Director Henry King was Darryl Zanuck's fair-haired boy at the newly
merged Twentieth Century Fox Studio and two of King's favorite contract
players were Don Ameche and Loretta Young. So when it came to cast "Lloyds.."
he set up the test for Don Ameche to play Jonathan Blake, a young entrepeneur
at Britain's most pretigious underwriting firm. Then one afternoon, young
Tyrone Power came by to see if there was some small part in the production
that he could play and King remembered the young man's father was a noted
actor who had done some work for him 5 years before. He decided to run
a similar test on him. When Zanuck saw the test Don was out, Ty was in
and Loretta Young who was to be the leading lady had left in a huff. She
didn't want to take a chance on an unknown (she would later do four pictures
with Ty and become one of his ladies fair). Madeleine Carroll took over
as the woman in Jonathan's life with Freddie Bartholemew getting top billing
as the young Jonathan. This movie was not only Ty Power's big break but
a veritable box office bonanza with the distinction of being held over
at The Roxy in New York! Oh, by the way, Tyrone Power was earning a salary
of $75 a week!
A prince, a peasant girl and a Swiss Alps ski lodge became the ingredients
in what the New York Times called one of the brightest comedies of the
year. His Highness, Prince Rudolph traveling under false pretenses woos
and wins the lovely Lili who teaches figure skating at the lodge. But
she catches on to him and he loses her and then has to do the wooing all
over again. Off the set, Sonja became head over heels in love with Ty,
an affliction that seemed to beset most of his leading ladies. They would
do one more picture together ("Second Fiddle" 1939) but by that
time the affair had fizzled. Sonja said many years later that Tyrone Power
was the greatest love of her life. Look for Joan Davis and her zany comedy
and Lon Chaney, Jr. in a bit part.
After MGM made the earth shake in "San Francisco", Fox needed a disaster of equal value to compete so they burned down Chicago! It cost nearly $2 million but the returns were enormous. Tyrone played Dion O'Leary, ne'er-do-well son of the local laundress (with a nervous cow!). The original casting idea of Gable and Harlow was shelved when King decided Gable was too old for the part and Harlow had taken seriously ill. Don Ameche was tagged to play Jack O'Leary and Alice Faye was given the role of Belle Fawcett. A near-tragedy happened on the set when Faye's feathery costume caught fire from nearby candles.She ran off the set and tumbled down a flight of stairs. Alice wasn't burned but the fall caused her long range back pain. The intentional fire cost thousands of dollars to set and three days to put out. It was considered so dangerous women weren't allowed on the set and stuntmen dressed as women were used instead. The picture won two Academy Awards...one for Alice Brady as Mrs. O'Leary (Best Supporting Actress) and Robert Webb ( for Assistant Director..the last time the award was given)...and 3 nominations (Best Picture, Original Story, and Score).
It seems the song preceded the movie by 27 years! In 1911, Irving
Berlin wrote "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and America went ragtime
crazy. It became the biggest craze of the 20th century and popularized
social dancing. Dance floors were installed in every hotel, cabaret and
country club as devotees danced to a modified fox trot. Now in early 1938,
they were going to write a screenplay for it, Irving was going to compose
the score and the craze would start all over again. King asked that a
new song be added that perhaps Ty could sing so Berlin wrote "Now
It can Be Told" with the most limited range of any song he had ever
written. But in the end the song was given to Don Ameche with a Faye follow-up.
The song became another Berlin hit and one of Ty's lifetime favorites.
Tyrone played Roger Grant, a leader of a small jazz band and a refugee
from the classical violin. The band was joined by a bejeweled, befeathered
saloon singer (Alice Faye) who is eventually remodeled by overly ambitious
Roger, who falls in love with her but loses her to Don Ameche. Of Course, Don lost
the girl so often, his presence in a picture usually revealed the plot).
