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Richard Ewing Powell

Birthplace: Mountain View, Arkansas
Death: January 02, 1963 (58)
Los Angeles, California
Place of Burial: Glendale, Los Angeles, California
Immediate Family:

Son of Ewing Powell and Sallie Rowena Powell
Husband of June Allyson
Ex-husband of Mildred Maund and Joan Blondell
Father of Private; Private and Private
Brother of Howard Smith Powell and Luther Powell

Occupation: Singer, Actor, Producer, Director, Studio executive, Hollywood singer, actor, film producer and studio head.
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Dick Powell

Dick Powell, enjoyed a long and far-ranging career which brought him success in music, film and television. Born in Mountain View, Arkansas on November 14, 1903, Powell regularly sang in both school and church choirs as a child, his soprano voice eventually becoming a tenor; at the same time, he also learned to play a number of instruments, including the saxophone, cornet and banjo. In his late teens, he joined Kentucky's Royal Peacock Orchestra, and during the late '20s sang and played with Charlie Davis, with whom Powell made a number of early recordings. By the early '30s, he had relocated to Indianapolis to serve as Master of Ceremonies at the Circle Theater, later assuming the same duties at Pittsburgh's Stanley Theater; there Powell was discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout, and quickly signed to a movie contract.

Powell made his film debut in 1932's Blessed Event, but he shot to stardom a year later alongside another Hollywood newcomer, Ruby Keeler, in the classic Lloyd Bacon/Busby Berkeley backstage musical 42nd Street, which included such classic Harry Warren and Al Dubin compositions as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" and the title song. The picture established Powell as a leading musical star, and in the years to follow, he starred in such smashes as Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade and On the Avenue, often appearing in the company of Keeler and wife Joan Blondell; among the songs his movies popularized were "We're in the Money," "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Lullaby of Broadway," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and "Jeepers Creepers."

At the same time, Powell was very active in radio, regularly appearing on programs including Hollywood Hotel, Old Gold (with the Ted Fio Rito Band) and Hollywood Party; from 1942 to 1943, he also hosted his own broadcast, Dick Powell Serenade. During the early '40s, he turned more towards comedy and dramas, and in 1944 switched gears entirely to successfully portray world-weary gumshoe Philip Marlowe in the Raymond Chandler adaptation Murder, My Sweet. From that point on, Powell was firmly established as a tough guy, and he was as popular in these roles as he had been in musicals; by the early '50s, he was also directing and producing pictures. Powell also served as founder and president of Four Star Television, a pioneering TV production company, and from 1959 to 1961, he presented the popular series Dick Powell Theater. He continued working regularly until his death from cancer on January 3, 1963.

FILM CREDITS (partial)

Too Busy to Work (1932) - Dan Hardy

Blessed Event (1932) - Bunny Harmon

Road Is Open Again, The (1933) - The Songwriter

King's Vacation, The (1933) - John Kent

Convention City (1933) - Jerry Ford

42nd Street (1933) - Billy Lawler

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) - Brad Roberts (Robert Treat Bradford)

