“The secret of charm is bullshit.” -Tyrone Power
For this particular entry, I’d like you to look back upon some of the most memorable romantic greats of classic film. Sure, there was Gable and his wry wit, Grant, the constant gentleman, and even Valentino’s passionate sheik, long before. Yet, as phenomenal as each of these actors were in their own right, there is something about the vivacious mystique of Tyrone Power that is just not emulated elsewhere. His screen persona possesses a charisma that stands apart from the other classic idols. While Power may fondly refer to this charm as “bullshit,” I think his ability to call Hollywood out on its superficiality is all the more reason to celebrate him as his own brand of acting genius. There is more than meets the eye in terms of Power’s passion and talent.
Known worldwide as a romantic icon, Power hailed from the midwest and paved his own way into Hollywood. Though he descended from a long line of actors, dating all the way back to his great-grandfather, he took on a series of odd jobs before achieving his own fame. This particular exploration of Power’s roots involved more sleuthing than usual, as Cincinnati is essentially a town Power left behind. In advance, I’d like to thank Colleen Phillips of the Cincinnati Public Library for her assistance in my research.
Power was born in Cincinnati on May 5, 1914. Tyrone, his mother, and sister, returned to Cincinnati and were living at 2536 Kemper Lane in the Walnut Hills neighborhood, according to the 1930 census and city directory. This was the location of the Schuster-Martin School of Drama, which was run by Tyrone’s great uncle, William Martin. The school used to be situated across the street from where the Cincinnati LIbrary’s Walnut Hills Branch is located. Interestingly, Cincinnati is also the hometown of Doris Day, who took voice lessons at the Schuster-Martin School.
Unfortunately, the Schuster-Martin School no longer exists. A parking lot is now in its place.
A few blocks away, however, you can visit the former location of The Paramount Theater, in which Power worked as an usher on evenings and weekends as a teenager.
Though the building still stands, the venue is no longer operating as a theater. The theater section has since been demolished, and the building is largely used as a space for offices.
Tyrone spent his initial high school year in a Jesuit school in downtown Cincinnati, forever remembering a Father Flynn as a positive influence on his life. Tyrone later went to school at St. Mary’s, a Jesuit institution which would later become part of the University of Dayton. While at home for the summer, Power worked at the Walnut Hills Orpheum as an usher once more.
By this time, Power’s mother had instilled a great love for Shakespeare, classic literature, and the performing arts in her son. While working as an usher, Power’s interest in films and acting grew. According to author Fred Lawrence Guiles, Power maintained a notebook, in which he reviewed each film he encountered while working. Since he was faced with seeing films repeatedly, he would write about the plot structure and carefully critique the performances he saw.
Eventually, Power grew tired of the boarding school experience, noting that his family was not well-off and that he wasn’t as appropriately dressed for school as his classmates. Instead, Power opted for a high school education at Purcell High School for boys, where Tyrone developed a deeper interest in drama–almost to the exclusion of everything else. His friends at Purcell were the first to support him in his career choice of becoming an actor, believing that he would be able to survive easily as an entertainer. His yearbook caption addresses him by his nickname, “Ty,” and lists him as a participant in Dramatics, Senior Treasurer, German Club Member, and Basketball Player. His description reads the following:
“Ty” came to Purcell from Dayton Prep, and in a short time became a favorite with the students and teachers alike. “Ty” is a good student, but his acting makes him the logical successor of John Barrymore.
Power graduated in 1931, and never lost touch with his Purcell friends.
Purcell Marian High School is still in operation today. However, it has since gone co-ed in its educational approach.
After graduation, Power left home for Chicago, eventually landing a job reading comic broadcasts on the radio on Sunday mornings. Here, he depended upon his voice in order to sustain himself, and not just his looks. He still sought supplementary jobs, even working the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair with the task of pushing people around in rolling wicker chairs.
Luckily, these jobs were short-lived, and Power finally made his way to Hollywood, eventually partaking in a wide range of film genres. Power appeared in lighthearted musicals and grew to be a major romantic lead, but always fought for stronger roles with more substance than just looks alone.
I have been fortunate enough to chat with Power’s daughter, Taryn Power-Greendeer, from his marriage to actress Linda Christian. A wealth of information about her father’s legacy, and an overall class-act, Taryn spoke to me regarding her father’s greatest interests in life.
