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Hollywood's Golden Era Movie Star Had It All, But Left It All To Fight In WWII

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 25, 2024 3:04 am

Hollywood's Golden Era Movie Star Had It All, But Left It All To Fight In WWII

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 25, 2024 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, he starred in “The Mark of Zorro” and many other movies, but his greatest role—at the height of his acting career—was serving his country during World War II as a Marine. Here to tell the story is Roger McGrath.

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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

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Connecting changes everything. And we continue with our American stories. And now it's time for another of Roger McGrath's Hollywood Goes to War Stories. Here's McGrath with the story of Tyrone Power. The great heartthrob for female moviegoers in the late 1930s and early 1940s was Tyrone Power. He was young, strikingly handsome, and cast in roles designed to make the women swoon.

Whether it was as the male lead in Thin Ice, Cafe Metropole, Second Honeymoon in Old Chicago, Marie Antoinette, Jesse James, A Yank in the RAF, The Mark of Zorro, or Blood in Sand, Power was a dashing and romantic character second to none. He came from a long line of actors beginning with his Irish great-grandfather of the same name Tyrone Power, who was one of the most famous stage actors of Ireland, England, and the United States during the 1820s and 30s. There were several other actors besides his great-grandfather, not only in his paternal line but also on his maternal side. Perhaps it was Tyrone Power's genetic destiny to become an actor. Before he died at the young age of 44, Power appeared in numerous plays and in 52 movies. Tyrone Edmund Power is born in Cincinnati, Ohio in May 1914.

He is Irish and English on his father's side and French and German on his mother's. Both his parents are actors. His tall and ruggedly handsome father is famous for his work on the stage and his tours of the United States, Britain, and Australia. Shortly after Power is born, the family settles in Los Angeles and the father begins his career in silent films, eventually appearing in 41 Silence and One Talkie, The Big Trail, starring John Wayne in 1930. Blessed with a deep and resonant voice, it's likely the father would have continued to make movies in the sound era, but he dies of a heart attack in 1931. A year and a half after Tyrone Power is born, his sister Anne is born. The parents feel blessed and the family is a tight-knit unit. However, the father is often away from home, not only making movies but appearing on stage in New York. The long absences finally prove too much in the parents' divorce in 1920. In 1921, seven-year-old Tyrone appears on stage in a play along with his mother.

He's an adorable child and at home on the stage, but no one is thinking that 15 years hence he will be one of Hollywood's leading men. In 1923, with Tyrone and Anne in tow, the mother moves back to Cincinnati to be close to her parents. She becomes a drama and voice coach at the prominent shoestring Martin School of Drama. At home, she coaches Tyrone in voice and dramatics. Both Tyrone and Anne go to Catholic parochial schools. After grammar school, Tyrone is sent to a Catholic preparatory school operated by the University of Dayton on its campus and staffed by the Brothers of Mary and Marianist priests. The school is commonly referred to as Dayton Prep.

It's more than 50 miles from home and he boards there. After a year, he decides he wants to live back at home, both to spare the family the expense of Dayton Prep and to be able to work part-time as an usher at a movie theater close to his family home in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati. Tyrone Power enrolls in Purcell High School in the East Walnut Hills.

Like Dayton Prep, Purcell is Marianist. Power thrives academically and athletically, stars and plays, and works part-time as an usher. Working as an usher enables him to watch movies for free. Seeing each film that comes to the theater several times, he begins writing reviews in a notebook, analyzing plot structures, and critiquing actors. He's educated in the theater, critiquing actors. He's educating himself and getting paid at the same time. Power graduates from Purcell High School just after turning 17 in 1931.

His description in the school's yearbook reads, Ty came to Purcell from Dayton Prep and in a short time became a favorite with the students and teachers alike. Ty is a good student, but his acting makes him the logical successor of John Barrymore. The summer following graduation, Power joins his father and watches him at work on the stage and on sets for a movie. Power tries to absorb everything and hopes that his father will open doors for him. However, his father suddenly becomes ill while on the set of a movie shoot. He has to excuse himself. That night at home with his son, he has a massive heart attack.

17-year-old Ty is holding him in his arms when the older Power dies. Tyrone Power stays in Hollywood, but 1932 gets only a bit part in one movie and a walk on in another. He decides the best way into Hollywood is through the stage in New York. His acting and plays in New York causes movie scouts to invite him to California for screen tests. He's back in Hollywood by 1936 and looks and sounds good in his tests. He's signed to a contract by 20th Century Fox and has small roles in two movies.

