William Powell

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William Horatio Powell
Cathedral City, Desert Memorial Park

William Horatio Powell (July 29, 1892 – March 5, 1984) was an American actor. He typically played highly self-confident characters, with a sophisticated sense of humor and wit.

A major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the popular Thin Man series based on the novels of Dashiell Hammett in which Powell and Loy played Nick and Nora Charles. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: for The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947).


Eileen Wilson (m. 1915–1930; divorced)
Carole Lombard (m. 1931–1933; divorced)
Diana Lewis (m. 1940–1984; his death)


William David Powell (1925–1968)


An only child, Powell was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Nettie Manila (née Brady) and Horatio Warren Powell, on July 29, 1892. His father was born in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania (where Powell spent his boyhood summers), to William S. and Harriet Powell. Powell showed an early aptitude for performing. In 1907, he moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri, where he graduated from Central High School in 1910. The Powells lived just a few blocks away from the Carpenters, whose daughter Harlean also went to Hollywood, under the name Jean Harlow, although she and Powell did not meet until both were established actors.

Film career

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 as an evil henchman of Professor Moriarty in a production of Sherlock Holmes with John Barrymore. 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).

Powell's most famous role was that of Nick Charles in six Thin Man films, beginning with The Thin Man in 1934, based upon Dashiell Hammett's novel. The role provided a perfect opportunity for Powell, with his resonant speaking voice, to showcase his sophisticated charm and 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 on-screen partnership, beginning alongside Clark Gable in 1934 with Manhattan Melodrama, was one of Hollywood's most prolific, 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 a serious romance developed between them, and 1936 found them united again in film and with Loy and Spencer Tracy in the screwball comedy Libeled Lady. Harlow died from uremia at the age of 26 in June 1937 before they could marry. His distress over her death, as well as a cancer diagnosis, caused him to accept fewer acting roles.

Powell's career slowed considerably in the 1940s, although he received his third Academy Award nomination in 1947 for his role as the cantankerous Clarence Day, Sr. in Life with Father. His last film was 1955's Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, James Cagney, and Jack Lemmon. Despite numerous entreaties to return to the screen, Powell refused all offers, happy in his retirement.

Personal life

In 1915, he married Eileen Wilson (1894-1942) who was born Julia Tierney, 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.

On June 26, 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 screwball comedy My Man Godfrey three years later. Powell was devastated when he learned of her death in 1942.

Powell was engaged to actress Jean Harlow. After her sudden death in 1937, It is reported that a single white gardenia with an unsigned note was placed in her hands before she was interred, presumed to have been written by Powell. The note read, "Good night, my dearest darling". He also paid for her final resting place—a $25,000, 9×10-foot private room lined with multicolored imported marble located in the "Sanctuary of Benediction" of the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

In 1937, Powell was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent surgery and experimental radium treatment which put the disease in full remission within two years. Given his own health and sorrow over Harlow's death, Powell did not undertake any film roles for over a year during this period.

On January 6, 1940, Powell married actress Diana Lewis, whom he called "Mousie," three weeks after they met. They remained married for forty-four years, residing primarily in Palm Springs, California, until Powell died at the age of 91.


Powell died of heart failure in Palm Springs, California, on March 5, 1984, at the age of 91, some 30 years after his retirement. He is buried at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California, near his son William David Powell and wife Diana Lewis.


Academy Awards nominations
  • 1934 Best Actor – The Thin Man
  • 1936 Best Actor – My Man Godfrey
  • 1948 Best Actor – Life with Father

William Powell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1636 Vine Street. He won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in 1947 for Life with Father and The Senator Was Indiscreet.

In 1957, Powell was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.

In 1978, influential proto-punk band The Dictators recorded a well reviewed rock ballad "Sleepin' With The TV On" in homage to William Powell and The Thin Man films.

In 1992, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

Television star and comedian Don Adams stated that his famous "clippy" Maxwell Smart voice characterization was an exaggeration of the speaking style of actor William Powell.

Source: wikipedia.org

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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        William David PowellSon27.02.192513.03.1968
        2Diana LewisDiana LewisWife18.09.191918.01.1997
        3Carole  LombardCarole LombardWife06.10.190816.01.1942
        4Jean HarlowJean HarlowCivil wife03.03.191107.06.1937
        5Lena HorneLena HorneCoworker30.06.191709.05.2010
        6Myrna LoyMyrna LoyCoworker02.08.190514.12.1993
        7Jean AckerJean AckerCoworker23.10.189316.08.1978
        8Robert Z. LeonardRobert Z. LeonardCoworker07.10.188927.08.1968
        9Ward BondWard BondCoworker09.04.190305.11.1960
        10James Cagney, Jr.James Cagney, Jr.Coworker17.07.189930.03.1986
        11Adolph ZukorAdolph ZukorCoworker07.01.187310.06.1976
        12Emil JanningsEmil JanningsCoworker23.07.188403.01.1950
        13Carol DempsterCarol DempsterCoworker09.12.190101.02.1991
        14Reginald DennyReginald DennyCoworker20.11.189116.06.1967
        15Roland YoungRoland YoungCoworker11.11.188705.06.1953
        16John BarrymoreJohn BarrymoreCoworker14.02.188229.05.1942
        17Elizabeth TaylorElizabeth TaylorCoworker27.02.193223.03.2011
        18Alice JoyceAlice JoyceCoworker01.10.189009.10.1955
        19Clark  GableClark GableCoworker01.02.190116.11.1960
        20Mervyn LeRoyMervyn LeRoyCoworker15.10.190013.09.1987
        21Mickey RooneyMickey RooneyCoworker23.11.192006.04.2014
        22Michael CurtizMichael CurtizCoworker24.12.188811.04.1962
        23Luise  RainerLuise RainerCoworker12.01.191030.12.2014
        24Jack LemmonJack LemmonCoworker08.02.192527.06.2001
        25Frank MorganFrank MorganCoworker01.06.189018.09.1949
        26Harry Carey Jr.Harry Carey Jr.Coworker16.05.192127.12.2012
        27Virginia  BruceVirginia BruceCoworker29.09.191024.02.1982
        28Man Mountain DeanMan Mountain DeanCoworker30.06.189129.05.1953
        29Victor  FlemingVictor FlemingCoworker23.02.188906.01.1949
        30Martin MilnerMartin MilnerCoworker28.12.193106.09.2015
        31Spencer TracySpencer TracyCoworker05.04.190010.06.1967
        32Red SkeltonRed SkeltonCoworker18.07.191317.09.1997
        33Hattie McDanielHattie McDanielCoworker10.06.189526.10.1952
        34Benita HumeBenita HumeCoworker14.10.190601.11.1967
        35Cesar RomeroCesar RomeroCoworker15.02.190701.01.1994
        36Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.Coworker21.03.186722.07.1932
        37Joshua LoganJoshua LoganCoworker05.10.190812.07.1988
        38Nat PendletonNat PendletonCoworker09.08.189512.10.1967
        39W. S. Van DykeW. S. Van DykeCoworker21.03.188905.02.1943
        40John FordJohn FordCoworker01.02.189431.08.1973
        41Jane WymanJane WymanCoworker05.01.191710.09.2007
        42Irving ThalbergIrving ThalbergCoworker30.05.189914.09.1936
        43Henry FondaHenry FondaCoworker16.05.190512.08.1982
        44Jocelyn BrandoJocelyn BrandoFamiliar18.11.191927.11.2005