Carole Lombard is shown with new husband William Powell in June 1931, as they set sail for a Hawaii honeymoon only hours after they had tied the knot in Los Angeles. While the marriage ended little more than two years later, the friendship didn’t, and Bill and Carole remained close for the rest of her life.
Just as Lombard is my all-time favorite actress, Powell is my all-time favorite actor. The epitome of debonair, his smooth way with words is an idealized version of the man I wish I could be — classy, smooth, erudite, charming. (Yes, Cary Grant had those qualities, too, but there always seemed something superhuman about Grant, beyond the reach of mortal men. Powell, in contrast, was someone the everyman could project himself of becoming if supplied with a little extra education, some etiquette books and such.)
Tomorrow and Wednesday (the latter the 123rd anniversary of Powell’s birth), Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. salutes the man Roger Ebert once described as being to diction what Fred Astaire is to dance. It opens Tuesday with three samples of Powell’s most famous role, dashing detective Nick Charles, in the first three films of the “Thin Man” series — “The Thin Man” (1934, 6:15 a.m. Eastern), “After the Thin Man” (1936, 8 ET) and “Another Thin Man” (1939, 10 ET).
What made these whodunit films so special weren’t so much the cases themselves — although Powell would always find a novel way of fingering the culprit — but the interplay between Nick and Myrna Loy’s wife Nora Charles as they lived (and loved) married life while working on the case, with canine Asta adding some personality. That’s why any discussion of Johnny Depp remaking the Dashiell Hammett story for the big screen probably is self-defeating unless he can find an actress with Loy-like qualities to be his Nora. (Good luck with that.)
Wednesday, it’s back to more Powell movies, eight of them, in fact. The day will begin with two films from 1932 co-starring the actress who probably was his best-known leading lady until Loy arrived, Kay Francis — “Jewel Robbery” (6 a.m. Eastern) and the brilliant romance “One Way Passage,” a still of which is below (7:15 ET):
From there, it’s Powell as Philo Vance in “The Kennel Murder Case” (1933, 8:30 ET), the rarely-seen “Rendezvous” with Rosalind Russell (1935, 9:45 ET) and the huge musical “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936, 11:30 ET).
The Powell portion of the day concludes with three comedies — “Life With Father” (1947, 2:30 ET), “The Heavenly Body” with Hedy Lamarr (1943, 4:30 ET) and Bill and Myrna once again in the amnesia comedy (“I Love You Again” (1940, 6:15 ET):
Powell always is a joy to watch, whether it be in comedy or drama, and invariably exudes a splendid presence. Make sure and check him out.