William Horatio Powell
July 29, 1892
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||March 5, 1984 (aged 91)|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.|
|Occupation(s)||Stage Actor, Movie Actor|
|Children||William David Powell|
William Horatio Powell (July 29, 1892 – March 5, 1984) was an American actor, known primarily for his film career. Under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the Thin Man series based on the Nick and Nora Charles characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: for The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947).
Powell was born in Pittsburgh in 1892, the only child of Nettie Manila (née Brady) and Horatio Warren Powell, an accountant. In 1907, young William moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri, where he graduated from Central High School four years later.
After high school, Powell enrolled at the University of Kansas to study law, but after a week he relocated to New York City, where he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1912, Powell left the AADA, and began working in vaudeville and stock companies. Powell began his Hollywood career in 1922, playing Professor Moriarty in a production of Sherlock Holmes with John Barrymore. He performed as Francis I in When Knighthood Was in Flower with Marion Davies.
Powell remained under contract to Paramount throughout the 1920s, before signing with Warner Bros.
Powell portrayed a vengeful film director in the silent movie The Last Command (1928). His first starring role was Philo Vance in The Canary Murder Case (1929). He played Vance at Paramount Pictures four times. His strong stage-developed voice became a powerful asset when talking pictures were introduced.
Powell appeared as Nick Charles in six Thin Man films, beginning with The Thin Man in 1934, based upon Dashiell Hammett's novel. This movie provided Powell with his first Academy Award nomination, in 1935
Powell starred in The Great Ziegfeld, (1936), opposite his The Thin Man co-star, Myrna Loy, who played Ziegfeld's wife, Billie Burke. In 1937, Powell received his second Academy Award nomination for the comedy My Man Godfrey.
In 1935, he starred with Jean Harlow in Reckless. In 1936, Harlow and Powell appeared in Libeled Lady, and they became romantically involved off-set. He gave her a handsome ring, but did not ask her to marry him, so she referred to it as her "unengagement ring". Powell had been unhappy with his previous marriage to popular actor Carole Lombard, and this apparently kept him from entering a similar arrangement with Harlow, who was a sex symbol to the film-going public during that time. They kept company but did not live together. Harlow fell ill from undiagnosed kidney failure while working on a film with Clark Gable, and died before the film was completed, from uremia, at age 26 in June 1937.
Powell received his third Academy Award nomination in 1947 for his role as Clarence Day Sr. in Life with Father. His last film was playing the character Doc in 1955's Mister Roberts.
On April 15, 1915, Powell married Eileen Wilson, who was born Julia Mary Tierney. The couple had a son, William David Powell. They divorced in 1930. Powell's son became a television writer and producer before a period of ill health and depression led to his suicide in 1968.
On June 26, 1931, Powell married actress Carole Lombard. They divorced in 1933, but starred in My Man Godfrey three years later. Powell was devastated by her death in an airplane crash in 1942. He was romantically involved with Jean Harlow, his co-star in Reckless (1935), until her unexpected death from illness in 1937. On January 6, 1940, three weeks after they met, Powell married his third wife, actress Diana Lewis, who cancelled her film career to be his full-time wife. They remained married until his death in 1984.
A Republican, Powell supported Thomas Dewey in the 1944 United States presidential election.
In March 1938, Powell was diagnosed with rectal cancer. He underwent surgery and experimental radium treatment, which put the disease in full remission within two years. Given his own health and sorrow over Jean Harlow's death, Powell did not undertake any film roles for more than a year during this period.
Powell died in Palm Springs, California, on March 5, 1984, at the age of 91 from pneumonia. He is buried at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California, near his third wife, Diana Lewis, and his only child, William David Powell.
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in 1947 for Life with Father and The Senator Was Indiscreet.
William Powell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1636 Vine Street.
