Monday, October 29, 2007

William Horatio Powell (July 29, 1892March 5, 1984) was a three-time Academy Award-nominated American actor, noted for his sophisticated, cynical roles. He is most widely known for portraying Nick Charles, husband of Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) in six Thin Man films.

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 worked in some vaudeville and stock companies. After several successful experiences on the Broadway stage, he began his Hollywood career in 1922 playing a small role in a production of Sherlock Holmes that starred John Barrymore as the great detective. His most memorable role in silent movies was as a bitter film director opposite Emil Jannings' Academy Award-winning performance as a fallen general in The Last Command (1928), which led to Powell's first starring role as amateur detective Philo Vance in The Canary Murder Case (1929).
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 humor, and he received his first Academy Award nomination for The Thin Man. Myrna Loy played his wife, Nora, in each of the Thin Man films. Their partnership was one of Hollywood's most prolific on-screen pairings, with the couple appearing in 14 films together.
He and Loy also starred in the Best Picture of 1936, The Great Ziegfeld, with Powell in the title role and Loy as Ziegfeld's wife Billie Burke. That same year, he also received his second Academy Award nomination, for the comedy My Man Godfrey.
In 1935, he starred with Jean Harlow in Reckless. Soon it developed into a serious romance, though she died in 1937 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.
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.

Film career
In 1915, he married Eileen Wilson, with whom he had his only child, William David Powell, before an amicable divorce in 1930. (Powell's son became a television writer and producer before a period of ill health led to his suicide in 1968.)
In 1931, Powell married actress Carole Lombard. The marriage lasted just over two years. They were divorced in 1933, though they too remained on good terms, even starring together in the comedy, My Man Godfrey, three years later.
A close relationship with Jean Harlow, begun in 1935, was cut short by her untimely death in 1937. It is reported that a single white gardenia with an unsigned note, but presumed to be written by Powell, that read "Good night, my dearest darling" were placed in her hands in her grave. He also paid for her final resting place—the $25,000, 9×10-foot private room lined with multicolored imported marble located in the "Sanctuary of Benediction".
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.
On March 5, 1984, Powell died of cardiac arrest in Palm Springs, California at the age of 91, some thirty years after his retirement. His widow, Diana Lewis, died in 1997.

Personal life

William Powell Honors

1935 Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role - The Thin Man
1937 Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role - My Man Godfrey
1948 Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role - Life with Father Academy Awards nominations
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1636 Vine Street. He won the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Life With Father.

Myrna Loy: Pretty Girl. William Powell: Yes. She's a nice type. Myrna Loy: You got types? William Powell: Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.
William Powell: Oh, it's alright, Joe. It's my dog. And uh, my wife. Myrna Loy: Well, you might have mentioned me on the first billing.
William Powell: Oh, I'm a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.
Myrna Loy: I read you were shot five times in the tabloids.
William Powell: It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids.
William Powell: How'd you like Grant's tomb? Myrna Loy: It's lovely. I'm having a copy made for you.
William Powell: Come on. Let's get something to eat. I'm thirsty.
William Powell: These flowers just came for you, miss. Where shall I put them? Carole Lombard: What difference does it make where one puts flowers when one's heart is breaking? William Powell: Yes, miss. Shall I put them on the piano?
William Powell: I don't go to church to be preached at as though I were some lost sheep. Irene Dunne: Clare, you don't seem to understand what the church is for. William Powell: Vinnie, if there's one place the church should leave alone, it's a man's soul!

The Thin Man, 1934
The Thin Man, 1934
The Thin Man, 1934
The Thin Man, 1934
After The Thin Man, 1936
My Man Godfrey, 1936
Life with Father, 1947 Further reading

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