream he still hadn't achieved—a son. Although he entertained affairs over the next couple of years, he had no desire to marry again, citing his own failed marriages as a reason to remain a bachelor. However, there was one woman destined to change his mind.
Two years after leaving Christian, Power met the woman who would make all his dreams come true, Deborah Jean Smith. This young woman had a bohemian spirit and had even courted Elvis Presley. After meeting Tyrone Power, however, she promised to give him a son, and only months after their wedding in 1958, she excitedly announced her pregnancy.
Little did Power know, he wouldn't live to witness the birth of his third child.
One of Power's friends, Terry Moore, remembers Power making a rather eerie statement: "There are only two things that I'd like: I would like a son and I would like to die on stage." As the actor prepared to take on his next huge project, Solomon and Sheba, he seemed to be a vision of health. Having grown out his beard for the role, Power was as dashing and handsome as ever.
Sadly, he was headed straight for tragedy.
Solomon and Sheba brought Power overseas to Spain where it dragged him through some stressful paces. You see, it was Tyrone Power's own company producing the film, and the weight of expectation lay heavily on his shoulders. Not only that, but as one of the lead actors, the work taxed his body and emotionally exhausted him.
While filming was underway, warning signs began surfacing. After giving the actor a mandatory checkup, Power's doctor seemed worried. He wanted to run another cardiogram, but shockingly, Power refused the procedure. In fact, his response was downright chilling: "If there's something wrong, I don't want to know." In retrospect, this may have been a fatal mistake.
During a dueling scene with his costar George Sanders, Tyrone Power began to tire. You see, Sanders wasn't an expert swordsman and they just couldn't get the scene right. By the 20th take, however, disaster struck. Tyrone Power suddenly fell to the ground. Something was seriously wrong. But this was only the beginning of the nightmare.
You see, Power's grueling dueling scene had brought on a massive heart attack. The surrounding crew watched in horror as he began to slip away before their eyes. To make matters worse, there was no doctor on set. Although the stricken actor was rushed to the hospital—it was already too late. At the startlingly young age of 44, the legendary actor closed his eyes forever.
Perhaps even more heartbreaking was the aftermath of Tyrone Power's passing. His burial took place at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary, and during the funeral, one of his greatest friends, Cesar Romero, delivered a heartwrenching eulogy: "He was a beautiful man—beautiful outside and beautiful inside. We shall all miss him. Rest well, my friend." However, the story of Tyrone Power wasn't quite over.
Two months after that fateful day, his wife welcomed the dream he didn't live to see—a son named Tyrone Power Jr. With this little boy, his legacy could continue on. Of course, he also left behind his two little girls. Later, his daughter Taryn Power heartbreakingly said, "I would have liked to have talked to him. I would have liked to hug him. I would have liked to just have a daddy."
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