On Location: Tyrone Power's Tunica Wedding



Traveling down Highway 61 from Memphis, Tennessee to Tunica, Mississippi, one gets a sense of Tyrone Power's journey to the small town 56 years ago. The movie star flew in to the nearest international airport and headed south to marry a divorcee from Tunica - Mrs. Deborah Minardos- on May 7, 1958.

The foothills of Tennessee give way to a valley with long, country roads which stretch as far as the eye can see along fields fertilized by the longest river on the continent. Southern breezes and tree-lined sidewalks cool the heat and welcome you with the scent of dogwood and magnolia.





Java's journey to this hamlet came as a matter of completion. For the Power-Mad Blogathon in May, which celebrated the 100th year since Power's birth,  Java found many little articles online about the actor's last wedding, but none from the town where it all took place.

The minister and everyone else were sworn to secrecy since the world would mob this sacred ceremony if they knew when and where. (Fans and the press certainly disturbed Power's much-announced funeral 6 months later.)  But surely the family ran a little squib about it in the newspaper after the fact. Java was on a mission; she had seen how the Associated Press handled the marriage announcement - just a few sentences. But she wanted to know how the tiny town reacted to this occasion.

"You'll have to go to the Chancery's office on School Street," said a helpful voice on the other end of the phone, "The older archives for the local newspaper are not yet online."

The paper couldn't come to Java, so naturally, she had to go to it. She finally found the time two months later which is not ideal since Power's birthday tribute had come and gone, but... oh well.




While in Tunica on a search for the newspaper, she thought it would be fun to find the church where the wedding took place - First Presbyterian. It's downtown next to old railroad tracks that were since  converted into a park. She wondered if a train interrupted the wedding.  It's a red brick edifice, now known as Tunica Presbyterian Church near Old Highway 61 on Woolfolk Drive. The couple was married in the tiny chapel on the left.

After a few missed turns, Java finally arrived at the Chancery. An office clerk guided the author to an open vault door and invited the blogger to sit at a table inside and wait as she looked through the archives. It was like a scene from Citizen Kane, only the archivist was pleasant.

"Which one, again, Ma'am?"

Java's mouth watered with anticipation; she felt as if she were ordering a magnum at The Stork Club.

"Tunica Times, please. 1958."

The clerk retreated and emerged again carrying to the small table a large red book filled with old newspapers.


"Just call me if you want anything. I'll be at the desk."

For the next hour, the author greedily devoured information from the yellowed pages of a forgotten world.

An ad for a local drug store reminded readers to buy a gift for their favorite high school graduates - hosiery for girls and razors for boys.  An announcement that Mrs. So-and-So and Mrs. Such-and-Such had tea last Tuesday. An out-of-towner visited his mother for Mother's Day. This was news.

Somehow Java expected the Tyrone Power marriage to be on the front page. It wasn't. There on page 5 of the May 15th issue, among the personals, across from the classified ads, was the notice.


"Mrs. Rice Hungerford III announces the marriage of her
daughter, Mrs. Deborah Jean Smith Minardos of Los Angeles,
Calif., and Tunica, to Tyrone Power, well-known stage and
screen personality, on Wednesday, May 7, at 10:30 o'clock in
the morning in the memorial chapel of First Presbyterian Church."

There is no big to-do about it. Not even a photograph. But the announcement continues with details about clothing and decor that we do not see in the national news. ("The bride wore a Christian Dior suit of black raw silk and black accessories.")

There is also mention of the mysterious Cheryl, who may or may not be the child of the divorcee who was raised by the grandmother. ("During the ceremony, Miss Cheryl Hungerford held the prayer book.")

In this understated announcement there is more about the locals who attended the affair than about Tyrone Power. There isn't the Hollywood hoopla, the absence of which is understandably attractive to a film star whose friend, Bob Buck, has this to say about the actor in his book North Star Over My Shoulder: A Flying Life:

"[Tyrone Power] was one of the men, regular, no airs.... The whole fame thing was a chore and a responsibility he had to respond to when required, like going to work; with that out of the way, in private and especially in flight, he was just a man like the rest of us, comfortable to be with, enthusiastically responsive to new scenes and experiences, quick with humor, earthy when appropriate."

Java smiled. She had found a rich, savory morsel of history. Now to take it home.


"Hmm. You won't get all of that article because it's on the left margin and in the trenches," said the clerk, " But I'll try my best."



A trench is where two bound pages meet, making whatever words are in the crevice difficult to read. The trench reminded Java of a railroad track. She chuckled to herself about the track, the line that now interrupts her research resembling a train that might have halted the nuptials so long ago.