“Aside from women,” she mused, “my father’s greatest interests were acting, flying, and books.” Power held a deep reverence for the art of acting, but of course maintained interests beyond his choice of career. Due to the war, Power enlisted in the Marine Corps as a pilot, eventually being promoted to first lieutenant. Additionally, Power was an avid reader, collecting a vast amount of first edition texts.
The acting legacy continues in Power’s family, as Taryn worked as an actress for some time. Taryn’s daughter, Valentina, also continues to act, largely in musical theater. Power’s descendants do a wonderful job of preserving his legacy, and I applaud them for it.
Even if you are not expressly a Power fan, Cincinnati is a beautiful town. When I drove there with one of my Butler University friends, Maddie, (rather, she drove me!) I couldn’t help but notice how lush and green everything was. That, and the fact that there were hills! We were pretty used to the flat land all around us in Indianapolis. But Cincinnati itself is extremely picturesque.
If you have time to spare, I highly recommend a stop to Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. It’s huge, historic, and full of captivating art and scenery. If you check their calendar, you may even be able to catch a guided tour, complete with actors in period costume.
Also, if you’re as much of a film buff as I am, Peg Entwistle (the actress who jumped off the Hollywood sign) is buried in nearby Oak Hill Cemetery, which is part of the Spring Grove family.
Be sure to stroll down Ludlow Avenue and catch a great Indie flick at the Esquire Theatre!
To learn more about Tyrone Power and access some amazing archives, please visit the Cincinnati Public Library. They’re genealogical department is superb! And since it was so tricky to find places in Cincinnati that were pertinent to Power’s life, I invite you to share any information you’d like to share, especially if you’re a Cincinnati local.
Classic Hollywood history is just about everywhere!
Click here to learn more about booking Hometowns to Hollywood’s presentations on Tyrone Power.
His descendants exist to this day. Tyrone Keenan Power is the latest Power to exist.
Yes, there are many! Thanks for reading!
Thanks for this posting. His experience with the Marines in WWII influenced me to become a Navy pilot. (the Marines being a part of the USN). I was a big fan of his,
and thought his work in Nightmare Alley was some of his best.
Thanks for reading! When I interviewed his daughter, Taryn, she actually mentioned that he was proudest of Nightmare Alley. 🙂
My very first memory of Tyrone Power was in a high school class, when my Drama teacher sent us home with a research subject: “Who was Tyrone Power?” …I just had to find out! Ty Power was a dead celebrity, who stood out because he was unbelievably handsome. His fans swooned and clamored, and he was famous worldwide. I watched his old movies, and admired his deep, clear voice, his black Irish eyes with lashes so long they cast shadows down his perfect cheeks, and his thick black hair that occasionally fell over his eyes when he was kissing a love-stricken starlett … He completed 48 movies from 1936-1957, and died at 44 from a massive heart attack, sword in hand. I was touched by his sensitivity in movies such as “The Long Gray Line” (1955), cried through the “Eddie Duchin Story” (1956). I squirmed and winced through the remake of Rudolph Valentino’s original silent movie “Blood and Sand” (1922, remade in 1941), and had to watch the ending about 5 times. “Nightmare Alley” (1947) was disturbing and horrific, but far too fun to not watch, even now. And then “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1938), “Rose of Washington Square” (1939), “The Mask of Zorro” (1940), and “The Black Swan” (1942) which showcased him in his prime. and “The Razor’s Edge” (1946), “This Above All” (1942) and “Sun Also Rises” (1956) were also wonderful movies that had more than just entertainment value.
…A little fun trivia woven into a few of his movies… In ” Johnny Apollo” (1940) ,when he is talking to his “dad” about their tough love relationship, then they talk about his “mother”, and the scene switches to TP, with a picture above his shoulder of his “dead mother”…. The picture is of Patia Power, who WAS his mother, and alive at the time.
In his final finished movie, “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957), he describing his second meeting with the murdered woman, in a movie theatre watching the movie, “Jessie James”, in a rather disassociated manner, but he was THAT actor in THAT film (Jessie James, 1939).
For all his good work, he never received an award, and should rightly have been given a lifetime achievement award (posthumously) for his many contributions to the cinema, as well as his theatre and stage work.
