William Powell

William Powell

Infobox actor
bgcolour = silver
name = William Powell

imagesize = 150px
caption = from the early 1920s
birthname = William Horatio Powell
birthdate = birth date|1892|7|29|mf=y
location = Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
deathdate = death date and age|1984|3|5|1892|7|29|mf=y
deathplace = Palm Springs, California
othername =
yearsactive =
spouse = Eileen Wilson (1915-1930)
Carole Lombard (1931-1933)
Diana Lewis (1940-1984)

homepage =
academyawards =
emmyawards =
tonyawards =

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 the detective Nick Charles in six "The Thin Man" films.


Powell, an only child, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Nettie Manila Brady and Horatio Warren Powell. [ [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~battle/celeb/powell.htm Powell genealogy] ] He showed an early aptitude for performing. In 1907, he moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri.

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. [ [http://www.williampowell.org/bio.html William Powell Biography] ] 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).

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.

Personal life

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 "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 before she was interred. 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.


Academy Awards nominations

*1935 Best Actor - "The Thin Man"
*1937 Best Actor - "My Man Godfrey"
*1948 Best Actor - "Life with Father"


He 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".


*"Sherlock Holmes" (1922)
*"When Knighthood Was in Flower" (1922)
*"Outcast" (1922)
*"The Bright Shawl" (1923)
*"Under the Red Robe" (1923)
*"Dangerous Money" (1924)
*"Romola" (1924)
*"Too Many Kisses" (1925)
*"Faint Perfume" (1925)
*"My Lady's Lips" (1925)
*"The Beautiful City" (1925)
*"White Mice" (1926)
*"Sea Horses" (1926)
*"Desert Gold" (1926)
*"The Runaway" (1926)
*"Aloma of the South Seas" (1926)
*"Beau Geste" (1926)
*"Tin Gods" (1926)
*"The Great Gatsby" (1926)
*"New York" (1927)
*"Love's Greatest Mistake" (1927)
*"Senorita" (1927)
*"Special Delivery" (1927)
*"Time to Love" (1927)
*"Paid to Love" (1927)
*"Nevada" (1927)
*"She's a Sheik" (1927)
*"Beau Sabreur" (1928)
*"The Last Command" (1928)
*"Feel My Pulse" (1928)
*"Partners in Crime" (1928)
*"The Dragnet" (1928)
*"The Vanishing Pioneer" (1928)
*"Forgotten Faces" (1928)
*"Interference" (1928)
*"The Canary Murder Case" (1929)
*"The Four Feathers" (1929)
*"The Greene Murder Case" (1929)
*"Charming Sinners" (1929)
*"Pointed Heels" (1929)
*"Behind the Make-Up" (1930)
*"Street of Chance" (1930)
*"The Benson Murder Case" (1930)
*"Paramount on Parade" (1930)
*"Shadow of the Law" (1930)
*"For the Defense" (1930)
*"Man of the World" (1931)
*"Ladies' Man" (1931)
*"The Road to Singapore" (1931)
*"High Pressure" (1932)
*"Jewel Robbery" (1932)
*"One Way Passage" (1932)
*"Lawyer Man" (1933)
*"Private Detective 62" (1933)
*"Double Harness" (1933)
*"The Kennel Murder Case" (1933)
*"Fashions of 1934" (1934)
*"Manhattan Melodrama" (1934)
*"The Thin Man" (1934)
*"The Key" (1934)
*"Evelyn Prentice" (1934)
*"Star of Midnight" (1935)
*"Reckless" (1935)
*"Escapade" (1935)
*"Rendezvous" (1935)
*"The Great Ziegfeld" (1936)
*"The Ex-Mrs. Bradford" (1936)
*"My Man Godfrey" (1936)
*"Libeled Lady" (1936)
*"After the Thin Man" (1936)
*"The Last of Mrs. Cheney" (1937)
*"The Emperor's Candlesticks" (1937)
*"Double Wedding" (1937)
*"The Baroness and the Butler" (1938)
*"Another Thin Man" (1939)
*"I Love You Again" (1940)
*"Love Crazy" (1941)
*"Shadow of the Thin Man" (1941)
*"Crossroads" (1942)
*"The Youngest Profession" (1943) (cameo)
*"The Heavenly Body" (1943)
*"The Thin Man Goes Home" (1944)
*"The Great Morgan" (1946) (voice only)
*"Ziegfeld Follies" (1946)
*"The Hoodlum Saint" (1946)
*"Life with Father" (1947)
*"Song of the Thin Man" (1947)
*"The Senator Was Indiscreet" (1947)
*"Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" (1948)
*"Take One False Step" (1949)
*"Dancing in the Dark" (1949)
*"It's a Big Country" (1951)
*"The Treasure of Lost Canyon" (1952)
*"The Girl Who Had Everything" (1953)
*"How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953)
*"Mister Roberts" (1955)Short Subjects:
*"Screen Snapshots" (1932)
*"Hollywood on Parade No. A-12" (1933)
*"Screen Snapshots: The Skolsky Party" (1946)

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title = NYFCC Award for Best Actor
years = 1947
for" Life with Father"
before= Laurence Olivier
for "Henry V"
after = Laurence Olivier
for "Hamlet"



*Christensen, Lawrence O., et al. "Dictionary of Missouri Biography". Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press ISBN 0-8262-1222-0

Further reading

*Bryant, Roger, "William Powell: The Life and Films", Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2006. ISBN 0-7864-2602-0
*Francisco, Charles, "Gentleman: The William Powell Story ", New York: St Martins Press, 1985. ISBN 0-312-32103-1

External links

* [http://www.williampowell.org William Powell] at [http://www.williampowell.org WilliamPowell.org]
* [http://themave.com/Powell/ William Powell]
*imdb name|id=0001635|name=William Powell
*tcmdb name|id=154755|name=William Powell
*Find A Grave|id=1416
* [http://film.virtual-history.com/person.php?personid=577 Photographs of William Powell]

NAME= Powell, William
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Powell, William Horatio
DATE OF BIRTH= July 29, 1892
PLACE OF BIRTH= Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DATE OF DEATH= March 5, 1984
PLACE OF DEATH= Palm Springs, California

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