The other day, a blog reader, Dr Pradeep Prahlad, commented on one of my reviews of a Tyrone Power film, Witness for the Prosecution. It reminded me that a few years back, I went through a longish spell of complete and utter Power fandom. I watched, over the space of a few months, just about every Tyrone Power film I could lay my hands on. Some were good, some were forgettable. Some I reviewed. Some I thought I’d review—and then forgot about them.
So here is one film that I liked, but ended up not having the time to review back then. I rewatched Rawhide a couple of weeks back, saw flaws in it I hadn’t noticed the first time round, and decided it merited a review. Even if only to keep the Power love alive, and even if only to draw attention to a Western that generally tends to get overlooked.
The other day, scrolling through previous posts, I realised I hadn’t reviewed any Hollywood films for a while (to be honest, I’ve not even watched many Hollywood films over the past couple of months). I also realised that it’s been ages since I watched any films starring Tyrone Power, one of my favourite Hollywood actors. Time to amend that, I decided. So I got out a Power film I hadn’t watched before. An Irving Berlin production, replete with good songs and plenty of Ty candy.
The highlight of last week was—no, not an old film that I watched at home, but a new film that I watched in a cinema theatre. The Artist. A couple of friends, both people with excellent taste in cinema, recommended it to me. So I wheedled my husband into coming to watch The Artist.
And, oh. What a film. What a wonderful combination of humour, emotion, heart-breaking sorrow—and hope. It’s been a long, long time since I saw a new film that made me gush so much. (Yes, well; that probably also had a lot to do with the fact that the gorgeous Jean Dujardin is very gushworthy).
The last film I reviewed, Kohinoor, was part swashbuckler, part romance and part political intrigue. So is Prince of Foxes (though this has none of the comedy that makes Kohinoor such an endearing film). Interestingly, though, that isn’t the only thing common between these two films. They also have one scene in common. It’s a fairly critical scene in the film, where the hero has been imprisoned and is dragged forward, chained and beaten, in an assembly presided over by the villain – who sentences the hero to death. A bystander, one with ample reason to resent the hero, steps forward and disputes the death sentence – simply because it’ll bring the hero’s life to a blessed, quick end. Why not prolong his agony instead? This bystander proposes a gruesome way to do it (the same way in both Kohinoor and Prince of Foxes), and offers to do it. With the exact same results in both films.
I did not supply the details in Kohinoor, and I won’t let the cat out of the bag here. Suffice to say: if you like swashbuckling historicals, this is one Hollywood film you should put on your list.
In the film This Above All, Joan Fontaine’s character tells Tyrone Power’s character: “Oh, you’re rather good-looking, really. Nice sort of face. Nose a little on the fine side, mouth a little too big. One of your ears sticks out a little more than the other… did you know, your face is slightly lopsided?! [giggles]… but your eyes are good, nice deep brown.”
So, in celebration of those eyes, that fine nose and that nice sort of face: a Ty candy post (as bollyviewer commented, Tyrone Power’s name can be punned endlessly!)
To begin with, a shot from one of his earliest films, Suez (1938). He looks so wistful and downright beautiful here, very different from in his later films:
If there’s one film that’s quintessential Tyrone Power, it’s this one. The Mark of Zorro changed Tyrone Power from being just a pretty face to being a pretty face who could also do some very fancy stunts with a sword in hand. It made him a swashbuckling star, a stereotype that was to stick with him for a while, even though he tried to shake it off with roles like that in Nightmare Alley.
And what a film. What a rollicking, enjoyable, delightful film! I love every bit of it, and have been looking forward to sharing the joy with everybody ever since I first saw it, a few months back. So, without more ado, here goes.
Several months ago, I did a week-long special featuring Robert Mitchum. In the course of that week, I reviewed one of my favourite Mitchum films, Not as a Stranger. Watching Blood and Sand—a film Tyrone Power cited as among the favourites of those he’d worked in—I was struck by the similarities between the two films. Both are about ambitious men who don’t let anything get in their way of making it to the top, men who fall prey to a femme fatale despite being married, men who falter both in their professional and personal lives.
But Power’s Juan Gallardo is also different from Mitchum’s Lucas Marsh. And his story too is eventually different.
I was in two minds about this list. Should it be a list of the ten best Tyrone Power films there are? As in ‘great’ films—the Nightmare Alley or This Above All category? Or should it be a list of ten films, even frivolous swashbuckling stuff in which all Power was required to do was romance a pretty heroine and wield a sword?
I decided on the middle path. These are ten films that starred Tyrone Power and are worth seeing—for whatever reason.
“The trial of of Leonard Vole for the murder of Emily French aroused widespread interest. In the first place the prisoner was young and good-looking, then he was accused of a particularly dastardly crime, and there was the further interest of Romaine Heilger, the principal witness for the prosecution…” — Agatha Christie, The Witness for the Prosecution
Tyrone Power’s last full-length appearance on screen (he died while filming Solomon and Sheba a year later), Witness for the Prosecution is also one of his most famous films. Surprisingly, not mainly because of Power—his role in it, though pivotal, is actually quite small—but because of the overall brilliance of the film: the excellent acting, Billy Wilder’s direction, and a very good adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s best-known short stories.
Through much of his career, Tyrone Power bemoaned the fact that his ‘pretty face’ resulted in him being typecast—usually as the swashbuckling hero, sometimes as the dramatic hero, but always the basically good guy, even if he had his weak moments.
Which is why Nightmare Alley was the film of which Tyrone Power was most proud. He was a pretty face in most of the film (well, he couldn’t do much about that, could he?), but he also had more going for him: a very powerful, negative character that allowed Power to show that he could, despite that pretty face, act.