Ethel Merman is the second stringer who moves in with her lusty voice
when Alice bows out. The movie showcases more than 25 songs and was in
the top ten of almost every critic's review list and on many "best
films of all time" lists. It is on top of mine!
Here was an epic drama with no happy ending. History meets Hollywood and Hollywood triumphs! It was the story of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the architect of the Suez Canal and his struggle to get France and England to see and approve his vision. The screenplay based on a story by Sam Duncan, takes de Lesseps into the court intrigue of Louis Napoleon and the arms of his future empress, the Countess Eugenie played by Loretta Young( the de Lesseps family sued over the allegation that Ferdinand lusted after Eugenie but it was thrown out of the French courts). In Egypt he meets the hoyden, illiterate daughter(Annabella) of a Foreign Legion sergeant who falls in love with him ( off the set as well as on) and encourages him to follow his dream. During the canal construction scenes, the script called for a giant sandstorm and large aircraft fans were brought in to create the gusts. However, it was soon apparent that the sand was doing a lot of damage to the eyes and skin of the cast. Technicians finallydevised a method of crushing cornflakes into minute particles that looked real but were not as abrasive. The film was very successful and had long runs everywhere and it is still a favorite on classic movie channels. Another phenomenon it created was the ladies' craving for Empress Eugenie hats!
Nunnally Johnson discovered a treasure trove of old Sedalia, Missouri "Gazette" newspapers from 1870 extolling the Robin Hood virtues of outlaw Jesse James and wrote a screenplay around them. Once they had a viable script and their leading man, the problem became where to shoot it? It needed to be somewhere that closely approximated the rural landscape of Jesse's era. They found just such a place in the Ozarks called Pineville, a town seemingly untouched by the 20th century. The townspeople treated the cast and crew just like family. However, controversy arose over the treatment of animals, those in the movie and those in the countryside. Prize chickens were eaten and several movie horses were killed accidentally during a posse scene where they had to plunge into the river ( not uncommon during the making of Westerns back then). Tyrone was extremely saddened by the incidents. On a happier note, Henry King was able to locate a section of railroad track untouched since Jesse's day and even more unusual, he found an old engine and 3 passenger cars from the same era! With Ty as Jesse, Henry Fonda as Frank and Nancy Kelly as the editor's daughter who married Jesse, the cast also included John Carradine as Bob Howard, (in the words of the song "the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard") and Randolph Scott as Will.
Before "Funny Girl" there was a "Rose" in Fanny's life! Even the disclaimer "any resemblance to persons living or dead" didn't hide the fact that it was a thinly disguised account of Fanny Brice and her con-man husband, Nicky Arnstein. Why Alice even sang Fanny's song "My Man". So Fanny sued, the studio paid and the movie made money. They even cast the Al Jolson part of Ted Cotter with...Al Jolson! Alice Faye sang those torch songs as though her heart would break and Jolson did all the old favorites (some critics thought he stole the picture). But when Alice sang "My Man" and those tears came to Ty's eyes, he had them (and me) all the way! Off the set, wedding bells were about to ring for Ty and Annabella. Look for Hobart Cavanaugh doing a great job as Whitey Boone, the drunk in the box seats. This is one of Arabella's favorites.
Louis Bromfield's book was a runaway bestseller and the studio was
willing to spend millions to bring it to the screen. In fact it took $2
million to provide just the special effects for the picture...because
when the rains came to Ranchipur they never stopped. Dams had to break,
great walls of water had to crash down on villages, bridges collapse and
people and houses wash away....all on the back lot! Tyrone Power played
Rami, the Johns Hopkins-trained surgeon who had come back to his native
village to work among his people. Myrna Loy was Lady Edwina, bored and
very married to a bad-tempered, bumbling member of the British peerage,
but very attracted to the dark, brooding Rami. However, it was an incident
on the set that gave Myrna an unneeded rush of adrenaline. Her horse bolted
during the rain scene, rushing headlong across studio backlots at breakneck
speed until it finally stopped at the commissary steps. Myrna, an experienced
rider, was nonetheless scared out of her wits.
