Power-Mad Blogathon: Tyrone Power and Deborah


For two decades, his was the handsome face known by millions around the world as a king of  swashbuckling movies and a romantic leading man. Tyrone Edmond Power would perform in adventures, such as The Mark of Zorro or as an outlaw in Jesse James. He would also play in light comedies opposite Loretta Young and Linda Darnell. In most of his films, Power was the hero -dueling villains and carrying off damsels.

And he was sick of it.

Discovered by Hollywood scouts as an extra in a Katharine Cornell play on Broadway in 1936, Tyrone Power would become one of the most well-known and highest paid actors on the planet for years. Despite the wealth and fame, Power had little creative control over his scripts in Hollywood.  The son from a long line of stage actors, including a Shakespearean father, Power knew the film roles tossed his way were often silly and "the same role over and over." Still, he honored his contract and went along with it.

Power with Gene Tierney in the comedy That Wonderful Urge

After serving in the Marine Corps during World War II, Power returned a changed man. He had matured, but his career was just as he left it, with more "lousy" scripts, as he would call them. In fact, in 1950, one reporter describes  Power as having the applause of millions, but not having won self-approval for his acting.

When the contract at his home studio Twentieth Century Fox ended in 1952, Power was free to experiment with his career. In 1956, the film star began his own production company -Copa Productions- and set out to make riveting independent dramas. These include an adaptation of an actual event, Abandon Ship!, with Power as the captain of a wrecked ship who ends up in an overcrowded lifeboat and must decide who lives or dies.

By this time, Power also experimented in his personal life. He had married and divorced twice, both times to entertainers - actress Annabella (born Suzanne Georgette Charpentier) and actress/dancer Linda Christian (who became know as the first "Bond girl"). The latter marriage ended in 1955 with two daughters - Romina and Taryn.



A year later in an interview with Louella Parsons, Power notes that,
 "[Marriage is] not for me. I have had two, and that's enough. I see Annabella often and we are good friends, but you can take my word for it, I am not marrying anyone. I won't say that I don't go out with women....I hope to take many beautiful ladies to dinner and the theater, but as for serious intentions--I have none."
During his new bachelor years, the suave actor dated many unknown and well-known women, including Eva Gabor. But he was not seeking a third marriage.

By May of 1957, during an interview with Bob Thomas , the actor seemed to relent a little:

"I won't say I'll never marry again, because that's pretty final. But I'm very happy the way I am now....I know several girls here and there who are excellent company and who have no thoughts of matrimony. Those who do are quickly discovered and eliminated....I've been single again for two years now, and I like it this way." 

Ten months later, he was seriouly dating one of those beautiful ladies who had thoughts of matrimony.
Source
While appearing on Broadway in Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah in spring of 1958, Power met socialite Deborah Jean Smith. Though originally from Mississippi, the raven-haired beauty, whom Power jokingly said resembled a female version of himself, had lived in Hollywood for several years. They shared mutual friends.

As much as is known about Power, very little is known of his newest conquest.  In fact, there was so little known of her in public, the press would often refer to Power's new love interest as Deborah Ann Smith or Deborah Ann Montgomery. This name mixup would follow her in the news for the rest of her life.

Finally, most of the reporters would refer to her by her married name - Deborah Minardos. When the debutante moved to Los Angeles,  she met UCLA student, actor Nico Minardos. The young man was fresh off the set of the Cary Grant film Monkey Business (1952) as an extra.  Marylin Monroe - not yet the iconic bombshell she would soon become- had a small speaking role in the film. Minardos and Monroe would date for several months starting in the spring of 1952. 

By the release of the film in the latter part of the year, Minardos and Monroe had parted. The struggling actor (who would later become a prolific actor and producer)  then dated and quickly married Deborah. By 1955, Nico and the southern socialite had divorced and both had soured on romance.

Not much is known of Deborah after this until her story picks up again three years later in New York with Tyrone Power.

The two seemed to share the same attraction to, yet loathing for, Hollywood and fame. Time after time,  when studying the newspaper photos of Tyrone and Deborah, you'll notice a pattern. As members of the press flash their light bulbs, Tyrone flashes his well-trained, matinee idol smile. Deborah rarely smiles, appearing (understandably) uncomfortable with the melee and noise around her.  It's almost as if she is the public, visual representation of Power's private, candid thoughts.


