Discovering Tyrone Power

Discovering Tyrone Power — Films I Discovered in March

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I might be leaving for the TCM Classic Film Festival in just two days, but my discovery of my favorite actor’s filmography is still going strong! Over the month of February I only watched two new-to-me Tyrone Power films, making a grand total of three this year before March began. This made me realize that I had to up the ante, and last month I decided to discover three more movies, a pace that I hope to maintain moving forward. I should be able to see every feature Ty ever made by October at the very latest at that rate, which at this moment is completely unfathomable yet exciting all at once. I can’t wait to continue on this journey through the career of such a talented person that I admire so much or to record and review all of my findings for you all! Keep reading to find out which of Tyrone Power’s movies I saw for the first time this month, and make sure to check out my updated list at the end of this article as well!

Rawhide (1951)

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I chose my first Tyrone Power picture of the month from an intriguing recommendation by reader Ace Black in the comments of last month’s article. This western thriller takes place at Rawhide Pass, a pit stop for stagecoaches in the middle of nowhere. The relay station is manned by Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan), a gruff old codger who’s in the process of training Tom Owens (Tyrone Power), the son of wealthy mail company manager J.C. Owens, who believes that Tom should learn the business from the bottom up. Tom performs a variety of menial tasks at the station, but it’s clear that he hasn’t learned much despite the fact that his father is satisfied with his training and has given him permission to return to society in a week. Meanwhile, the lovely Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward) stops at the junction with her toddler niece Callie just as word is received that one of the stagecoaches that passed through Rawhide has been robbed, resulting in the murder of one of Sam’s close friends. Due to the danger of Vinnie’s stagecoach moving forward, she and the child are forced to remain at Rawhide Pass, much to Vinnie’s chagrin. We soon find out that four escaped convicts are responsible for the robbery: Rafe Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe) and his gang, Gratz (George Tobias), gold-hearted Yancy (Dean Jagger), and Tevis (Jack Elam), the deadliest and most deranged of them all. The four outlaws murder Sam in cold blood and take Tom hostage along with Vinnie and Callie, who they assume are his wife and child, as they intend to ambush the next morning’s stagecoach that they know is carrying a shipment of gold. Will Tom and Vinnie manage to outsmart their captors, or will this robbery result in another lethal shootout?

Rawhide (1951) was the fourth of five pictures that Hathaway would direct Power in, and for this production the filmmaker also cast revered character actor Dean Jagger, reuniting the trio after their previous success in Brigham Young (1940) over a decade earlier. To round out the cast of bandits, Hathaway had originally cast veteran character actor Everett Sloane for the role of Tevis, but Sloane’s rough handling of Susan Hayward in their physically strenuous scenes led to his being replaced by unknown bookkeeper Jack Elam. This gamble proved to be a success as Tevis steals the screen whenever he appears, and Elam’s talent was noticed by Tyrone Power who convinced 20th Century Fox to sign the newcomer to a long-term contract and cast him with Power once again in American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950). I have to admit that Elam truly surprised me here, perfectly embodying Tevis as no one else could. In fact, I can hardly recall a time when such a demented and villainous character was so convincingly portrayed on-screen, and this combined with the other performances by Zimmerman’s gang led me to believe that they could really do harm to Tom, Vinnie, and Callie, which left me on the edge of my seat. Tyrone Power was excellent as usual, of course, but my biggest gripe with Rawhide (1951) is how obvious it is that his role was meant for an actor decades younger than he was at the time of production. There are many bits of dialogue that refer to his being “green” and inexperienced, and in some scenes Ty’s character manages to bungle simple tasks, which is really disappointing to see Power do as a thirty-seven-year-old. I never thought that I would say this, but in this particular case, I would have preferred to see someone like twenty-one-year-old Robert Wagner or even twenty-five-year-old  Jeffrey Hunter pull this role off. Still, Ty did the best he could with what he was given, and it still didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the picture.

The Rising of the Moon (1957)

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I knew that I couldn’t let March go by without discovering The Rising of the Moon (1957), one of the most Irish films ever made. It’s difficult to classify this as a Tyrone Power film as he only briefly plays himself, introducing three short features that take place in Ireland and star Irish actors. The first, “The Majesty of the Law”, is about a police inspector named Dillon (Cyril Cusack), who pays a visit to his old crony Dan O’Flaherty (Noel Purcell) with the local bootlegger Mickey (Jack MacGowran). The trio share Mickey’s spirits and reminisce about their golden years at first, but it’s soon revealed that Dillon has visited Dan to inform him of a warrant out for his arrest after a brawl with one of his enemies. The second vignette, “A Minute’s Wait”, takes place at Dunfaill Station in the county of Kerry, where the long-frustrated Paddy Morrisey (Jimmie O’Dea) continues to struggle with getting the trains that come through the station to leave on time. On this particular day he announces that there will be a minute’s wait, and while the passengers anticipate the train’s departure, the audience gets a glimpse into some of their lives. This includes a poised English couple whose cabin is overrun by lobsters, a young couple in a forbidden romance, and their parents who, unbeknownst to the two, are arranging their marriage. The final short, “1921”, takes place in a Galway prison an hour before the scheduled execution of Sean Curran (Donal Donnelly). Curran has been sentenced to death for treason, and despite the fact that we aren’t sure of the exact nature of his crime, we can tell that he’s a national hero and the demonstrations outside of the jail suggest that his hanging is highly unpopular with the public. Sean is granted one last visit from his sister, but it turns out to be part of a plot to secure his escape. Will he successfully go free, or will an officer at the right place at the right time be able to catch Sean before he flees for good?