Tyrone was the quintessential Zorro. All the rest were just pale imitations
including his predecessor in the role, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Ty loved
the movie and it gave him expression for all that dry wit he was so famous
for offscreen. Too bad Zanuck didn't see the humor because the studio
would rarely ever give that chance to Ty again. In "..Zorro"
Ty had also honed his fencing skills to the point he needed no doubles
in the dueling scenes. That accomplishment put him in the ranks of Basil
Rathbone and Errol Flynn who were considered Hollywood's best. Basil,
who was his adversary in the picture, said "Tyrone could have fenced
Errol Flynn into a cocked hat!"
If Darryl Zanuck was out to slay past dragons and replace them with his top star...and had used "...Zorro" to neatly do away with the specter of Fairbanks..then surely the remake of Rudolph Valentino's classic would topple another giant. Well, Ty could outact and outcharm Rudy any day but as a matador he would have been a complete disaster. At his first bullfight in preparation to do the film, Ty got violently sick when they killed the bull. He never could countenance cruelty. While the movie was a commercial success, it did nothing to further Ty's career as a dramatic actor and so he was disappointed again. He would have to wait until later in his career for that chance...almost too late.
This was Ty's first contemporary war film based on the air war being waged by Great Britain to halt the Nazi overrun of Europe and safeguard their own survival. The draft of the script was titled "The Eagle Flies Again" and the story ended with the American pilot's death. But the R.A.F. publicity office objected so the script was changed and the pilot lived..but the title changed. Betty Grable was given the female lead and Ty objected. He said it was because the musical interludes would dilute the true character of the story but he was also upset at the studio's pushing Grable into Alice Faye roles. King assured him the public would expect Grable to sing, dance and show those fabulous legs. In the end, the paying public came in droves but the critics sided with Ty ..a chance to make a significant comment on the war was lost. Tyrone plays a cocky American flier looking for excitement and Grable is the prize. John Sutton is the "Ameche"in this film who loves and loses.
Ty wanted to look like a pirate and not a matinee idol with beard,
scars and all. Henry King wanted him to look like a pirate with beard,
scars and all. But Mr. Zanuck loudly protested and..all Ty got was a mustache.
But to Power's satisfaction, he got to do comedy, drama and melodrama
(he even got to sock the gal, for heaven's sake) and Maureen O'Hara didn't
mind a bit. Ty was Jamie Waring, scourge of the Spanish Main and cohort
of Sir Henry Morgan while Maureen was the red-haired, tempestuous daughter
of British nobility who finally succumbed to his charms.
Tyrone Power was back from the war to make his first movie since 1943 in a part seemingly made just for him. Maugham's Larry Darrell was sensitive,deeply introspective and searching for the meaning of life. He gave up his career and even his lady to seek the answers. Herbert Marshall, as Somerset Maugham, narrates the story as Larry makes his way to India after escaping the seductive advances of lovely but desperate Isabel (Gene Tierney). Another more formidable character was that of Elliott Templeton, marvelously done with caustic wit by Clifton Webb as the snobbish American who prefers Paris and its elite society . Anne Baxter is sweet Sophie who loses her husband and child in an automobile accident and drifts into alcoholism and prostitution. While the movie was not the commercial success Zanuck hoped for, it won critical acclaim and was regarded to be far ahead of its time. Life magazine said "Playing them (the leads) Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney ...have put themselves in the company of the movies' most accomplished actors". The movie was nominated for Best Picture but lost to "The Best Years of Our Lives". However, Anne Baxter won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Sophie. Clifton Webb lost...the Best Supporting Actor award went to Harold Russell of "TBYOOL". "Mam'selle" (Sophie's Theme), written by director Goulding, became the most popular song in the nation.
