Birthday: November 14, 1904
Died At Age: 58
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Richard Ewing Dick Powell
Born Country: United States
Born in: Mountain View, Arkansas, United States
Famous as: Singer
Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males
Spouse/Ex-: June Allyson (m. 1945), Joan Blondell (m. 1936 - div. 1944), Mildred Maund (m. 1925 - div. 1932)
father: Ewing Powell
mother: Sallie Rowena Thompson
children: Ellen Powell, Pamela Allyson Powell, Richard Keith Powell Jr.
Died on: January 2, 1963
place of death: West Los Angeles, California, United States
U.S. State: Arkansas
Dick Powell was an American actor, singer, voice actor, and director. He is best remembered as the first actor to portray the fictional character, private detective ‘Philip Marlowe,’ on screen. As a young boy, Powell was encouraged by his father to sing in church choirs. Later, he joined ‘The Charlie Davis Orchestra’ and recorded many songs for them. Powell made his acting debut in the movie ‘Blessed Event.’ In the early phase of his career, Powell appeared in musical movies, such as ‘42nd Street’ and ‘Gold Diggers of 1933.’ After a while, he tried to break the stereotype by portraying tough characters, and his first attempt was the role of a private detective in ‘Murder, My Sweet.’ The film was a huge success. Following this, he appeared in American film noirs, such as ‘Cornered,’ ‘To the Ends of the Earth,’ and ‘Station West.’ He also lent his voice to radio productions, including ‘Richard Diamond, Private Detective.’ Powell also directed movies such as ‘Split Second’ and ‘The Conqueror.
Childhood & Early Life
Dick Powell was born Richard Ewing Powell, on November 14, 1904, in Mountain View, Arkansas. His father, Ewing, was the head of ‘International Harvester Company.’ His mother, Sallie, was his first teacher in music. Powell had two brothers, Howard and Luther.
As a youngster, Powell sang for church choirs and local orchestras. After high school, he joined the ‘Little Rock College’ for higher learning. He started the dance band, ‘Peter Pan,’ during his spare time. Later, Powell was offered a position at ‘The Charlie Davis Orchestra.’
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Dick Powell started his career as a singer. He was the master of ceremonies at the ‘Enright Theater’ and the ‘Stanley Theater.’ In the late 1920s, Powell recorded songs for the ‘Charles Davis Orchestra’ and for ‘Vocalion’ label.
In 1932, Powell made his acting debut with ‘Blessed Event.’ It was a comedy drama which narrated the story of a journalist who clashed with a gangster. Powell starred as a singer ‘Bunny Harmon.’ The movie was produced by ‘Warner Bros.’
In 1933, Powell starred as ‘Billy Lawler’ in the American musical film ‘42nd Street.’ It was a box office success. In the same year, he appeared in movies such as ‘Gold Diggers of 1933,’ ‘Footlight Parade,’ and ‘Convention City.’ In ‘College Coach,’ he starred in the lead role of an athlete ‘Phil Sargeant.’
In 1934, Powell portrayed the protagonist ‘Bob Lane’ in the comedy film ‘Happiness Ahead.’ He performed as ‘Buddy Clayton,’ in the musical comedy movie ‘Twenty Million Sweethearts.’ Powell was seen in the lead role as a soldier ‘Richard Palmer Grant Dorcy Jr,’ in ‘Flirtation Walk.’ The movie narrated the romantic journey of ‘Richard Palmer.’
In 1935, Dick Powell starred in the musical film ‘Gold Diggers of 1935.’ He portrayed the protagonist, ‘Dick Curtis,’ who fell in love with a rich girl. In ‘Broadway Gondolier,’ Powell portrayed ‘Richard “Dick” Purcell,’ a taxi driver who harbored dreams of becoming a singer. Next, he portrayed ‘Lysander’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ It was based on the play by William Shakespeare.
In the early stages of his career, Powell was offered romantic characters, in musical movies. In 1937, he starred as ‘Private Robert Brent’ in the musical film ‘The Singing Marine.’ In the same year, he starred in lead roles in movies such as ‘Varsity Show,’ and ‘Hollywood Hotel.’ In 1940, Powell performed as ‘Alan MacNally’ in the musical film ‘I Want a Divorce.’ Powell starred with his wife, Joan Blondell.
In the 1940s, Dick Powell wished to change his romantic hero image, and play tough characters. In 1944, he got the role that gave him a break from his soft-guy stereotype. He portrayed private detective ‘Philip Marlowe’ in the American film noir ‘Murder, My Sweet.’ It was based on the novel ‘Farewell, My Lovely,’ by Raymond Chandler. The movie was a huge success. Powell was the first actor to portray ‘Philip Marlowe,’ on screen.
In 1945, Powell starred as ‘Laurence Gerard’ in ‘Cornered.’ It was the story of a ‘P.O.W’ from the ‘World War II.’ In 1947, Powell performed as a detective in the crime movie ‘Johnny O’ Clock.’ He was also seen as narcotics agent ‘Michael Barrows’ in ‘To the Ends of the Earth.’ By now, Powell had established himself in ‘tough guy’ roles.
In 1953, Powell made his directorial debut with the film ‘Split Second.’ It was a film noir thriller that told the tale of some escaped convicts and the people they held as hostages. The film received mixed reactions from audiences. In 1956, he directed ‘The Conqueror,’ which told the story of the Mongol conqueror ‘Genghis Khan.’ In the 1950s, Powell starred in a few comedy movies too. His final onscreen appearance was in the comedy movie ‘Susan Slept Here.’
Dick Powell was a voice actor, too. He lent his voice to lead characters in detective drama radio programs, ‘Rogue’s Gallery,’ and ‘Richard Diamond, Private Detective.’ He was one of the founders of ‘Four Star Television.’
Family & Personal Life
Dick Powell was married thrice. In 1925, he married Mildred Evelyn Maund. The couple divorced in 1932. They had no children.
From 1936 to 1944, Powell was married to actress Joan Blondell. He adopted her son from her previous marriage, Norman Powell, who went on to become a television producer. They also had one child together, Ellen Powell.
In 1945, Powell got married to actress June Allyson. The couple was together till his death. They had two children, Pamela and Richard.
Powell suffered from lung cancer in the last days of his life. He succumbed to the illness on January 2, 1963.
He was honored with a posthumous award at the ‘15th Primetime Emmy Awards.’ Dick Powell has a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’