When Tyrone Edmond Power (The Mark of Zorro, Witness for the Prosecution) died on November 15, 1958, he left not only grieving film fans, but young children who would wonder what he was like beyond the silver screen roles, beyond the stardom. Who was Tyrone Power the man, the father? These are questions posed by the book Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power by Romina Power.
The author is one of the star’s daughters, one who was too young to remember much about her father from her own memory bank. As a young woman in the 1970s, the author interviewed friends and family of Power. Her interviewees include Power’s sister Anne, close friend Cesar Romero (Batman:The Movie), co-star Henry Fonda (Jesse James), as well as interviews of the ladies Power married (including the first Bond girl and the author's mother, Linda Christian). This lovely patchwork quilt of memories makes up the bulk of the book.
There is a chapter or two which transcribes letters from Power. (His missives home from World War II will have you tearing up.) The reader is, thus, privy to the man’s own words as well.
A favorite chapter includes a letter to a teenaged Tyrone Power from his father, Shakespearean actor Frederick Tyrone Power. In the letter, the father acknowledges his son’s interest in the family business of acting. [The Power family has entertained the world for centuries. Read the article: Tyrone Power’s Acting Lineage.] Further, he gives the younger man a course of study to improve himself as an artist. It is a loving gesture of a man who is launching his son gently into the craft of performance. Power would take this business seriously, but would, unfortunately, die just as he began to take control of his career.
The book is mostly in chronological order, not in order of the date of the interview, but of the date when the interviewee first met Power. Thus, the chapter featuring Power’s sister is early in the book; the chapter featuring a lady that the star dated late in life comes later in the book.
Each interview begins by noting how the author was able to set up the meeting, making this not only a movie star’s biography but the author’s memoir. Tyrone Power is the author’s father as well as a stranger, giving the book a balance of intimacies as well as the distance of an investigator. The author’s journey to find bits and pieces of her father’s life is just as important as anything else; it is the framework for the biography. It’s Tyrone Power through his daughter’s eyes filtered through the prism of his friend’s memories.
The reader will note that the dust jacket and cover share poignant father-daughter photos. On the front is a photo of the author as a child with Tyrone Power on the set of Untamed. On the back of the book is a photo of the author as a young lady seated atop her father’s gravestone bench. There are other photos of Power throughout the book, from his childhood to being on the set of Solomon and Sheba before his fatal heart attack.
This book was originally written in Italian, one of the author's languages; copies of the first edition from the 1970s are rare. The author created the first English edition to honor her father in his native language during his centenary in 2014. It is the latter that I use as reference for this review.
Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power has the gut-wrenching personal touch of a child tantalized by information about her father which is just out of reach, a puzzle that will always have a few missing pieces. So close, yet so far. You will cry.
-----------------------------------------------------------------This post is part 2 of 6 of Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge Blogathon. Read more at the Out of the Past website.
- Read the first book review for this series here: Robert Wagner's You Must Remember This
- Read more about Tyrone Power here: Tyrone Power
- If you're interested in purchasing the book, the author has included a note that says inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.