Thursday, September 12, 2013

Six Things to Know About Dick Powell

Powell as Rex, with Joyce Holden
as a "humanimal" who was a horse.
1. He once played a dog in a movie! In the 1951 comedy You Never Can Tell, a German Shepherd named King inherits a fortune following his eccentric owner's death--but then is swiftly murdered. The canine angel asks if he can return to Earth long enough to catch his killer and clear the innocent woman accused of the crime. King is sent back to Earth as a "humanimal"--an animal reincarnated as human—in this case, a private eye named Rex Shepherd (Dick Powell!).

Powell as Marlowe.
2. He pulled off the trickiest of career moves, going from a musical-comedy star to a dramatic actor. When he signed with RKO in the 1940s, it was on the condition that he could do more than just musicals. After losing out to Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity, he was cast as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet and the rest is history.

3. Powell was a television visionary and founded Four Star Television with David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea (who left and was replaced by Ida Lupino). Four Star produced successful series such as Four Star Playhouse, Zane Grey Theater, Burke's Law, and The Big Valley.

A publicity still with June.
4. Dick Powell was married three times: Mildred Maund (1925-27); Joan Blondell (1936-44); and June Allyson (1945-63). When June Allyson first started dating Powell, who was thirteen years older, MGM executive Louis B. Mayer tried to dissuade her. She later asked Mayer to give her away at her wedding to Powell--and he did so.

5. Powell once played John Kennedy in a film about a presidential assassination! In The Tall Target, Powell is a Pinkerton detective named John Kennedy who learns about a plot to assassinate Lincoln. The film was based on a real-life event known as "The Baltimore Plot."

6. The last film directed by Dick Powell was The Conqueror starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan. The movie was shot near a nuclear test site in Utah, which many believe was contaminated with nuclear fallout. According to a 1980 People magazine article: "Of The Conqueror's 220 cast and crew members from Hollywood, an astonishing 91 have contracted cancer. Forty-six of them, including Wayne, (Susan) Hayward and Powell, have died of the disease."


  1. Nobody "cracks wise" like Dick Powell. Thanks for the tip on "The Tall Target". I'll be checking that out!! I must have seen Abbott and Costello in the Navy with him a hundred times growing up in the late 50s and early 60s. It's the only "musical" of his I've seen all the way through.

  2. Well...I just realized I know an awful lot about Dick Powell - but I didn't know he'd once played a dog - I mean, humanimal...

  3. Rick, I absolutely love your lists! I think Dick Powell was fabulous as Marlowe and "You Never Can Tell" is a favorite of mine. "Four Star Television" was a fun Christmas gift and I was especially delighted that Ida Lupino was part of it. I haven't seen "The Conqueror" but do know of its sad history. Excellent post!

  4. #7: He's one of the guys that makes me stop channel surfing.

  5. Really? Dick Powell was up for "Double Indemnity"?? I never knew that! I've always admired him for both wanting to and being able to completely reinvent his career. Not many of his colleagues were able to pull that off - or had the bravery to - but he did so big kudos to him!