The divorcee refers to herself as a nonprofessional on the Hollywood scene, and seems a little annoyed by the small part of it in which she is involved. Still, Deborah seems perfect for this stage in Power's life. He too had grown disenchanted with Tinseltown.

Reporters would ask why the film star would risk his reputation in the trenches of Broadway when he's done so well in Hollywood. Power responded,

"Working in a five day week in Hollywood....and having a lousy script at the studio to work on, that's tough.... Compared to that, [theater work] is enjoyable." 

The actor goes on to list only four of his dozens of movies of which he is not totally ashamed - Nightmare Alley, Blood and Sand, Seven Waves Away (aka Abandon Ship!) and (what would become his last completed film) Witness for the Prosecution.


Despite his earlier claims that a woman with thoughts of matrimony would be quickly eliminated, Power grew fond of the former Mrs. Minardos, and within weeks planned to marry her. "I have no acting ambitions," Deborah says, " I just want to be a wife to Ty."

Back to Methuselah closed on April 19, 1958. By Power's birthday on May 5th, the couple had already made definite matrimonial plans. Three days later, on May 8, 1958, Tyrone Edmond Power married Deborah Jean Smith Minardos in a quiet ceremony in her home town of Tunica, MS.

Power and the officiating minister, Dr. Tyrone T. Williams of Tunica Presbyterian Church, had a good chuckle over their shared first name. (The minister would later say, "He was just as calm as anything you ever saw.") In attendance were the bride's mother and stepfather - wealthy lumber family, the Simeon Rice Hungerfords of Memphis, TN.  

Also in attendance was a little-known figure in this story -Deborah's ten year old daughter Cheryl, a child that pre-dates the socialite's involvement with Minardos. Apparently, the little girl lived with her grandmother in Mississippi or Tennessee. Nothing further is known of the child.

Plenty is known of another offspring  - the baby that the newlyweds were soon expecting. More on that below.

After the intimate wedding service, Tyrone and Deborah spent a few months stateside before jaunting over to Spain for filming on the biblical epic Solomon and Sheba. Power and Gina Lollobrigida play the title characters. George Sanders is his usual villainous best as Adonijah.
Source

During a fight scene with Sanders, Power suffered a heart attack and was taken to a hospital where he died on November 15, 1958. Though Deborah was in Madrid with her husband, she was not on the set. Someone was sent with the unwelcome task of telling the new bride that she was a widow.





If the strain of celebrity made Deborah bristle a bit, without her husband it was overwhelming. As the cargo hold of the airplane from Spain lowered Power's casket in California, photographers frantically snapped pictures, causing Mrs. Power to cry uncontrollably. 

The barrier between Deborah and the public would continue to build as she alone navigated this new world that few people ever know. Power was laid to rest with military honors on November 22, 1958 at the Hollywood Park Cemetery (now the Hollywood Forever Cemetery). Mrs Power remained by the open casket for an extended period of time.





To marry a high profile person is stress enough when one is not accustomed to the expectations of celebrity. It is still more difficult to plan an unexpected funeral for your famous husband without causing a few upsets.

In addition to celebrities -Yul Brenner (who would replace Power in Solomon and Sheba), Cesar Romero (who gave the eulogy), Loretta Young (who arrived still in costume from a show), and more - Power's funeral drew the largest crowd to the cemetery since Douglas Fairbanks' burial there nearly 20 years before. Fans outside the chapel grew restless and loud. Someone went out to quiet the crowd as their chattering could be heard inside. One reporter later lightly scolded Mrs. Power for not setting up speakers so that the eulogy could be heard outside. Mrs. Power noted that, "A funeral is a private affair" and she did not wish to mar the dignity of the setting.

Further cause for possible scandal was not inviting the two former Mrs. Powers. Linda Christian decided instead to have a separate ceremony in another church. Then she and her two daughters respectfully arrived at the cemetery three hours after the main ceremony had concluded.

The last Mrs. Power still could not believe that she had buried her new husband. Eight days later was her 27th birthday.

