Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


THE SECRET LIFE OF TYRONE POWER. Hector Arce. William Morrow. 1979.

Almost thirty years old, this is still a fairly interesting bio of the movie star, and is a good read, despite some questionable passages. Arce provides details about the life and career of Power's actor-father, Tyrone Power, Sr., and goes behind the scenes of some of his movies (there isn't much picture analysis, although Arce does explain why the films worked or not, and why they were or were not good choices for Power). There is a great deal about Power's private life as well, including his three marriages, and affairs with both men and women. There are some dated aspects to the discussion of Power's bisexual, and possibly homosexual, nature (some of his male lovers, who are quoted, felt that Power was an essentially homosexual man whose marriages and relationships were a cover-up and to keep his career from imploding). Some of the people Arce interviewed, however, such as a bisexual male prostitute still plying his trade in his fifties (!), are rather suspect. Whatever the facts, Power was a big star, and appeared in several memorable movies. This book can be recommended for a basic rundown of his life and career, but take it with a grain of salt. Whatever the truth of Power's sexuality, it shouldn't make a difference to his fans.

Verdict: Not bad if not the final word. ***.


Mrs. R said...

Actually, this is a pathetic book with poor, almost nonexistent references and ridiculous theories. Arce deliberately leaves out important information from Power's life to create an incorrect impression. Tyrone Power may have been bisexual, particularly in the early period of his life, however, bisexual is the operative word here - he loved women. Arce left out Power's affair with Mary Roblee, an editor at Vogue as well as several other women. He totally downplays the affair he had with Mai Zetterling, with whom he lived for several years. Her book "All Those Tomorrows" is quite insightful about Power, and also very different from Arce's view.

Tyrone Power: The Last Idol is far superior, though it also is very incomplete. All Those Tomorrows is excellent.

By the way, for those who think he was predominantly gay, he always insisted on making love with the lights on - lest anyone think he was imagining being with a man while shtupping Sonja Henie, Lana Turner, Anita Ekberg, Mai, his three wives, the woman he impregnated during the filming of Jesse James - etc. - and he liked a real "whore in the bedroom" according to actor Kurt Kasznar. The Sonja Henie biography has some hilarious stories in it.

A friend of mine had a gorgeous mother who worked as an usher at the Pantages. She dated Power in the '30s. The real person was quite different from Arce's book.

William said...

Thanks for your comments. I don't know if we'll ever know or if it's even possible to know the ultimate truth about Tyrone Power (or anyone, for that matter). I do know that even today there are essentially homosexual men who enter into relationships with women over and over again (you can fantasize even with the lights on, but there are gay men who can on occasion enjoy sex with women) in a desperate effort to erase sexual feelings that they are ashamed of. Imagine how Power might have felt in an era when homosexuality was considered an abhorant sickness, and if even the slightest glimmer of it got out his career was finished -- and his humiliation would have been very public. (Even today there are gay movie stars who are horrified of exposure.) Because of this, a man can sleep with more women than men and still possibly have an essentially homosexual nature. Power himself probably didn't know exactly what he was.

But at this point, what does it matter? Power left behind a legacy of interesting movies and some very good performances. And that's really all his fans or film buffs in general should care about, eh?

Anonymous said...

"Mrs. R" posts on just about every website (under different names) where Tyrone Power's sexuality comes into question. "She" is on a mission, and seems to have some type of strange romantic 'crush' on a long-dead actor.

We will never truly know the truth about Mr. Power's sexuality. However, as a gay man, I can tell you that I don't believe he was gay, but bisexual. Can I prove that? No, of course not. But I've dome so much research on the man; I find him fascinating. I've read all the biographies, articles and stories. I've watched all the movies. I've watch all the informal film of him in different settings. And there's just something there; the way he acted and presented himself when he was around men (not in his movies, of course) that he supposedly had relationships with, especially Cesar Romero. I don't know...maybe you just have to be gay to pick it up...maybe it's "gaydar", but it's there. Subtle, but it's there.

Many people are completely heterosexual and have homosexual friends. But in the case of Tyrone Power, I honestly believe he bisexual, not gay.

William said...

Anything is possible. It's also possible he was a gay man who was bisexual only in the technical sense, that for various reasons he slept with women as well as men. But as I said before, what does it matter now? If you like his work, you like his work, and if you don't, then his sexual orientation really is irrelevant.

Thanks for your comments.