Tyrone Power

  1. Michael Whalen, Sing, Baby Sing, 1936.     Spotted by a Fox scout in the Katharine Cornell company stage version of St Joan, Ty tested – and lost the film that pushed Alice Faye on top.  Where Power joined her in less than two years. By 1939, Ty was voted King of Hollywood. (Jeanette MacDonald was Queen).
  2. James Stewart, Seventh Heaven, 1936.     Head Fox Darryl Zanuck pulled Power out of the French sewers – and into Love Is News with Loretta Young.  Stewart was luckier.  Simone Simon.   
  3. John Beal, Madame X, 1937.   Director Frank Borzage’s choice, before Sam Wood inherited the action.  It was savvy agent Meyer Mishkin (who found and/or repped Anne Baxter, Wendell Corey, Richard Dreyfuss, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck and, above all,  Lee Marvin) who forced LA suits to take a second look at Power. They had first rejected him because… “his eyebrows are too thick.”  (They’d never heard of shaving?)
  4. Richard Greene, Submarine Patrol, 1938.    Second John Ford film for Greene that year (after Four Men and A Prayer when he also replaced another guy: Douglas Fairbanks Jr). True Brit Greene had a Fox contract and almost as much fan mail as Power.   Once back home, he was born again as Robin Hood for 143 TV episodes during 1955-1960. Ford had something better (and, of course, sentimental) for Power and kept him, waiting 15 years for it: The Long Grey Line, 1953.
  5. Leslie Howard, Gone with the Wind, 1938. 
  6. Laurence Olivier, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
  7. William Holden, Golden Boy, 1938. According to biographer Bob Thomas, boxer Joe Bonaparte was refused by both Power and John Garfield. Not. Quite. True. The rôle was was refused for them (without them knowing, of course) by their respective studios, Fox and Warner Bros (which wanted the story for a Wayne Morris quickie!).  Supposedly, Columbia czar Harry Cophn looked at 5,000 actors, testing more than 80 – like Dale Robertson at age 17. Cohn didn’t rate Holden at all.  But he wanted Barabra Stanwyck as Lorna – and La Barb wanted the swiftly golden Holden. His thanking her for his breakthrough was among the higlights of the 50th Oscar night in 1978.  “Oh, Bill!”  she cried. Literally.As Holden soared, Carlson remained a second banana throughout his 103 films
  8. Henry Fonda,Young Mr Lincoln, 1939.    Before John Ford persuaded a remarkably hesitant (terrified!) Fonda with a special screen test (“I felt as if I were portraying Christ himself”), Fox had booked Irving Cummings to direct Power in the bio.
  9. Spencer Tracy, Stanley and Livingstone, 1939.    “No longer handsome Tyrone Power,” noted scenarist Philip Dunne about the casting of newspaperman Henry M Stanley, “but now rough Spencer Tracy.”  And it worked.
  10. John Wayne, Seven Sinners, 1940.      Marlene Dietrich’s agent, Charles K Feldman, invented packaging and Fox was not happy with her top billing and just a “with” for Power.  Director Tay Garnett saw her check Wayne over “from cowlick to cowboots and then say, in her characteristic basso whisper, ‘Daddy, buy me THAT!’ Duke, he said, proved “not a bright or exciting type.”But he sure was “mesmerised” and made two more movies with her.