AP - January 22, 1959 - Boy Born to Mrs. Tyrone Power
The Power family had a rather grim holiday season that year. Still, there was a ray of sunshine in the bleak winter. The next January, Mrs. Power gave birth to Tyrone Power's son. Life would repeat itself. Power's father died in his only son's arms while filming a movie; Power himself died filming a movie, leaving what would be his only son - Tyrone William Power. The middle name is said to honor director William Wilder.


That same year - 1959 - amid more wagging tongues, Deborah married movie mogul Arthur Loew, Jr. not a full twelve months after burying Power. The Loews would have a son. They wanted the two boys to be raised as full brothers, but the couple separated eleven months after marriage.

During the ensuing years, Deborah kept a low profile. She appeared once at a tribute for Power at his burial place in the 1970s. Again, it was reported as a private ceremony and again fans were angry.

Deborah Minardos Power Loew died on April 3, 2006 from complications of a stroke. She would have turned 75 that year.

Ultimately, Tyrone Power's last wife was fully a part of his personal life, sharing some of his sentiments about Hollywood, but she did not seem eager to be a part of the public duties. Would their union have lasted? It's difficult to tell since they were basically on their honeymoon.

If they had more time together, perhaps some of the calm that the Mississippi minister saw in Power would have influenced Deborah and helped the new wife navigate a world that the movie star and his other wives had mastered years ago.

In any case, her instincts to protect her family seem to have paid off. Deborah and Linda Christian would later team up to preserve Tyrone's estate for the children. Despite earlier tension, the three children of Tyrone Power seem to get along nicely, including honoring their father, together, during his 50th memorial anniversary.


Life Magazine December 1, 1958 - A Dashing Actor's Last Duel


Sources:
  • Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers

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The post is an entry for the Power-Mad Blogathon, celebratng Tyrone Power's 100th birthday May 5, 2014.



7 Comments:

  1. Thanks for shedding some light on the least known of Tyrone Power's wives. I read somewhere that she had dated Elvis prior in the years before she met Ty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I vaguely recall the Elvis link, but didn't include it in this article because I had no reference for it. Thanks for stopping in.

      Delete
  2. Ty Power Jr. has a half-brother, and when I asked him about a sister, he said he only has a half-brother. So I don't know. Odd, very odd. And yes, she dated Elvis.

    People have criticized Deborah for remarrying so quickly. If I had been her age, pregnant and due to give birth in six weeks, away from my family, and my husband dead suddenly, I would have been a mess. I don't doubt that she was frightened, alone, and feeling friendless.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very interesting article. I knew next to nothing about the last Mrs. Power.

    One slight correction. Linda Christian was the first Bond girl opposite Barry Nelson, who played Bond in a television version of CASINO ROYALE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. It has been amended.

      Delete
    2. IMDB says of Nico Minardos:

      "Mini Bio (1)
      Nico Minardos was born on February 15, 1930 in Athens, Greece as Nicholas Minardos. He was an actor and producer, known for Twelve Hours to Kill (1960), Assault on Agathon (1977) and The Challengers (1970). He was married to Julie A Schact and Dorothy J. Smith. He died on August 27, 2011 in Woodland Hills, California, USA.
      Spouse (2)
      Julie A Schact (24 April 1965 - 27 August 2011) (his death) (2 children)

      Dorothy J. Smith (12 January 1954 - 1955) (divorced)

      Trivia (3)
      On September 28, 1966, Minardos and Eric Fleming were shooting a scene on the Huallaga River in Peru for a TV movie called "High Jungle". The canoe they were in tipped over and both Fleming and Minardos were thrown into the river. Minardos managed to swim to shore, but Fleming drowned.
      His former wife, Debbie Ann Smith, later married Tyrone Power and became his third wife and widow."

      Who was Dorothy J. Smith, or is that an error in IMDB?

      Delete
    3. Gerry, I've never heard of Dorothy J. Smith. Perhaps one of our more well-informed readers can chime in here.

      With famous people there are always non-celebrities in their orbit. Sometimes they marry such a person. When I discover any information I'll reply.

      In the meantime, you can always search Google News Archives, which is how I found much of the information above.

      Delete

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