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William Powell



William Horatio Powell (July 29, 1892 - March 5, 1984) was an American actor, noted for his sophisticated, cynical roles. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, William Powell was an only child and showed an early aptitude for performing. In 1907, he moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri. After high school, he left home for New York and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at the age of 18. In 1912 Powell graduated from the AADA, and then he worked in some vaudeville and stock companies. In 1915, he married his first wife, Eileen Wilson. After several successful experiences on the Broadway stage, he began his Hollywood career in 1922. His first starring role was as Philo Vance in The Canary Murder Case (1929). In 1930, he and Eileen divorced amicably, and in 1931, he married actress Carole Lombard. The were married just over two years before divorcing in 1933, though they too remained on good terms, even starring in a film together several years later.


William with Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey".

Perhaps Powell's most famous role was that of Nick Charles in six Thin Man films, beginning with The Thin Man in 1934. The role provided a perfect opportunity for Powell to showcase his sophisticated charm and his witty sense of humour, and he received his first Academy Award nomination for his performance. Celebrated actress Myrna Loy played his wife, Nora, in each of the Thin Man films, and her partnership with Powell would become one of Hollywood's most prolific on-screen pairings, with the couple appearing in 14 films together. Powell received an Academy Award Nomination for The Thin Man. He and Loy also starred in the Best Picture of 1936, The Great Ziegfeld, with Powell in the title role and Loy as his wife, Billie Burke. That same year, he also received his second Academy Award nomination for the comedy My Man Godfrey, in which he starred with Carole Lombard, his former wife.


William with Myrna Loy in "The Thin Man".

In 1935 he starred with Jean Harlow in Reckless, and they become very close friends. Soon Powell's friendship with Harlow developed into a serious romance, though she died before they could marry. His distress over her death as well as his own battle with colon cancer around the same time caused him to accept fewer acting roles. On January 6, 1940, he married actress Diana Lewis, whom he called "Mousie." Although the couple had only met for the first time three weeks before their wedding, they remained married until Powell's death in 1984. His career slowed considerably in the 1940s, although in 1947 he received his third Academy Award nomination for his work in Life with Father. His last film was Mister Roberts in 1955, with Henry Fonda, James Cagney, and Jack Lemmon. Despite numerous entreaties to return to the screen, Powell refused all offers, happy in his retirement. Powell had one child, a son by his first wife Eileen Wilson. William David Powell would go on to be a television writer and producer before committing suicide in 1968. Powell died of cardiac arrest in Palm Springs, California at the age of 91, some thirty years after his retirement. He was survived by his wife, Diana Lewis, who passed away in 1997.

Biography Courtesy: Wikipedia.


William with Jean Harlow.

Crystal's Favorite William Powell Films:
My Man Godfrey (1936) - Godfrey Smith




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