Saturday, March 05, 2011

Remembering... William Powell

During the 1930s, William Powell was Hollywood's go-to guy when the role required a likable sophisticate; of all his performances, that of Nick Charles in the The Thin Man (1934) - not to mention five sequels which followed - perfectly demonstrated Powell's versatility as an actor, excelling at both bubbly screwball comedy and taut detective thriller, often in the same scene.

PhotobucketBorn in July 1892, Powell got his start in vaudeville, then made the inevitable transition to silent films; during the early sound era (1929-34) his distinctive voice and upright bearing were much sought after for romantic leads that required a man, rather than a boy.

It's a measure of the man that, in an age when rancourous divorces were all the rage, Powell managed to remain on civil terms with both of his ex-wives, notably fellow screen legend Carole Lombard. Powell was also engaged (but never married) to Jean Harlow, and as such was the principal mourner at her funeral following her untimely death in June 1937. Powell's final off-screen marriage was more enduring, lasting from 1940 until his death on this day in 1984. Onscreen, though, Powell could have had no better foil than Myrna Loy, with whom he appeared in 14 movies - which is a record.

A bout with colon cancer in the late 1930s curtailed his career somewhat, and he made his last film appearance in 1955, having appeared along the way in such cinematic masterpieces as Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Reckless (1935), My Man Godfrey (1936), Life with Father (1947), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and Mister Roberts (1955).
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