In 1992, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
|1936||Lux Radio Theatre||The Thin Man|
|1938||Lux Radio Theatre||My Man Godfrey|
|1939||Lux Radio Theatre||One Way Passage|
|1939||Lux Radio Theatre||The Ex-Mrs. Bradford|
|1940||Lux Radio Theatre||Love Affair|
|1940||Lux Radio Theatre||After the Thin Man|
|1940||Lux Radio Theatre||Manhattan Melodrama|
|1941||Lux Radio Theatre||Hired Wife|
|1942||Lux Radio Theatre||Love Crazy|
|1943||Lux Radio Theatre||The Lady Has Plans|
|1944||Lux Radio Theatre||Shadow of a Doubt|
|1944||Lux Radio Theatre||Suspicion|
|1946||Reader's Digest Radio Edition||He Fell in Love with a Picture: 33|
|1948||Lux Radio Theatre||I Love You Again|
|1948||Lux Radio Theatre||Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid|
|1949||Screen Directors Playhouse||Love Crazy|
|1953||Suspense||"The Man Who Cried Wolf"|
|1922||Sherlock Holmes||Foreman Wells||film debut|
|1922||When Knighthood Was in Flower||Francis I|
|1923||The Bright Shawl||Gaspar De Vaca|
|1923||Under the Red Robe||Duke of Orleans|
|1924||Dangerous Money||Prince Arnolfo da Pescia||lost film|
|1925||Too Many Kisses||Julio|
|1925||Faint Perfume||Barnaby Powers||lost film|
|1925||My Lady's Lips||Scott Seddon|
|1925||The Beautiful City||Nick Di Silva||lost film|
|1925||The New Commandment||uncredited lost film|
|1926||White Mice||Roddy Forrester|
|1926||Sea Horses||Lorenzo Salvia||lost film|
|1926||Desert Gold||Snake Landree|
|1926||The Runaway||Jack Harrison||lost film|
|1926||Aloma of the South Seas||Van Templeton||lost film|
|1926||The Great Gatsby||George Wilson||lost film|
|1926||Tin Gods||Tony Santelli||lost film|
|1927||New York||Trent Regan||lost film|
|1927||Love's Greatest Mistake||Don Kendall||lost film|
|1927||Special Delivery||Harold Jones|
|1927||Time to Love||Prince Alado|
|1927||Paid to Love||Prince Eric|
|1927||She's a Sheik||Kada||lost film|
|1928||The Last Command||Lev Andreyev|
|1928||Beau Sabreur||Becque||lost film|
|1928||Feel My Pulse||Her Nemesis|
|1928||Partners in Crime||Smith|
|1928||The Drag Net||Dapper Frank Trent||lost film|
|1928||The Vanishing Pioneer||John Murdock||lost film|
|1928||Interference||Philip Voaze||Powell's sound debut|
|1929||The Canary Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1929||The Four Feathers||Capt. William Trench|
|1929||The Greene Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1929||Charming Sinners||Karl Kraley|
|1929||Pointed Heels||Robert Courtland|
|1930||Behind the Make-Up||Gardoni|
|1930||Street of Chance||John D. Marsden / 'Natural' Davis|
|1930||The Benson Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1930||Paramount on Parade||Philo Vance|
|1930||Shadow of the Law||John Nelson|
|1930||For the Defense||William Foster|
|1931||Man of the World||Michael Trevor|
|1931||Ladies' Man||Jamie Darricott|
|1931||The Road to Singapore||Hugh Dawltry|
|1932||High Pressure||Gar Evans|
|1932||Jewel Robbery||The Robber|
|1932||One Way Passage||Dan Hardesty|
|1932||Lawyer Man||Anton Adam|
|1933||Private Detective 62||Free|
|1933||Double Harness||John Fletcher|
|1933||The Kennel Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|1934||Fashions of 1934||Sherwood Nash|
|1934||Manhattan Melodrama||Jim Wade|
|1934||The Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1934||The Key||Capt. Bill Tennant|
|1934||Evelyn Prentice||John Prentice|
|1935||Star of Midnight||Clay 'Dal' Dalzell|
|1935||Rendezvous||Lieutenant Bill Gordon|
|1935||The Casino Murder Case||"A new man"||uncredited cameo|
|1936||The Great Ziegfeld||Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.|
|1936||The Ex-Mrs. Bradford||Dr. Lawrence Bradford|
|1936||My Man Godfrey||Godfrey|
|1936||Libeled Lady||Bill Chandler|
|1936||After the Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1937||The Last of Mrs. Cheney||Charles|
|1937||The Emperor's Candlesticks||Baron Stephan Wolensky|
|1937||Double Wedding||Charles Lodge|
|1938||The Baroness and the Butler||Johann Porok|
|1939||Another Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1940||I Love You Again||Larry Wilson a.k.a. George Carey|
|1941||Love Crazy||Steve Ireland|
|1941||Shadow of the Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1942||Crossroads||David Talbot, a.k.a. Jean Pelletier|
|1943||The Youngest Profession||Himself|
|1944||The Heavenly Body||William S. Whitley|
|1945||The Thin Man Goes Home||Nick Charles|
|1945||Ziegfeld Follies||Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.|
|1946||The Hoodlum Saint||Terence Ellerton 'Terry' O'Neill|
|1946||The Great Morgan||Himself||Voice, Uncredited|
|1947||Life with Father||Clarence Day|
|1947||Song of the Thin Man||Nick Charles|
|1947||The Senator Was Indiscreet||Senator Melvin G. Ashton|
|1948||Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid||Mr. Arthur Peabody|
|1949||Take One False Step||Professor Andrew Gentling|
|1949||Dancing in the Dark||Emery Slade|
|1951||It's a Big Country||Professor|
|1952||The Treasure of Lost Canyon||Homer 'Doc' Brown|
|1953||The Girl Who Had Everything||Steve Latimer|
|1953||How to Marry a Millionaire||J.D. Hanley|
|1955||Mister Roberts||Doc||(final film)|
See also: Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll