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William Powell

A major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the Thin Man series.

William Powell



Sherlock Holmes

When Knighthood Was in Flower




The Bright Shawl

Under the Red Robe



Dangerous Money




Too Many Kisses

Faint Perfume

My Lady’s Lips

The Beautiful City



White Mice

Sea Horses

Desert Gold

The Runaway

Aloma of the South Seas

Beau Geste

The Great Gatsby

Tin Gods



New York

Love’s Greatest Mistake

Special Delivery


Time to Love

Paid to Love


She’s a Sheik



Beau Sabreur

The Last Command

Feel My Pulse

Partners in Crime

The Drag Net

The Vanishing Pioneer

Forgotten Faces




The Canary Murder Case

The Four Feathers

The Greene Murder Case

Charming Sinners

Pointed Heels



Behind the Make-Up

Street of Chance

The Benson Murder Case

Paramount on Parade

Shadow of the Law

For the Defense



Man of the World

Ladies’ Man

The Road to Singapore



High Pressure

Jewel Robbery

One Way Passage

Lawyer Man



Private Detective 62

Double Harness

The Kennel Murder Case



Fashions of 1934

Manhattan Melodrama

The Thin Man

The Key

Evelyn Prentice



Star of Midnight






The Great Ziegfeld

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford

My Man Godfrey

Libeled Lady

After the Thin Man



The Last of Mrs. Cheney

The Emperor’s Candlesticks

Double Wedding



The Baroness and the Butler



Another Thin Man



I Love You Again



Love Crazy

Shadow of the Thin Man






The Youngest Profession



The Heavenly Body



Ziegfeld Follies

The Thin Man Goes Home



The Hoodlum Saint

 The Great Morgan



Life with Father

Song of the Thin Man

The Senator Was Indiscreet



Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid



Take One False Step

Dancing in the Dark



It’s a Big Country



The Treasure of Lost Canyon



The Girl Who Had Everything

 How to Marry a Millionaire



Mister Roberts


He was nominated for 3 Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Awards

1934 The Thin Man
1936 My Man Godfrey
1948 Life with Father

Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table. ~ William Powell

William Powell was born in Pittsburgh to Nettie Manila (née Brady) and Horatio Warren Powell, on July 29, 1892. He was an only child.

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. After several successful experiences on the Broadway stage, he began his Hollywood career in 1922, playing a small role as an evil henchman of Professor Moriarty in a production of Sherlock Holmes with John Barrymore.

Louise Brooks and William Powell in The Canary Murder Case (1929)

Louise Brooks and William Powell in The Canary Murder Case (1929)

In 1924, after 10 years on the stage, Powell got a contract with Paramount Pictures, where he was employed for the next seven years. During that time, he played in a number of interesting films, but stardom was elusive. He did finally attract attention with The Last Command (1928) as Leo, the arrogant film director. Stardom finally came via his role as Philo Vance in The Canary Murder Case (1929), in which he investigates the death of Louise Brooks, “the Canary.” Unlike many silent actors, sound boosted Powell’s career. He had a fine, urbane voice and his stage training and comic timing greatly aided his introduction to sound pictures. However, he was not happy with the type of roles he was playing, so in 1931 he switched to Warner Bros. There, he again became disappointed with his roles, and his last appearance for Warners was as Philo Vance in The Kennel Murder Case (1933). In 1934 Powell went to MGM, where he was teamed with Myrna Loy in Manhattan Melodrama (1934). While Philo made Powell a star, another detective, Nick Charles, made him famous. Powell received an Academy Award nomination for The Thin Man (1934) and later starred in the Best Picture winner for 1936, The Great Ziegfeld.

Powell could play any role with authority, whether in a comedy, thriller, or drama. He received his second Academy Award nomination for My Man Godfrey (1936) and was on top of the world until 1937, when he made his first picture with Jean Harlow, Reckless (1935). The two clicked, off-screen as well as on-screen, and shortly became engaged. One day, while Powell was filming Double Wedding (1937) on one MGM sound stage, Harlow, who was on another sound stage, became ill. She was finally taken to the hospital, where she died. His distress over her death, as well as a cancer diagnosis of his own, caused him to accept fewer acting roles and he took six weeks off from making the movie to deal with his sorrow. After that he traveled, not making another MGM film for a year. He eventually did five sequels to “The Thin Man,” the last one in 1947. He also received his third Academy Award nomination for his work in Life with Father (1947). His screen appearances became less frequent after that, and his last role was in 1955’s Mister Roberts.

In 1915, he married Eileen Wilson (1894–1942), who was born Julia Tierney, by 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 June 26, 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 the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey three years later. Powell was devastated by her death in an airplane crash in 1942. He was engaged to marry Jean Harlow, his co-star in Reckless (1935), until her sudden death in 1937. On January 6, 1940, three weeks after they met, Powell married his third wife, actress Diana Lewis, to whom he remained married until his death in 1984.

Powell died in Palm Springs, California, on March 5, 1984, at the age of 91, some 30 years after his retirement. He is buried at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California, near his third wife Diana Lewis, and his only child, his son William David Powell.

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