It didn't stop her for long. The clerk retreated again and reappeared with a delicious copy of that precious page. The words were partially cut off, but Java didn't care. The author copied the missing words in long hand on the back of a random page to type the moment she returned to a computer.

Thanking the clerk for her time, Java left the table filled to the brim with excitement.

The Tunica Times squib is a light, refreshing notice that could have been about anyone's nuptials. It's a wedding announcement that is satisfying for being very much like Tyrone Power - it doesn't have "airs."


-----------------------
And now Java presents it here in its entirety. The detailed little notice about Tyrone Power's last wedding from the local paper is on the far left. It is also typed below.

Click to Enlarge


Tunica Times-Democrat May 15, 1958 Page 5

Mrs. Minardos, Tyrone Power Wed In
Presbyterian Chapel Wednesday
                  __________
Only Members of Bride's Family, Close Friends
Attend Ceremony; Leave In Day For West
Coast
                   __________
Mrs. Rice Hungerford III announces the marriage of her
daughter, Mrs. Deborah Jean Smith Minardos of Los Angeles,
Calif., and Tunica, to Tyrone Power, well-known stage and
screen personality, on Wednesday, May 7, at 10:30 o'clock in
the morning in the memorial chapel of First Presbyterian Church.

The double ring ceremony was
read by Dr. T.T. Williams, church
minister.

Arrangements of white gladioli
and white tapers formed the set-
ting for the vows. The wedding
music was played by Mrs. Elchue
Denton, Jr.

The bride wore a Christian
Dior suit of black raw silk and
black accessories. She carried a
white prayer book, caught with a
bouquet of white orchids.

Mrs. Hungerford III, who gave
her daughter in marriage, wore a
white eyelet embroidered linen
sheath gown, with white accessor-
ies and white orchid corsage.
Mr. Hungerford III was best
man.

During the ceremony, Miss
Cheryl Hungerford held the
prayer book. Her frock of pastel
blue silk was appliqued with pink
tulips. Her flowers were camellias.
Attending the ceremony were
Mr. and Mrs. S. R. Hungerford
Jr., Mr. and Mrs. John Henry,
Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Owen and Mrs.
T.T. Williams.

Following the ceremony, Mr.
and Mrs. Hungerford III were
hosts at a reception at their home.
The reception table was laid with
cutwork linen cloth and an ar-
rangement of white and blue flow-
ers formed the centerpiece. Blue
candles were in silver candelabras.
Yellow gladioli were used in the
den of the home.

Guests at the reception were
those who attended the wedding
and Mr. and Mrs. Clint Nickles
and Herbert Goldman.

Later in the day, the bride and
groom went by plane to Dallas,
Texas, before flying on to Los
Angeles. After a cruise aboard Mr.
Power's yatch [sic], Black Swan, they
will go to Europe where he will
make two movies during the next
year.

Dinner Party Given
Mr. and Mrs. Richard W. Owen
were hosts at a dinner party Tues-
day evening, May 6, compliment-
ing Mrs. Minardos and Mr. Power,
who was observing his birthday.
Dinner guests were the hon-
erees, Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Owen,
Jr. and Mrs. S.W. Owen, Mr. and
Mrs. Jack Tucker, Mr. and Mrs.,
Jack Wilkes, and Mr. and Mrs.
Hungerford III.


----------------------------------------
Correction 12/06/2014: An earlier version of the article noted that First Presbyterian is downtown and looks like this - a converted white house:


 
According to an email from a reliable source, the chapel where Tyrone Power married Deborah Minardos is on another side of town in Tunica Presbyterian Church - a red brick edifice. The white clapboard church downtown is run by a group who splintered off from the main church in the 1990s, apparently taking the name with them.
 

5 Comments:

  1. I love this! It sounds like it was so much fun to track everything down. Great detective work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was so much fun! My own little treasure hunt. I'll probably do this again with a movie location.

      Delete
  2. Great sleuthing, Java! And a great additional tribute to Tyrone Power in his centenary year. Quite a difference between his second wedding and his third.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, indeed it's different. I've found the same thing with Deanna Durbin.

    The film star has the big shindig for the first marriage. The last marriage is usually at the other person's hometown and is not a big production.

    By the third marriage, many are jaded and just want to make it official and that's it, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great story, and more info than I have ever read about the wedding. I'm sure photos were taken at the reception and at the dinner the night before. Would love to see some of them!!

    ReplyDelete

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