Everyone likes what they see. The prominent director, Henry King, is particularly impressed with Power and wants him for the male lead in his next movie, Lloyd's of London. Daryl Zanuck, head of production at Fox, is worried about Power in a lead role with so little experience.

Zanuck need not have worried. Both the movie and Power are hits. It's said Tyrone Power walked into the movie in Unknown and walked out a star. In 1937, Power stars in five films for Fox, four in 1938, five in 1939, and then nine more from 1940 to 1943. Two of the movies he stars in are nominated for Best Picture. By 1939, he is the number two box office draw in movies, and by 1942, number one.

He's making two or three million dollars a year in today's money. He's the star of 20th Century Fox. His leading ladies include Loretta Young, Myrna Loy, Dorothy Lamour, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Jean Tierney, and Maureen O'Hara. On a movie set in 1938, Power meets Suzanne Charpentier, a blonde French beauty who goes by the stage name Annabella. They fall madly in love and are married in 1939.

Power has it all, a beautiful and talented wife, money, and fame. But in August 1942, the 28-year-old Tyrone Power joins the Marines. Finishing the war movie Crash Dive delays boot camp for him until January 1943. Power says he wanted a joy, unquote, right after the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.

But movie contracts interfered. It's while making Crash Dive that he decides on the Marines. Quote, I kept stacking them up, the different fellows in uniform, and it seemed to me that of those I met, the finest type of men were in the Marines. In boot camp at San Diego, Power is challenged to a fight by another recruit.

So you're the big movie star, the recruit proclaims. No, I'm just a private like you, says Power. Then the guy takes a swing at Power. Bob Workman, who went through boot camp with Power, said, Power decked the guy with a quick combination. Power is strong and fast, and could box. And you've been listening to Roger McGrath tell the story of Tyrone Power and what a story it is.

Number one in the box office in 1942. And what does he do? He joins the Marines. When we come back, more of McGrath and the story of Tyrone Power.

This is our American story. And we continue with our American stories and Roger McGrath telling the story of Tyrone Power. When we last left off, Power had joined the Marines, and he had been number one in the box office in 1942.

But at the age of 28, there he was at boot camp in January of 1943. Let's continue with McGrath. A drill instructor made a similar mistake, said Workman, when he made a crack about Annabella, Power's wife. Power told the DI, You may say anything you like about me and I'll take it.

But my wife is off limits. When the DI persisted, Power decked him. To the DI's critic, he did not mention the incident. The DI may have felt he had gone too far, and he knew that several recruits had heard his profane remarks about Power's wife. Workman, who was later badly wounded on Tarawa, said Power quickly proved himself to be one of the guys. The famous actor is soon serving as the right guy to the platoon and calling cadence like a seasoned DI. Power shoots expert on the rifle range, finishing with the highest score of any recruit in boot camp. He's presented a certificate by the colonel of the recruit training battalion for his efforts.

Power also excels in all written and physical tests. He graduates as platoon honor man. Having earned superior ratings and training, and already a licensed pilot when he entered the corps, Power is sent to OCS at Quantico after boot camp. He's commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1943, but then is held at Quantico while waiting to get into flight training. Having just completed both boot camp and OCS, the corps now uses Power to help train officer candidates. Championing at the bit, Power is finally sent to an accelerated flight training course at Corpus Christi, Texas in September. By mid-April 1944, he passes his final check ride and earns his wings. He's also promoted to first lieutenant.

Lieutenant Power is then off to a naval air station, Atlanta, Georgia, for an advanced instrument flight course. Power's instructor there is Lieutenant Jerry Taylor, who said, I instructed Tyrone Power, a very popular movie idol at the time. He was an excellent student. Never forgot a procedure I showed him or anything I told him.

I don't know if he's an excellent student of him or anything I told him. After completing the two-month course, Power is ordered to the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, where he's assigned to a transport squadron, VMR 352. He wanted fighters, but he's now 30 years old, too old for dogfights. Power gets type-rated in the R5C Curtiss Commando, known more commonly by its army designation C-46. It's a twin engine cargo and troop hauler. It's the largest and heaviest twin engine plane of World War II and becomes famous for flying the hump from India over the mountains to China.

Its twin Pratt & Whitney engines develop 2,000 horsepower each, enabling the plane to cruise at 175 miles per hour and to hit a maximum speed of 270. It can haul 40 troops or 30 wounded men on stretchers or 15,000 pounds of cargo. After logging 340 hours of flying time at Cherry Point, Power is ordered to Marine Corps air station at El Centro, California, for staging for the war in the Pacific. He's now a member of a new transport squadron, VMR 353. Early in 1945, he flies with the squadron from El Centro to Hawaii to Kwajalein, which has been rested from the Japanese a year earlier.

For several days, the pilots and the crews rest while the planes are serviced. Lieutenant Power and his squadron then fly to Saipan in the Marianas, which had been taken from the Japanese six months earlier. A major airfield was constructed so B-29s could use it as a base for bombing missions to Japan.

This was a round-trip flight of 2,900 miles and many a crippled B-29 didn't make it back to Saipan. U.S. strategists think an island halfway between Saipan and Japan would be perfect for emergency landings of B-29s. The island is Iwo Jima, a small volcanic island with Mount Suribachi at its southern end.

However, the Japanese already thought it would be perfect also for defense of Japan's home islands. They built three dirt airstrips on the island and packed 21,000 crack troops into tunnels and caves to defend the outpost. On February 19, 1945, Marines land on volcanic sand beaches at the southeastern end of the island in the shadow of Suribachi. The Marines take horrific casualties the day they land, in every day afterwards for six weeks. Hospital ships offshore are overwhelmed by the number of wounded Marines. As soon as the Marines take one of Iwo's airfields, VMR 353 goes into action.

Terron Power is one of the first from a squadron to land on the strip. Supplies from his plane are offloaded and two dozen stretchers with wounded Marines are unloaded for a flight to a naval hospital on Guam, 130 miles south of Saipan in the Marianas. Nearly every time Power lands or takes off on Iwo, he's under fire, occasionally heavy fire.

Many days, he's in the air for 10 hours. On March 26, the Marines declare Iwo Jima secured. Lieutenant Power doesn't have much time to rest because on April 1st, the Marines and the Army invade Okinawa. Early in the campaign, two Japanese airfields are taken and VMR 353 is back in action, ferrying in supplies and evacuating wounded. Again and again, Power and his plane are under fire. The Japanese use a new tactic.

Suicide squads with bomb packs run under the airstrips to blow up planes and themselves. One of the planes in Power's squadron falls victim to the suicide bombers. The battle for Okinawa continues until June 22nd and it's brutal and bloody to the very end. No one knows it, but Okinawa will be the last battle. Power spends July carrying in supplies to staging areas for the coming invasion of Japan itself. He's relieved when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August caused the Japanese to do the unthinkable.

Surrender. Japan announces her surrender on August 15th and the articles of surrender are formally signed aboard the battleship Missouri on September 2nd. Shortly afterwards, Power flies into Japan and lands on an airfield outside of Tokyo. He and another pilot are able to drive a jeep about the countryside and into Yokohama. The Japanese are able to take the Japanese out of Japan about the countryside and into Yokohama.

He rides home to Annabella. We had a most wonderful sea around the countryside and got a little more the feeling of the people. If there is one thing of which I am sure in this world, it is that they hate us. You can feel it in the air. You can see it on their faces when they pass you on the street. They don't do anything outwardly, but you can sense that it is deep down inside. If you meet their gaze, they turn their eyes away. Just little things like that.

But if you see enough of them, it all adds up to the big fact that they hate us. After what he saw in Iwo Jima and Okinawa and now what he sees in Japan, Power is thankful America doesn't have to fight the Japanese on their home islands. Late in November 1945, Power returns to the United States. He's logged 1,100 hours as pilot in command and has been decorated with two bronze stars. He's separated from active duty in January 1946 but remains in the reserves. He's promoted to captain in 1951 and to major in 1957. Power stars in 21 movies after his return from the Pacific before he dies of a heart attack in 1958. He's buried with full military honors conducted by a marine honor guard. Lawrence Olivier recites the poem High Flight and a plane flies overhead. Tyrone Power was one of the greatest of movie stars but he also was a marine.

And great job on that piece, as always, to Greg Hengler and a special thanks to Roger McGrath for his remarkable and consistently good work. The story of Tyrone Power here on Our American Stories. With dozens of streaming services, box office films, and content to choose from, people are spending over two and a half years of their lives searching for what to watch. But The Hollywood Reporter brings you THR Charts, one place for you, your family, and friends to find the most-watched TV shows and movies every week. THR Charts is a guide to help you spend less time scrolling through platforms so that you can spend more time watching and binging the content everyone is talking about, all supported by data and trusted sources like Nielsen, Comscore, and Para Analytics.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-25 04:46:35 / 2024-04-25 04:54:43 / 8

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