The Rising of the Moon (1957), based on a play of the same name by famed Irish dramatist Lady Gregory, was one of legendary director John Ford’s most monumental projects. In an effort to promote more filming in his beloved country of Ireland, he filmed completely on-location and cast only Irish actors, many of which were previously unknown and borrowed from various Irish theater companies. Unfortunately, the venture, with the exception of Tyrone Power, didn’t have enough studio star clout to fill theater seats, so it suffered a substantial loss and ended up actually dissuading Hollywood executives from venturing to the locale. I think in terms of subject matter, as well as the cast of talented unfamiliar performers, The Rising of the Moon (1957) had the feel of an independent movie despite its vast Warner Brothers distribution and direction by a veteran filmmaker. This feature was definitely among the more boring Tyrone Power films that I’ve seen, but it still had its admirable moments, especially in the comedy of “A Minute’s Wait” and the suspense of “1921”. Of course I was disappointed to sit through a Tyrone Power movie that seriously lacked Tyrone Power, but I was delighted to hear him speak about his Irish heritage and learned quite a bit about his background that I wasn’t aware of before. Would I recommend The Rising of the Moon (1957)? Probably not, unless you have deep Irish roots and wish to see realistic, mid-century Irish life onscreen. This is a movie that I could certainly see myself putting on while I do other things on Saint Patrick’s Day, but aside from that I’ll be passing on this picture in the future in favor of Ty’s more meaningful parts.

Prince of Foxes (1949)

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For my last picture of the month, I looked to the only film that I haven’t seen from my Tyrone Power Collection box set: Prince of Foxes (1949). This collection puts more focus on Power’s adventure and swashbuckling roles, and I can honestly say that I’m not as inclined to watch these movies as opposed to Ty’s earlier romantic comedies. I’ve still heard great things about this feature, which made me eager to finally cross Prince of Foxes (1949) off of my watchlist this month. The picture takes place in Renaissance Italy, where Cesare Borgia (Orson Welles) hopes to create a strategic marriage alliance between his recently widowed sister, Angela (Marina Berti), and the heir of Ferrara, the only part of the country that stands in the way of his invasion of Central Italy. He sends Andrea Orsini (Tyrone Power), his right-hand-man and the only member of the court that Cesare entrusts with such a delicate task, to seal the arrangement. During his journey to Ferrara, he encounters the prosperous land of Citta del Monte. At first, Andrea keeps himself at arm’s length from its subjects and rulers, especially the stunning and youthful Camila Verrano (Wanda Hendrix) and her aging husband, Count Marc Antonio Verrano (Felix Aylmer). He’s well aware that the area will have to be invaded after Andrea’s union with the heir of Ferrara is complete, but over time Andrea begins to grow accustomed to and eventually fond of Camila and her husband, willing to do anything to help them and their country while at the same time falling in love with the wedded Camila.

Similarly to The Rising of the Moon (1957), Twentieth Century Fox strived for authenticity while making Prince of Foxes (1949), ensuring that as much of the production was filmed in the story’s corresponding Italian cities as possible. In addition to playing the ruthless Cesare Borgia, Orson Welles also revised the script. He took no credit for the changes that he made, but took it upon himself to expand the role of Mario Belli, portrayed by the previously mentioned actor and member of Welles’ Mercury Theatre troupe Everrett Sloane. It’s widely believed that Welles made Sloane’s role as enticing as possible in his rewrites in an effort to keep him cast as Iago in his own production of Othello (1951), which was running behind in its production and would not be finally released for another two years. Ultimately, Sloane still left Othello (1951) and was replaced by Micheál MacLiammóir, which caused a rift in their relationship that would never be repaired. Prince of Foxes (1949) was another film that I didn’t enjoy from beginning to end. I usually don’t mind black-and-white movies (I am a classic film fan, after all), but in this particular feature it was glaringly obvious that Technicolor would have highlighted the magnificent location filming and ornate costumes much better. Still, Prince of Foxes (1949) really grew on me, especially in the film’s final act. I had heard a great deal about Wanda Hendrix prior to watching this, even visiting her grave at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills last year, which led me to build high hopes for her performance. Hendrix was everything I anticipated and more, and truly one of the loveliest leading ladies that Tyrone Power ever had. As a whole, Prince of Foxes (1949) might not be one of Tyrone Power’s masterpieces, but this was a picture that was definitely satisfying to cross off my list, and the more I watched it, the more riveted I became.

As of this update, I’ve now watched these thirty-one Tyrone Power movies:

  1. Girls’ Dormitory (1936)
  2. Lloyds of London (1936)
  3. Love is News (1937)
  4. Thin Ice (1937)
  5. Cafe Metropole (1937)
  6. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)
  7. Marie Antoinette (1938)
  8. Jesse James (1939)
  9. Rose of Washington Square (1939)
  10. The Rains Came (1939)
  11. Day-Time Wife (1939)
  12. Johnny Apollo (1940)
  13. The Mark of Zorro (1940)
  14. Blood and Sand (1941)
  15. A Yank in the RAF (1941)
  16. Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942)
  17. This Above All (1942)
  18. The Black Swan (1942)
  19. Crash Dive (1943)
  20. The Razor’s Edge (1946)
  21. Nightmare Alley (1947)
  22. Captain from Castile (1947)
  23. The Luck of the Irish (1948)
  24. Prince of Foxes (1949)
  25. The Black Rose (1950)
  26. Rawhide (1951)
  27. I’ll Never Forget You (1951)
  28. The Eddy Duchin Story (1956)
  29. Abandon Ship! (1957)
  30. The Rising of the Moon (1957)
  31. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Let me know if there’s a Tyrone Power movie that you’d like me to watch next! See you in May with next month’s update!

 

2 thoughts on “Discovering Tyrone Power — Films I Discovered in March

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