Actor. His birth and boyhood home until age ten was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His accountant father had visions of his only son acquiring a legal career. However, William showed talent and a keen interest in the theatre in high school. Following graduation, over the objections of his father, his aunt staked him and he enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. He first began his career on the stage with many lean years performing in vaudeville and stock companies, then appeared in silent films: 'Sherlock Holmes, Romola and Beau Geste.' Finally on to great success in sound films: 'The Great Ziegfield, My Man Godfrey (Academy nomination), Life With Father (Academy nomination), How to Marry a Millionaire and his final movie before complete retirement in 1955, Mister Roberts'. Teamed with Myrna Loy, they combined in a series of five films called the Thin Man Series. It combined romance, comedy and wit featuring sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. The first Thin Man movie earned him an Academy nomination. Over a 14 year period, William and Myrna were a screen team appearing together in a total of 14 movies. Powell had a track record of marriages to leading actresses from the movies where he appeared. His first marriage was to Eileen Wilson a stage actress, then Carole Lombard who when parting company commented, "That S.O.B. is always acting, even when he takes off his pajamas." A near miss of marriage to Jean Harlow was nullified because of her untimely death but he was corralled into paying the burial bill. A crypt was reserved for him in the Harlow burial room at Forest Lawn but it has remained empty. He met his match in Diana Lewis an MGM starlet, a union which lasted 44 years until his death. In 1938 he survived a bout with cancer and still went on to complete an amazing fifty year career in show business starting from the stage, to silent movies and finally the talkies. He knew when to retire, when his sophisticated debonair appearance started declining, William Powell called it quits at age 63 settling in Palm Springs where he enjoyed more then 25 years of blissful life. He resisted offers of "comeback" roles, tempted, Powell declined them all. His health began to fade and while in a Palm Springs Nursing Home passed away simply of old age at 91. He was cremated and his ashes buried without fanfare beside his only son who had tragically committed suicide years before.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
William David Powell