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Monday, March 7, 2011

Dick Powell

Richard Ewing "Dick" Powell (November 14, 1904 – January 2, 1963) was an American singer, actor, producer, director and studio boss.

Born in Mountain View, the seat of Stone County in northern Arkansas, Powell attended the former Little Rock College in the state capital, before he started his entertainment career as a singer with the Charlie Davis Orchestra, based in the midwest. He recorded a number of records with Davis and on his own, for the Vocalion label in the late 1920s.

Powell moved to Pittsburgh, where he found great local success as the Master of Ceremonies at the Enright Theater and the Stanley Theater. In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought up Brunswick Records which at that time owned Vocalion. Warner Bros. was sufficiently impressed by Powell's singing and stage presence to offer him a film contract in 1932. He made his film debut as a singing bandleader in Blessed Event. He went on to star as a boyish crooner in movie musicals such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Flirtation Walk, and On the Avenue, often appearing opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

Powell desperately wanted to expand his range but Warner Bros. wouldn't allow him to do so, although they did (mis)cast him in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) as Lysander. This was to be Powell's only Shakespearean role and one he did not want to play, feeling that he was completely wrong for the part. Finally, reaching his forties and knowing that his young romantic leading man days were behind him he lobbied to play the lead in Double Indemnity. He lost out to Fred MacMurray, another Hollywood nice guy. MacMurray’s success, however, fueled Powell’s resolve to pursue projects with greater range.

In 1944, Powell was cast in the first of a series of films noir, as private detective Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk. The film was a big hit and Powell had successfully reinvented himself as a dramatic actor. He was the first actor to play Marlowe—by name—in motion pictures. (Hollywood had previously adapted some Marlowe novels, but with the lead character changed.) Later, Powell was the first actor to play Marlowe on radio, in 1944 and 1945, and on television, in a 1954 episode of "Climax!"

In 1945, Dmytryk and Powell re-teamed to make the film Cornered, a gripping, post-WWII thriller that helped define the film noir style. He became a popular "tough guy" lead appearing in movies such as Johnny O'Clock and Cry Danger. But 1948 saw him step out of the brutish type when he starred in Pitfall, a film noir that sees a bored insurance company worker fall for an innocent but dangerous femme fatale, played by Lizabeth Scott. Even when he appeared in lighter fare such as The Reformer and the Redhead and Susan Slept Here (1954) he never sang in his later roles. The latter, his final onscreen appearance in a feature film, did include a dance number with costar Debbie Reynolds.

From 1949–1953, Powell played the lead role in the National Broadcasting Company radio theater production Richard Diamond, Private Detective. His character in the 30-minute weekly was a likable private detective with a quick wit. Many of the episodes were written by Blake Edwards. When Richard Diamond came to television in 1957, the lead role was portrayed by David Janssen.

In the 1950s Powell produced and directed several B-movies and was one of the founders of Four Star Television, along with Charles Boyer, David Niven and Ida Lupino. He appeared in and supervised several shows for that company. Powell played the role of Willie Dante in Four Star Playhouse in episodes entitled "Dante's Inferno" (1952), "The Squeeze" (1953), "The Hard Way" (1953), and "The House Always Wins" (1955). In 1961 Howard Duff, husband of Ida Lupino, assumed the Dante role in a short-lived NBC adventure series Dante, set at a San Francisco nightclub called "Dante's Inferno".

Powell guest starred in numerous Four Star programs including a 1958 appearance on the Duff-Lupino sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. He appeared in 1961 on James Whitmore's legal drama The Law and Mr. Jones on ABC. In the episode "Everybody Versus Timmy Drayton" Powell played a colonel having problems with his son. He hosted and occasionally starred in his Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater on CBS from 1956–1961.

Powell's film The Enemy Below (1957) based on the novel by Denys Rayner won an Academy Award for special effects.

Powell also directed The Conqueror (1956) starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan. The exterior scenes were filmed in St. George, Utah, downwind of US above-ground atomic tests. The cast and crew totaled 220 and of that number, 91 had developed some form of cancer by 1981 and 46 had died of cancer by then, including Wayne. This cancer rate is about three times higher than one would expect in a group of this size and many have argued that radioactive fallout was the cause.

Powell himself died seven years after The Conqueror was made on January 2, 1963 from lymphoma at the age of fifty-eight. His body was cremated and his remains were interred in the Columbarium of Honor at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

I've been wanting to do a list of tunes from Dick for quite awhile. I'm following this with a fun little list of just songs that Dick sang while in the guise of "Richard Diamond, Private Detective", on radio.....that should be a fun little list :)

Let's start with an episode of "The  Midnighter's Club", on radio in 1950, with Dick as an interview guest:

Now, on to the songs...............

42nd Street-w/ Ruby Keeler
A rose in her hair
Beauty must be loved
By a waterfall
By a waterfall-w/ Ruby Keeler
Don't say goodnight
Everytime we say goodbye
Fair and warmer
Fair and warmer 2
Flirtation walk
Flirtation walk 2
Honeymoon Hotel
I only have eyes for you
I see two lovers
I'll string along with you
I'll string along with you  2
I've got a pocketful of sunshine
I've got my love to keep me warm
I've got to sing a torch song
I'll string along with you w/ Ginger Rogers
In my little red book
Is she my girlfriend
It's de-lovely
I've got my love to keep me warm
I've got to sing a torch song 2
Lonely lane
Lullaby of Broadway w/Winifred Shaw
Lullaby of Broadway 2
Lulu's back in town
Medley (From 15 July 1943 Mail Call OTR)
Mr. and Mrs. is the name
Oklahoma (From 15 July 1943 Mail Call OTR)
Out for no good w/ The Mills Brothers
Outside of you
Pettin' in the park
Plenty of money and you
Pop! goes your heart
Rambling wreck from Georgia Tech
Say it isn't so
The Shadow waltz 1
Speaking of the weather
Sunday, Monday or always
Thanks a million
The gold digger's song (we're in the money)
The road is open again
The rose in her hair
The shadow waltz w/ Ruby Keeler
The words are in my heart
Victory March-Notre Dame
What is on your mind
Why do I dream those dreams
Wonder bar
You're a real sweetheart
You've got something
You're laughing at me

Now for the fun little list..........a collection of songs from episodes of "Richard Diamond, Private Detective", on radio...(It looks like a bigger list than it is...the songs are short)

You made me love you
I've got my love to keep me warm
Lullaby cacophony
Dick sings in Yiddish!
ABC's (A you're adorable)
Some enchanted evening
Sleepy time girl
Everywhere you go
No no
Where are you
Younger than Springtime
Don't blame me
All I know is I love you
Little girl
So in love
You're breaking my heart
Don't cry Joe
Honey bun
I can dream can't I
Dreamer's holiday
Dear hearts
Things are bound to pick up
Ghost of a chance
I only have eyes for you
Hawaiian Christmas
Beautiful baby
I will remember you
All for you
Cowboy lullaby
Said my pajamas
Dear hearts
Lovely bunch o coconuts
O Solo Mio
If I knew you were coming
Oh how I miss you tonight
In your own backyard
Bye bye baby
Stay with the happy people
If I knew
Whoop de doo
Opera crooner
I miss you
Young and healthy
It's a big wonderful world
Sweet and low
Till you
Wonderful marvelous
A little bit independent
Mona Lisa
I'm in love with you
I get ideas
Warm feeling
Make you mine
And so to sleep again
How deep is the ocean
I could write a book
Another log on the fire
September song
I cried for you
How about you
La Vie en Rose