Footlight Parade (1933) - Scott "Scotty" Blair

College Coach (1933) - Phil Sargent

Wonder Bar (1934) - Tommy

Flirtation Walk (1934) - Dick "Canary" Dorcey

Dames (1934) - Jimmy Higgins

Happiness Ahead (1934) - Bob Lane

Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934) - Buddy Clayton

Thanks a Million (1935) - Eric Land

Broadway Gondolier (1935) - Richard Purcell

Page Miss Glory (1935) - Bingo Nelson

Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1935) - Lysander

Shipmates Forever (1935) - Richard John "Dick" Melville III

Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) - Dick Curtis

Stage Struck (1936) - George Randall

Colleen (1936) - Donald Ames III

Hearts Divided (1936) - Captain Jerome Bonaparte

Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) - Rosmer Peck

Varsity Show (1937) - Chuck Daly

On the Avenue (1937) - Gary Blake

Singing Marine, The (1937) - Bob Brent

Hard to Get (1938) - Bill Davis

Hollywood Hotel (1938) - Ronnie Bowers

Cowboy from Brooklyn, The (1938) - Elly Jordan

Going Places (1938) - Peter Mason, aka Peter Randall

Naughty But Nice (1939) - Professor Donald Hardwick

I Want a Divorce (1940) - Alan MacNally

Christmas in July (1940) - Jimmy MacDonald

Model Wife (1941) - Fred Chambers

In the Navy (1941) - Tommy Halstead/Russ Raymond

Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) - Himself

True to Life (1943) - Link Ferris

Riding High (1943) - Steve Baird

Happy Go Lucky (1943) - Pete Hamilton

Murder, My Sweet (1944) - Philip Marlowe

Meet the People (1944) - William "Swanee" Swanson

It Happened Tomorrow (1944) - Larry Stevens

Cornered (1945) - Gerard

Johnny O'Clock (1947) - Johnny O'Clock

Rogues' Regiment (1948) - Whit Corbett

Pitfall (1948) - John Forbes

Station West (1948) - Haven

To the Ends of the Earth (1948) - Commissioner Michael Barrows

Mrs. Mike (1949) - Sgt. Mike Flannigan

Right Cross (1950) - Rick Gavery

Reformer and the Redhead, The (1950) - Andrew Rockton Hale

You Never Can Tell (1951) - Rex Shepherd

Tall Target, The (1951) - John Kennedy

Cry Danger (1951) - Rocky Mulloy

Callaway Went Thataway (1951) - Cameo

Bad and the Beautiful, The (1952) - James Lee Bartlow

Susan Slept Here (1954) - Mark Christopher


Four Star Playhouse (1952) TV Series - Alternate Lead Player

Best in Mystery, The (1956) TV Series - Willie Dante

Zane Grey Theater (1956) TV Series - Host/Occasional Lead Player

... aka Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater (1956)

Dick Powell Show, The (1961) TV Series - Host/Occasional Lead Player

... aka Dick Powell Theatre, The (1963) (new title)


Conqueror, The (1956)

You Can't Run Away from It (1956)

Enemy Below, The (1957)

Hunters, The (1958)

Dick Powell Show, The (1961) TV Series

... aka Dick Powell Theatre, The (1963) (new title)


Split Second (1953)

Conqueror, The (1956)

You Can't Run Away from It (1956)

Enemy Below, The (1957)

Hunters, The (1958)

Richard Ewing "Dick" Powell (November 14, 1904 – January 2, 1963) was an American singer, actor, film producer, film director and studio head. Though he came to stardom as a musical comedy performer, he showed versatility and successfully transformed into a hardbitten leading man starring in projects of a more dramatic nature. He was the first actor to portray the private detective Philip Marlowe on screen.

Powell was born in Mountain View,[2] the seat of Stone County in northern Arkansas. The family moved to Little Rock in 1914, where Powell sang in church choirs and with a local orchestras and started his own band.[3] Powell attended the former Little Rock College, before he started his entertainment career as a singer with the Royal Peacock Band which toured throughout the Midwest. During this time, he married Mildred Maund, a model, but she found being married to an entertainer not to her liking and they soon divorced.[3] Later, he joined the Charlie Davis Orchestra, based in Indianapolis.[3] He recorded a number of records with Davis and on his own, for the Vocalion label in the late 1920s. Dick Powell in Dames trailer.jpg Ruby Keeler in Footlight Parade (1933) Dick Powell in 1934 Dick Powell and Inez Asher Guest stars for the premiere episode of The Dick Powell Show, "Who Killed Julie Greer?" Standing, from left: Ronald Reagan, Nick Adams, Lloyd Bridges, Mickey Rooney, Edgar Bergen, Jack Carson, Ralph Bellamy, Kay Thompson, and Dean Jones, seated, from left, Carolyn Jones and Dick Powell

Powell moved to Pittsburgh, where he found great local success as the Master of Ceremonies at the Enright Theater and the Stanley Theater.[3] In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought Brunswick Records, which at that time owned Vocalion. Warner Bros. was sufficiently impressed by Powell's singing and stage presence to offer him a film contract in 1932. He made his film debut as a singing bandleader in Blessed Event.[4] He went on to star as a boyish crooner in movie musicals such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Flirtation Walk, and On the Avenue, often appearing opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.[3]

Powell desperately wanted to expand his range, but Warner Bros. would not allow him to do so. As a result, he bought his release from Warner Bros. in 1940.[3] They did cast him in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), but as Lysander, another youthful romantic character. This was to be Powell's only Shakespearean role and one he did not want to play, feeling that he was completely wrong for the part.[citation needed] By 1944, Powell felt he was too old to play romantic leading men anymore,[citation needed], so he lobbied to play the lead in Double Indemnity. He lost out to Fred MacMurray, another Hollywood nice guy. MacMurray's success, however, fueled Powell's resolve to pursue projects with greater range.

In 1944, Powell's career changed dramatically when he was cast in the first of a series of films noir, as private detective Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk. The film was a big hit, and Powell had successfully reinvented himself as a dramatic actor. He was the first actor to play Marlowe – by name – in motion pictures. (Hollywood had previously adapted some Marlowe novels, but with the lead character changed.) Later, Powell was the first actor to play Marlowe on radio, in 1944 and 1945, and on television, in a 1954 episode of Climax! Powell also played the slightly less hard-boiled detective Richard Rogue in the radio series "Rogue's Gallery", beginning in 1945.

