Dick Powell

Richard Ewing “Dick” Powell (November 14, 1904 – January 2, 1963) was an American singer, actor, producer, director and studio boss.

Despite the same last name he was not related to William Powell, Eleanor Powell or Jane Powell.

Born in Mountain View, the seat of Stone County in northern Arkansas, Powell attended the former Little Rock College in the state capital, before he started his entertainment career as a singer with the Charlie Davis Orchestra, based in the midwest. He recorded a number of records with Davis and on his own, for the Vocalion label in the late 1920s.

Powell moved to Pittsburgh, where he found great local success as the Master of Ceremonies at the Enright Theater and the Stanley Theater. In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought up Brunswick Records which at that time owned Vocalion. Warner Bros. was sufficiently impressed by Powell’s singing and stage presence to offer him a film contract in 1932. He made his film debut as a singing bandleader in Blessed Event. He went on to star as a boyish crooner in movie musicals such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Flirtation Walk, and On the Avenue, often appearing opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers, “I’ll String Along With You.”

Powell desperately wanted to expand his range but Warner Bros. wouldn’t allow him to do so, although they did (mis)cast him in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) as Lysander. This was to be Powell’s only Shakespearean role and one he did not want to play, feeling that he was completely wrong for the part. Finally, reaching his forties and knowing that his young romantic leading man days were behind him he lobbied to play the lead in Double Indemnity. He lost out to Fred MacMurray, another Hollywood nice guy. MacMurray’s success, however, fueled Powell’s resolve to pursue projects with greater range.

In 1944, Powell was cast in the first of a series of films noir, as private detective Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk. The film was a big hit and Powell had successfully reinvented himself as a dramatic actor. He was the first actor to play Marlowe—by name—in motion pictures. (Hollywood had previously adapted some Marlowe novels, but with the lead character changed.) Later, Powell was the first actor to play Marlowe on radio, in 1944 and 1945, and on television, in a 1954 episode of “Climax!”

With Alice Faye, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”

In 1945, Dmytryk and Powell re-teamed to make the film Cornered, a gripping, post-WWII thriller that helped define the film noir style. He became a popular “tough guy” lead appearing in movies such as Johnny O’Clock and Cry Danger. But 1948 saw him step out of the brutish type when he starred in Pitfall, a film noir that sees a bored insurance company worker fall for an innocent but dangerous femme fatale, played by Lizabeth Scott. Even when he appeared in lighter fare such as The Reformer and the Redhead and Susan Slept Here (1954) he never sang in his later roles. The latter, his final onscreen appearance in a feature film, did include a dance number with costar Debbie Reynolds.

From 1949–1953, Powell played the lead role in the National Broadcasting Company radio theater production Richard Diamond, Private Detective. His character in the 30-minute weekly was a likable private detective with a quick wit. Many of the episodes were written by Blake Edwards. When Richard Diamond came to television in 1957, the lead role was portrayed by David Janssen.

“I Only Have Eyes For You”

In the 1950s Powell produced and directed several B-movies and was one of the founders of Four Star Television, along with Charles Boyer, David Niven and Ida Lupino. He appeared in and supervised several shows for that company. Powell played the role of Willie Dante in Four Star Playhouse in episodes entitled “Dante’s Inferno” (1952), “The Squeeze” (1953), “The Hard Way” (1953), and “The House Always Wins” (1955). In 1961 Howard Duff, husband of Ida Lupino, assumed the Dante role in a short-lived NBC adventure series Dante, set at a San Francisco nightclub called “Dante’s Inferno”.

Powell guest starred in numerous Four Star programs including a 1958 appearance on the Duff-Lupino sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. He appeared in 1961 on James Whitmore‘s legal drama The Law and Mr. Jones on ABC. In the episode “Everybody Versus Timmy Drayton” Powell played a colonel having problems with his son. He hosted and occasionally starred in his Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater on CBS from 1956–1961, and his final anthology series, The Dick Powell Show on NBC from 1961 through 1963: after his death, the series continued through the end of its second season (as The Dick Powell Theater), with guest hosts.

Powell’s film The Enemy Below (1957) based on the novel by Denys Rayner won an Academy Award for special effects.

“Say It Isn’t So”

Powell also directed The Conqueror (1956) starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan. The exterior scenes were filmed in St. George, Utah, downwind of US above-ground atomic tests. The cast and crew totaled 220 and of that number, 91 had developed some form of cancer by 1981 and 46 had died of cancer by then, including Wayne. This cancer rate is about three times higher than one would expect in a group of this size and many have argued that radioactive fallout was the cause.[1]

Powell himself died seven years after The Conqueror was made on January 2, 1963 from lymphoma at the age of fifty-eight. His body was cremated and his remains were interred in the Columbarium of Honor at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Dick Powell was married three times:

  • Mildred Maund (1925–1927)-although most biographies say they were divorced in 1927 there are strong indications this is not true. They appear on the 1930 census in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he is working in a theater and they appear on a 1931 passenger list where they are returning from Havana, Cuba aboard the SS Orient.
  • actress Joan Blondell (married September 19, 1936, divorced 1944), with whom he had two children, Ellen and adopted son Norman
  • actress/singer June Allyson (August 19, 1945, until his death), with whom he had two children, Pamela (adopted) and Richard Powell, Jr.

