There was never much doubt what Tyrone Power would do for a living. His father had been a star of American theatre and his great-grandfather a popular comedian in mid-19th-century Ireland, both under the same name. His grandfather, Harold, had been a performer, too, as a concert pianist, and his mother, Helen Patia, had even met her husband in a theatre company.
What no one could have predicted, however, was how completely he would surpass them all, his fame so vast that he would be recognised throughout the world. For three years at the height of the Golden Age of Hollywood, from 1939 to 1941, he was officially the ‘king of the movies’. Some 25 years on, he was still sufficiently iconic to appear on Peter Blake’s cover for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and even today he remains one of the 100 biggest box-office stars of all time.
For all that, he was, and still is, frequently dismissed as a pretty boy who got lucky. The classic tall, dark and handsome leading man, he had an effect on the female public that Marilyn Monroe was to have on the male. His leading ladies were mesmerised, too. Debbie Reynolds found that “being in his physical presence was almost overwhelming”, while another, Anne Baxter, called him “the most beautiful man I ever saw”. For Sophia Loren, he was “the god of my adolescence”.
His looks, presence and charisma made him a star, but he was more than simply a dreamboat. History recalls him as a romantic lead, star of 1940 swashbuckler The Mark of Zorro, but there were musicals, Westerns, gangster pictures and comedies, some 50 of them over an all too brief career. Many were memorable, though too few to satisfy the son of a stage actor. His own harshest critic, he once dismissed his film career as “a monument to public patience”.