It still saddens me that he died so young, when his dreams were only being realized. It also saddens me that he has been all but forgotten.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful commentary! It’s always so fun to discover a new actor. Taryn often mentions that her father’s favorite film was “Witness for the Prosecution.”
Thank you. I was sad to have missed him in this life, and hope to meet him in the next. He was so wonderful, gentle, and so giving to his friends. I hate what was written about him two decades after his death that callously defaming his reputation, or his work for a soddy newsstand. I could see his acting getting markedly poinent when he could select his own movies, and I blame Fox producers for not giving him movies with more depth. I just loved him, in every way! If he had just had more time, and if his children had had their father longer.
Pingback: A Powerful Legacy: My Afternoon with Taryn | Hometowns to Hollywood
“Power was an avid reader, collecting a vast amount of first edition texts.” it would be interesting to know what happened to those books. Did Taryn mention if she inherited them? Or where are they now?
They are actually with her sister, Romina, in Italy. Thanks for reading!
Pingback: Myrna Loy | Hometowns to Hollywood
Wonderful insights. Thank you Annette! Even editing the updated and expanded English language edition of Romina Power’s “Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power”, I learned details from your excellent reporting. Fans of Tyrone might enjoy the centennial tribute video from 2014 that made its debut at historic Thalian Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOKTrLlrJ-4.
I came here looking for Tyrone’s boyhood address. While here I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful you are. I love the ginger hair.
Thank you! 🙂
I dont believe that Tyrone Power doenst have a award till today. This movie industry makes me sick sometimes.
Thank you for such a fascinating piece of Tyrone Power’s early life. I see a young man with determination, a deep thinker and a great sense of self. I very much enjoyed your writing this lovely sunday morning!
I’m so happy that you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for the kind comment. 🙂
Annette, thanks for all the Tyrone Power and Cincinnati information.
My father was a Purcell High School graduate, Class of 1938. He told me that when he attended Purcell, there was a memorial plaque at Purcell honoring Tyrone Power. But he said that Purcell removed the plaque in 1948 because Tyrone Power had gotten divorced.
I was born in 1948 and, until the middle of the third grade, I attended the Catholic elementary school adjacent to Purcell. Then my father used his GI Bill to purchase a new home in the Cincinnati suburb of Northbrook.
The Jesuit school in downtown Cincinnati, mentioned in an earlier post, may have been St. Xavier. In the early 1960’s, St. Xavier High School moved to the suburb of Finneytown, and I graduated there, Class of 1966.
Annette, thanks to you, the family of Tyrone Power, and to the researchers of Cincinnati history.
Very interesting! I will follow up the schools to see if there were any replacement plaques. I know that Spencer Tracy’s elementary put up a plaque for him, even though he was expelled long ago!
Pingback: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Forecourt | Hometowns to Hollywood
Pingback: Hollywood Forever Cemetery | Hometowns to Hollywood
Great post. I lived in Cinti for many years. It’s a shame they don’t celebrate all their talented offspring. There are bunch—from Theda Bara to Rod Serling to Spielberg. Cincinnati has a rich history in film and music, yet it is rarely mentioned by anyone. Thank you for the lovely story and for celebrating the talented actor from Cincinnati.
Hello. Did you see the house where Tyrone power was born in? When I came home on leave my dad took me to the house. A big Victorian home, beautiful, unfortunately it was turned into apartments, you could still see the beauty of it though. I’ll never for get that trip, it was a dream come true for me. Ronda
Great story! For a photo of Tyrone Power Jr.’s Walnut Hills House go to:
Pingback: 20th Century-Fox | Hometowns to Hollywood
Pingback: Dana Andrews | Hometowns to Hollywood
I have my own fond memories of my Aunt Wilhelmina Brown who worked as a maid for Mr Tyrone Power when he was young and had had his own house. Pictures of him standing in front of his home and one just like the ones we used to get at the Coney Island Arcade Photo Booths 6 photos on a strip. I would take the photos she had of him to school when I was in Junior High. I would show those pictures of Tyrone Power to my classmates and tell them he was my boyfriend. Little did I know he was a famous actor or would become one until she told me who he was and I watched a movie with him starring in it.❤️