  11. John Payne, Sun Valley Serenade, 1940.     Or Passport to Life when Fox first announced Power and Linda Darnell as the lovers – the pianist and singer with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, no less – in Sonja Henie’s favourite icecapade. Payne’s squeeze became Lynn Bari.
  12. Don Ameche, Confirm or Deny, 1940.   One Fox pretty boy for another as the war correspondent hero. Directors also changed when Fritz Lang’s gall  bladder problems led to Archie Mayo finishing the movie – or indeed making it? That I cannot confirm or deny.
  13. John Wayne, The Shepherd of the Hills, 1940.  The age of the contenders for the vengeful “Young Matt Matthews” fluctuated. Power and John Garfield, were 27, and Robert Preston, 22… before Wayne, at 33, made it his first colour Western. “A lachrymose bore,” said the New York Times.
  14. Paul Muni, Hudson’s Bay, 1940. The birth of Canada, Hollywood style… A story about the Hudson Bay Company had been on head Fox Darryl Zanuck’s mind since 1936. He cancelled it in 1939 because “the feature would have a weak box-office pull at the present time.” His hero changed from Power, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Dean Jagger, Fred MacMurray to Muni – his first gig since quitting Warner Bros.  
  15. Cesar Romero, A Gentleman At Heart, 1941.   The treatment written for Don Ameche (as a Runyonesque bookmaker) had him opposite Annabella or Simone Simon. Next draft? Annabella’s ex-husband, Tyrone Power and Loretta Young. Finally, Romero had Carole Landis.
  16. George Montgomery, Ten Gentlemen From West Point, 1941.   West Point – The Early Years. (Far from historically accurate). Power, Henry Fonda and Randolph Scott were the early birds for the principled Kentuckian frontiersman – highly smitten with Maureen O’Hara.
  17. Irving Pichel, How Green Is My Valley, 1941.     Ty was due to play the Roddy MacDowall character as an adult – in director William Wyler’s version, cancelled, said MacDowall, because “stockholders thought it a very dour subject with no style.” John Ford’s version won four Oscars including Best Film. Stockholders!
  18. Robert Cummings, Kings Row, 1941.   Power, Rex Downing, Henry Fonda, Philip Reed, were also up for  Parris, studying medicine under the doctor in “the town they talk of in whispers,” full of murder, sadism, depravity.  And worse that had to be axed from Henry Bellamann’s 1940 novel: sex (premarital),  sex (gay), incest, suicide…  Peyton Place 16 years before Peyton Place! (Fonda and Power had played Frank and Jesse James in 1938).
  19. George Montgomery,  China Girl, 1942.   Or A Yank in China when head Fox Darryl Zanuck  told the writer to “pattern the protagonist” after Power’s Yank in the RAF. Then, Zanuck changed his mind, “In reviewing this story outline, I am sure we made one mistake initially, in endeavoring to conceive Tyrone Power in the lead. We must forget Power, because no matter what changes in characterization we made, the audience would inevitably associate the line with A Yank in the RAF and this story would therefore be bound to lose its originality.”
    Zanuck then suggested Victor Mature or John Payne. 
  20. Gary Cooper, For Whom The Bell Tolls,1942. Ousted in excellent company… Robert Donat, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Sterling Hayden, Joel McCrea, Ray Milland, Tyrone Power. Because Ernest Hemingway insisted on Gary Cooper  (and Ingrid Bergman). He’d had them in mind when writing the book.

  21. Robert Alda, Rhapsody In Blue, 1945.  .   Back In 1938, head bro Jack Warner  tried to set up the biopic with John Garfield  as George Gershwin. Director Irving Rapper, to his cost, who wanted Tyrone Power,  felt no one would believe Cary Grant was a composer.  Plus, he was not American enough. When, in fact, the film was not Gershwin enough!  Cary later played composer Cole Porter in Night and Day which was not Porter enough!  Rapper wanted Power, but Uncle Sam already had him – fighting in WWII.  A dozen years later, Ty was playing  piano for another musical bio.  The Eddy Duchin Story. Both were as close to reality as Tom & Jerry.
  22. Victor Mature, My Darling Clementine, 1945. Sam Peckinpah’s   favourite Western… Back from WWII as a flying hero, James Stewart  was none too sure if he should continue acting. It seemed so superficial after all he seen in the war.  First role to interest Colonel Stewart was the dying Doc Holliday opposite pal (and alleged lover) Henry Fonda (back from the US Navy) as Wyatt Earp.   Passing on Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Tyrone Power  or Vincent Price, head Fox Darryl Zannuck voted Jim.  Rubbish, said director John Ford, also just back from WWII.   “He couldn’t play the part.”  And Mature could?  Indeed, he did! Fonda still called it one of Ford’s biggest mistakes. Ford didn’t agree for another 15 years –  when the  Two Rode Together for him.
  23. Richard Widmark, Slattery’s Hurrricane, 1948.    The film that invented in-fligfht movies… According to the LA Times, July 19,1948, Fox house boys Andrews and Tyrone Power  were  up for the shifty, selfish anti-hero US Navy Lieutenant Willard Francis Slattery, monitoring hurricanes for the US Weather Bureau by flying his Grumman Mallard into their very  epicentre. . Good. Now add a dash of crime and what have you got?  Nothing, really According to co-star Veronica Lake’s autobiography, the film  was premiered for 86 people  aboard the US Navy’s pride and joy, the  90-ton giant Constitution aircraft, during a three hour flight  (lunch included) circling around Manhattan.  
  24. Kirk Douglas, A Letter To Three Wives, 1948.    Originally,  Four  Wives…  Too long, snapped Darryl Zanuck. Kill one wife!  So Anne Baxter’s Martha never got Addie’s letter about running off with one of their spouses. But which one? Ann Sothern’s Douglas, for example, or Linda Darnell’s Douglas (Paul)
  25. Alan Ladd, The Great Gatsby, 1948.  The pretty Power was nearly the second Jay Gatsby (after Warner Baxter in 1926). Daisy was due as a fourth screen partnership with Gene Tierney.  When she was dumped (for being too beautiful!), Power quit. Anyway, shorter or not, Ladd had the darker edge to him.
  26. Richard Boone, Kangeroo, 1950.   Ty was replaced  in the Aussie Western by a totally different type of actor – and then Fox had to use all its muscle to  bury a certain scandal. In her 2004 autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, co-star Maureen O’Hara revealed how Fox told her to make “a personal plea”  to the press not to mention the alleged arrests of Boone and co-star Peter Lawford in a gay brothel “full of beautiful boys.”  
  27. Dale Robertson, Lydia Bailey, 1951.  Once the studio’s goldenballs, Power was suspended Fox (ie: no more salary until he doing what he was told). by Fox for refusing to mess with Haitian history in the film of Kenneth Roberts’ novel. fighting  for independence from Napoleonic France. Power was soon losing rather more important vehicles…
  28. Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata, 1952.     Power was still under contract, and, therefore, , first choice for the bioipic.  But then Brando erupted on the scene. He tested for the then titled Beloved Tiger (!) in early 1949 because his mentor, director Eliza Kazan, said he could play anything – even a Mexican revolutionary. Attacked by both the left and right for not being sufficently left or right, this ended of the Kazan-Brands seven years.  Marlon was no longer the apprentice.  Kazan need him more than vice-versa – for The Arrangement, for example, where Brando passed the lead to Kirk Douglas!!
  29. Rory Calhoun, Way Of A Gaucho, 1952.     The original notion was Henry King directing Power.Then, King switched to another movie and Power followed him out the exit.
  30. Burt Lancaster, From Here To Eternity, 1952.