This was the picture Tyrone Power wanted to do...a character with no redeeming qualities, an unmitigated heel with no marks of the matinee idol. Zanuck refused when Ty asked him to buy the rights to William Lindsay Gresham's novel but Power kept pressing him. Finally, Zanuck relented and asked Edmund Goulding to direct. Pushing the envelope even further, Zanuck asked George Jessel, who usually produced musicals, to handle this dark drama. Ty plays Stan Carlisle who, with no experience whatever, joins a carnival and uses his unsavory charm to win over the carnival mentalist (Joan Blondell). She takes him on as her partner while he turns his attentions to the more naive Molly (played by Colleen Gray who accidentally exposes him in the end). Helen Walker plays Lilith, another con-artist who helps Stan with his nefarious schemes. He soon spirals downward into alcoholism finally stumbling back to the carnival as a "geek", a freak who bites the heads off live chickens for booze. According to James Agee..."From top to bottom of the cast, the playing is good. Joan Blondell, as the fading carnival queen, is excellent and Tyrone Power, who asked to be cast in the picture, steps into a new class as an actor".
Ty was now no longer under contract to Fox and he chose this picture as his first vehicle outside that studio. He wanted wife Linda Christian to play opposite him to lessen tensions at home and perhaps keep the marriage on even keel but the studio opted for Piper Laurie. In this picture Ty plays Mark Fallon, a riverboat gambler who insists on honest cards and whose luck parlays into a reputation on the river and the funds eventually to buy his own casino. Fallon falls in love with the snobbish daughter of an old family friend who marries another. His luck fails, he loses his casino and ends up back on the riverboats but gets the girl. It is a good story well-told and the crowds came out in droves. Since Ty now got a percentage of the net profits, he made over a million dollars on this film.
There had been a big change in films ...they had gone wide screen. Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe claimed the top of the box office and sex was the key word. But Ty Power and John Ford decided to make a picture against the tide, long a credo with Ford and becoming one with Power. The screenplay was based on "Bringing Up the Brass",a book by Marty Mahar and Nardi Reeder Campion, and the story of Mahar's life at West Point. Much of the film was to be shot there. Tyrone already looked the part..a dark-haired Irishman just off the boat and Ty learned to speak with a brogue thick enough to fool the people of County Cork! Maureen O'Hara was cast as Mary O'Donnell, another "Paddy" he meets and marries. The story follows Marty from his first day at the Point through an entire generation, and has Tyrone aging convincingly in appearance and speech as the movie progresses. The film was considered the best thing he had ever done with perhaps the exception of "Nightmare Alley". At long last, Tyrone was doing the roles he had always wanted to do and was now acclaimed for his acting and not just his face.
George Sidney, MGM's top director of musicals, was lured to Columbia
by Harry Cohn in the mid-'50's and he took his pet project with him. It
was a screenplay by Samuel Taylor on the life of the late Eddie Duchin,
matinee idol pianist of the '30's and '40's. Not long after he jumped
ship, Sidney found himself sitting next to Ty Power on a NY/LA flight.
Sidney told Ty about the project he was working on and Ty recalled that
Duchin had often been a guest in his home while he was married to Annabella.
"Who is going to play him?',Ty asked. "You are", George
Power didn't want to do this role but Wilder wanted him. The studio wanted a leading man that could go from this film to "Solomon and Sheba" and first choice was William Holden who also refused it. It was obviously a film that would do more for the leading lady than the actor who played Leonard Vole. It was eventually turned down by Gene Kelly (looking for drama roles), Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon. Then Ty reconsidered and a good picture got better! He also got the package deal for "Solomon..." but ironically and tragically this would be the last picture he ever finished. There was never any doubt that Dietrich would play Christine Vole and Charles Laughton,the role of barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts. The suspense was heightened when the British Royal family were allowed to preview the movie on the absolute assurance that they would not reveal the ending. On the set, I have no proof that Marlene fell for Ty but Charlie Laughton had to put a leash on Elsa. The movie itself was a smash success and received 6 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor and Actress (Laughton and Lanchester), Sound and Editing.