In 1945, Dmytryk and Powell reteamed to make the film Cornered, a gripping, post-WWII thriller that helped define the film noir style. He became a popular "tough guy" lead appearing in movies such as Johnny O'Clock and Cry Danger. But in 1948, he stepped out of the brutish type when he starred in Pitfall, a film noir in which a bored insurance company worker falls for an innocent but dangerous woman, played by Lizabeth Scott. Even when he appeared in lighter fare such as The Reformer and the Redhead and Susan Slept Here (1954), he never sang in his later roles. The latter, his final onscreen appearance in a feature film, did include a dance number with costar Debbie Reynolds.

From 1949–1953, Powell played the lead role in the NBC radio theater production Richard Diamond, Private Detective. His character in the 30-minute weekly was a likable private detective with a quick wit. Many episodes ended with Detective Diamond having an excuse to sing a little song to his date, showcasing Powell's vocal abilities. Many of the episodes were written by Blake Edwards. When Richard Diamond came to television in 1957, the lead role was portrayed by David Janssen, who did no singing in the series. Prior to the Richard Diamond series, he starred in Rogue's Gallery. He played Richard Rogue, private detective. The Richard Diamond tongue-in-cheek persona developed in the Rogue series.

In the 1950s, Powell was one of the founders of Four Star Television,[1] along with Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino. He appeared in and supervised several shows for that company. Powell played the role of Willie Dante in Four Star Playhouse, in episodes entitled "Dante's Inferno" (1952), "The Squeeze" (1953), "The Hard Way" (1953), and "The House Always Wins" (1955). In 1961, Howard Duff, husband of Ida Lupino, assumed the Dante role in a short-lived NBC adventure series Dante, set at a San Francisco nightclub called "Dante's Inferno".

Powell guest-starred in numerous Four Star programs, including a 1958 appearance on the Duff-Lupino sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. He appeared in 1961 on James Whitmore's legal drama The Law and Mr. Jones on ABC. In the episode "Everybody Versus Timmy Drayton", Powell played a colonel having problems with his son. Shortly before his death, Powell sang on camera for the final time in a guest-star appearance on Four Star's Ensign O'Toole, singing The Song of the Marines, which he first sang in his 1937 film The Singing Marine. He hosted and occasionally starred in his Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater on CBS from 1956–1961, and his final anthology series, The Dick Powell Show on NBC from 1961 through 1963; after his death, the series continued through the end of its second season (as The Dick Powell Theater), with guest hosts.

Powell's film The Enemy Below (1957), based on the novel by Denys Rayner, won the Academy Award for Special Effects.

Powell also directed The Conqueror (1956), starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan. The exterior scenes were filmed in St. George, Utah, downwind of U.S. above-ground atomic tests. The cast and crew totaled 220, and of that number, 91 had developed some form of cancer by 1981, and 46 had died of cancer by then, including Powell and Wayne. This cancer rate is about three times higher than one would expect in a group of this size, and many have argued that radioactive fallout was the cause.[5] Personal life

Powell was the son of Ewing Powell and Sallie Rowena Thompson.

He married three times:

   Mildred Maund (1925–1927) – although most biographies say they were divorced in 1927, some sources are contradictory. The couple appears on the 1930 census in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he is working in a theater, and on a 1931 passenger list for the SS Oriente, returning from Havana, Cuba.
   Joan Blondell (married September 19, 1936, divorced 1944), with whom he had two children, Norman (her son from a previous marriage, whom Powell adopted) and Ellen.
   June Allyson (August 19, 1945, until his death), with whom he had two children, Pamela (adopted) and Richard Powell, Jr.

Powell's ranch-style house was used for exterior filming on the ABC TV series, Hart to Hart. Powell was a friend of Hart to Hart actor Robert Wagner and producer Aaron Spelling. The estate, known as Amber Hills, is on 48 acres in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, Los Angeles.

Powell enjoyed general aviation as a private pilot.[6] Illness and death

On September 27, 1962, Powell acknowledged rumors that he was undergoing treatment for cancer. The disease was originally diagnosed as an allergy, with Powell first experiencing symptoms while traveling East to promote his program. Upon his return to California, Powell's personal physician conducted tests and found malignant growths on his neck and chest.[7]

Powell died at the age of 58 on January 2, 1963. His body was cremated and his remains were interred in the Columbarium of Honor at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. In a 2001 interview with Larry King, Powell's widow June Allyson confirmed his cause of death was lung cancer due to his chain smoking.[8]

Dick Powell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6915 Hollywood Blvd.[9] Popular culture references

Frank Tashlin's cartoon satire The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos (1937) features a caricature of Powell, a bird named "Dick Fowl".

The Travel Channel series Mysteries at the Museum (2013) featured a segment about the fallout from the filming of The Conqueror with American actor Paul Meltzer as director Powell.

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Dick Powell's Timeline

November 14, 1904
January 2, 1963
Age 58