Powell’s ranch-style house in Mandeville Canyon, Los Angeles, was used as the setting for the television show Hart to Hart. Robert Wagner, the actor who portrayed Jonathan Hart in the series, was a close friend of Powell’s. Dick Powell also was a major television player with his own production company, Four Star, owning several network shows.

Sourced: wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com

Features

Short subjects

As director

Vivian Blaine

Vivian Blaine (November 21, 1921 – December 9, 1995) was an American actress and singer best known for originating the role of Miss Adelaide in the musical theater production Guys and Dolls.

“That’s For Me”


Born Vivian Stapleton, the cherry-blonde-haired Blaine appeared on local stages as early as 1934 and was a touring singer with dance bands starting in 1937. In 1942, her agent and soon-to-be husband Manny Franks signed her to a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, and she relocated to Hollywood, sharing top billing with Laurel and Hardy in Jitterbugs (1943) and starring in Greenwich Village (1944), Nob Hill (1945), and State Fair (1945), among other films.

“Isn’t Kind Of Fun?”

Following her Fox years, Blaine returned to the stage, making her Broadway debut in the Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls in 1950. Her character Adelaide has been engaged to inveterate gambler Nathan Detroit for 14 years, a condition which, according to her song “Adelaide’s Lament“, can foster physical illness as well as chronic heartbreak. After the show’s 1200-performance run on Broadway, in which she starred opposite Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit and Robert Alda as fellow gambler Sky Masterson, she reprised the role in London‘s West End in 1953, and then on film in 1955, with Frank Sinatra playing Nathan and Marlon Brando in Sky’s role.

On “What’s My Line?”

Blaine also appeared on the Broadway stage in A Hatful of Rain, Say, Darling, Enter Laughing, Company, and Zorba, as well as participating in the touring companies of such musicals as Gypsy. As she reached age 50, her television career took off, with guest roles on shows like Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. On the 25th annual Tony Awards in 1971, she appeared as a guest performer and sang “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls, providing a visual recording of the performance for posterity.[1]

Blaine in her later years was managed by Rob Cipriano and L’Etoile Talent Agencies in New York City. Cipriano spent the early 1980s developing projects for Blaine including Puppy Love a TV sitcom with Jake LaMotta and Pat Cooper. She always shared in meeting that working with Cipriano reminded her working with her first husband Manny Franks.

Blaine’s first marriage, to Franks, lasted from 1945 to 1956. She then married Milton Rackmil, president of Universal Studios and Decca Records, in 1959, and recorded several albums prior to their 1961 divorce. In 1973, Blaine married Stuart Clark. In 1983 she became the first celebrity to make public service announcements for AIDS-related causes. She made numerous appearances in support of the then fledgling AIDS-Project Los Angeles (APLA) and in 1983 recorded her cabaret act for AEI Records which donated its royalties to the new group; this included the last recordings of her songs from Guys and Dolls.

“Mink and Pearls”

“Adelaide’s Lament”

She died of congestive heart failure in 1995 at age 74.

Alternate Bio:

Vivian Blaine

AKA Vivian Stapleton

Born: 21-Nov1921
Birthplace: Newark, NJ
Died: 9-Dec1995
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, NY

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Guys and Dolls

Father: Lionel Stapleton
Husband: Manny Franks (her agent, m. 10-Jan-1945, div. 10-Dec-1956)
Husband: Milton Rackmil (film/recording executive, m. 9-May-1959, div. 25-Jul-1961)
Husband: Stuart Clark (m. 1973, until her death)

Endorsement of R. J. Reynolds Camel cigarettes
Risk Factors: Smoking

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Parasite (12-Mar-1982)
The Dark (27-Apr-1979)
Sooner or Later (25-Mar-1979)
The Cracker Factory (16-Mar-1979)
Public Pigeon No. One (18-Feb-1957)
Guys and Dolls (3-Nov-1955)
Skirts Ahoy! (28-May-1952)
Three Little Girls in Blue (3-Sep-1946)
If I’m Lucky (2-Sep-1946)
Doll Face (Jan-1946)
State Fair (29-Aug-1945)
Nob Hill (13-Jun-1945)
Something for the Boys (1-Nov-1944)
Greenwich Village (27-Sep-1944)
Jitterbugs (25-Jun-1943)
Girl Trouble (9-Oct-1942)

Sources: Wikipedia, nndb.com, imdb.com, youtube