  31. Richard Burton, The Robe, 1952.  Finding the lead hard to cast, director Henry Koster  went from Power to Marlon Brando to  Laurence Olivier in his quest for he perfect  Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio  – the man ordered to crucify Jesus Christ. Power. however, was not about to be suckered into signing a new studio contract.  After 17 years, he wanted his freedom from Fox. Five years later, he died on the set of another Biblical epic, Solomon and Sheba.
  32. James Mason,  A Star Is Born, 1953.
  33. James Stewart, The Glenn Miller Story, 1953.    One year earlier, Power and Gregory Peck topped  Universal’s list for the trombone-playing bandleader – whose plane went missing after one of his WWII  troop concert tours in Europe. Power went on to play a different bandleader (piano, not trombone) in The Eddy Duchin Story, 1955.
  34. Henry Fonda, Mister Roberts, 1954.     From the outset, Warner Bros agreed that Fonda, the star of 1,600 Broadway performances, was the “only man thought of for the title role.” Sure, but he was like, kinda too old… and had not been seen since John Ford’s Fort Apache in 1948. And so, Doug Roberts was first offered to to Holden. Being no fool, he passed – “Fonda owned it!” 
 Next target: Marlon Brando! Then, Power. Ford only agreed to direct if the studio OK’d Fonda who, like Ford, had served in the US Navy during WWII, not to mention six other Ford films. Also backing Fonda was producer Leland Heyward – Hank’s agent, now wed to his’s ex-wife Margaret Sullavan. Fonda never knew Ford had fought the studio for him – particularly when, during the shooting, Ford fought with him, knocking Hank on his elegant ass… before quitting. Josh Logan finished the voyage.
  35. Rock Hudson, Giant, 1955.
  36. William Holden, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956.    After Humphrey Bogart passed on  Shears (written for him by Carl Foreman), Power was contacted. However, it was Holden – and his canny agent – winning  the first delayed payment deal: $250,000 plus 10% of “whatever the profits: were, to be paid at no more than $50,000 per year.” By 1975, the cut reached $2.8m. (Columbia and Spiegel shared the annual $100,000 interest made from Holden’s funds!) Director David Lean was impressed with  Holden and  asked him to play an American doctor in his next (aborted) project: Gandhi
  37. Antonio Vilar, La femme et la pantin (US: The Female; UK: A Woman Like Satan), France-Spain, 1958.    “My life’s empty, almost  meaningless.” He refused the version planned with Gina Lollobrigida. And met her on his next and final film.
  38. Yul Brynner, Solomon and Sheba, 1958.    “I’ve had it,” said a pale, shaking Power after sword-fighting George Sanders on November 15, 1958.  Power retired to his trailer, had a heart attack, was sped to the USAF hospital at Torrejon in co-star Gina Lollobrigida’s Mercedes and died – like his father before him in the middle of a film. “My best part and best film,” he had told King Vidor. Hardly. As is almost traditional, the dead star remains visible in some long shots.


* Tyrone Power as the king in Solomon and Sheba, 1959. He died during the production – exactly like his father  during The Miracle Man, 1932. Solomon was  eventually completed by Yul Brynner, still with Marisa Pavan as Abishag .  [courtesy Daniel Bouteiller/Telé Ciné Documentation]

(Clic to enlarge)


 Birth year: 1913Death year: 1958Other name: Casting Calls:  38