William Powell

William Powell

  • Born on
    • July 28th, 1892
  • Died on
    • March 5th, 1984
William Horatio Powell (July 29, 1892 – March 5, 1984) was an American actor. A major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the Thin Man series based on the Nick and Nora Charles characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: for The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947). 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. His most memorable role in silent movies was as a bitter film director opposite Emil Jannings' Academy Award-winning performance as a fallen general in The Last Command (1928). This success, along with Powell's pleasant speaking voice, led to his first starring role as amateur detective Philo Vance in the "talkie" The Canary Murder Case (1929). Powell's most famous role was that of Nick Charles in six Thin Man films, beginning with The Thin Man in 1934, based upon Dashiell Hammett's novel. The role provided a perfect opportunity for Powell, with his resonant speaking voice, to showcase his sophisticated charm and witty sense of humor, and he received his first Academy Award nomination for The Thin Man. Myrna Loy played his wife, Nora, in each of the Thin Man films. Their on-screen partnership, beginning alongside Clark Gable in 1934 with Manhattan Melodrama, was one of Hollywood's most prolific, and they appeared in 14 films together. Loy and Powell starred in the Best Picture of 1936, The Great Ziegfeld, with Powell in the title role and Loy as Ziegfeld's wife Billie Burke. That same year, he also received his second Academy Award nomination, for the comedy My Man Godfrey. In 1935, he starred with Jean Harlow in Reckless. A serious romance developed between them, and in 1936, they were reunited on screen and with Loy and Spencer Tracy in the screwball comedy Libeled Lady. However, Harlow surprisingly and quickly became ill, and died from uremia at the age of 26 in June 1937 before they could marry. His distress over her death, as well as a cancer diagnosis of his own, caused him to accept fewer acting roles. Powell's career slowed considerably in the 1940s, although he received his third Academy Award nomination in 1947 for his role as the cantankerous Clarence Day, Sr., in Life with Father. His last film was 1955's Mister Roberts. Powell died in Palm Springs, California, on March 5, 1984, at the age of 91 from heart failure, nearly 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.

Starring William Powell on Plex


Acting (46 Credits)

1976That's Entertainment, Part II as (archive footage)
1955Mister Roberts as Doc
1953The Girl Who Had Everything as Steve Latimer
1953How to Marry a Millionaire as J.D. Hanley
1951It's a Big Country: An American Anthology as Professor
1948Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid as Mr. Peabody
1947Song of the Thin Man as Nick Charles
1947Life with Father as Clarence Day Sr.
1947The Senator Was Indiscreet as Senator Melvin G. Ashton
1946The Hoodlum Saint as Terence Ellerton 'Terry' O'Neill
1945Ziegfeld Follies as Flo Ziegfeld
1944The Thin Man Goes Home as Nick Charles
1944The Heavenly Body as William S. Whitley
1942Crossroads as David Talbot aka Jean Pelletier
1941Shadow of the Thin Man as Nick Charles
1941Love Crazy as Steve Ireland
1940I Love You Again as Larry Wilson aka George Carey
1939Another Thin Man as Nick Charles
1938The Baroness and the Butler as Johann Porok
1937Double Wedding as Charles Lodge
1937The Emperor's Candlesticks as Baron Stephan Wolensky
1937The Last of Mrs. Cheyney as Charles
1936My Man Godfrey as Godfrey
1936After the Thin Man as Nick Charles
1936The Great Ziegfeld as Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
1936The Ex-Mrs. Bradford as Dr. Lawrence Bradford
1936Libeled Lady as William 'Bill' Stephens Chandler
1935Star of Midnight as Clay 'Dal' Dalzell
1935Rendezvous as Lt. William 'Bill' Gordon / Anson Meridan
1935Reckless as Ned Riley
1934The Thin Man as Nick Charles
1934Evelyn Prentice as John Prentice
1934Fashions of 1934 as Sherwood Nash
1934Manhattan Melodrama as Jim Wade
1933Private Detective 62 as Donald Free
1933The Kennel Murder Case as Philo Vance
1933Double Harness as John Fletcher
1932One Way Passage as Dan Hardesty
1932Jewel Robbery as The Robber
1932High Pressure as Gar Evans
1932Lawyer Man as Anton Adam
1931Man of the World as Michael Trevor
1929The Canary Murder Case as Philo Vance
1928The Last Command as Lev Andreyev
1922Sherlock Holmes as Forman Wells
1922When Knighthood Was in Flower as Francis I


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