Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tyrone Power and Loretta Young: The Romantic Comedies of 1937


Once upon a time there was a feudal kingdom known as 20th Century Fox and in it lived a handsome prince and a beautiful princess… 

A too-fanciful opening? Maybe not, given that the prince and princess in this particular tale are Tyrone Power and Loretta Young. Talented, in the blossom of youth and blessed with storybook good looks, the two were becoming the American equivalent of royalty – Hollywood movie stars - when they first began working together in the 1930s. Under contract to Fox, the pair first shared the screen (along with Janet Gaynor, Constance Bennett, Don Ameche and Paul Lukas), if just barely, in Ladies in Love (1936), a Budapest-set precursor to 1953’s Bacall/Monroe/Grable vehicle How to Marry a Millionaire. The movie was a success, the studio deemed Power and Young a matched set, and in 1937 starred them opposite each other in three lighthearted screwball comedies in rapid succession.

Young, who began in pictures as a toddler, was being cast in adult roles by the time she was in her mid-teens. A seasoned leading lady when Fox teamed her with Power, she was nearing the end of her contract and looking forward to saying goodbye to Darryl F. Zanuck. Tyrone Power’s rise to stardom had just begun when he and Loretta Young became an above-the-title couple. His brief appearance in Girls’ Dormitory (1936) had created a stir and he was, soon after, cast as one of the male leads – the least featured but most notable – in Ladies in Love. On the recommendation of director Henry King, Power was quickly moved into a starring role on Lloyd’s of London (1936). The movie and its fourth-billed leading man were a hit and the studio could rest assured that it had a hot property in Tyrone Power.

Tyrone Power makes an impression in Girls' Dormitory

He was top-billed for the first time in Love is News, the first of his three 1937 pictures opposite Young. Tay Garnett (China Seas, The Postman Always Rings Twice) directed the high-speed comedy, a “brash reporter vs. spoiled heiress” romance in the vein of It Happened One Night and Libeled Lady. Power is the smart-aleck newspaperman and Young the pampered socialite whose first-reel animosity blooms, despite countless obstacles, into third-reel love.

Tyrone Power (left) as Steve Leyton, news reporter, plays checkers in Love is News

Steve Leyton (Power), hotshot reporter, tricks “tin can” heiress Tony Gateson (Young) into revealing details of her love life that provide him with a “scoop.” She gets even by inventing a scoop of her own by announcing to the press that Steve is her new fiancé and that she is gifting him with $1,000,000. Steve now experiences what Tony intended, that he be treated as “a public freak,” just as she has. Complications begin to pile up, one on top of the other, from this point until the final clinch.

Steve and Tony realize the game has gone too far

Love is News was made quickly on a modest budget, but it’s a breezy, well-paced romp that works most of the time. Power and Young carry the leads easily, both surprisingly at home in the screwball genre, with the added appeal of their obvious rapport. They play slightly older than their years (he was still 22 at the time, she had just turned 24) – sophistication was in vogue then – and both have the self-possession and skill to carry it off. The script hits a pothole or two but is, most of the time, smart and smile-inducing. The supporting cast is solid and put to good use: Don Ameche as Power’s on again-off again boss/pal/antagonist, George Sanders as a European fortune hunter, Slim Summerville as a country judge, Dudley Digges as Young’s tycoon uncle, Elisha Cook, Jr., as a drunken cub reporter. 

Three months after Love is News was released, Café Metropole arrived in theaters. This time out, Power would portray a Princeton grad adrift in Paris. He has lost what remained of his inheritance at Baccarat and is coerced by a scheming restaurateur into pretending to be a Russian prince and wooing an American heiress. Adolphe Menjou, as the manager of the Café Metropole, has the plum role and the wittiest lines; Young is the high-strung heiress who’s mad for the fake prince - and more stunning than ever in a collection of fairytale gowns designed by Royer. The glamorous Parisian setting and urbane patter, along with a gossamer gloss that seems to dust the screen, all hint at an intention to suggest a touch of Lubitsch.

Loretta Young and Tyrone Power in Café Metropole

Café Metropole is as delectable an indulgence as fresh strawberries with a dollop of mascarpone and a glass of champagne. The viewer is treated to a daydream world of romantic fantasy and fun created around the impossibly beautiful and elegant young couple Power and Young portray. There’s very little not to enjoy and much to like - including Menjou at his most suave, adding mischief as the rascally restaurateur, Charles Winninger and Helen Westley lending gleeful comedic support as Young’s father and aunt, and Gregory Ratoff elbowing his way into the fray as the real Russian prince.

Café Metropole and Love is News are above-average examples of the old studio practice of keeping their stars busy – and visible – on moderately budgeted pictures in between larger-scale productions.  Films like these gave actors the opportunity to hone their craft, develop their style and gain confidence in front of the camera as their careers continued to be guided and developed. 

The Power-Young duo became immensely popular with audiences, perhaps enhanced by rumors and press reports that they were romantically involved; Young confessed decades later that she had been crazy about him and it has been written that Zanuck warned Power away from her.  For whatever reason, Fox next cast Power (as a real prince) opposite skating star Sonja Henie in the musical trifle Thin Ice before reuniting him with Young. The Hollywood rumor mill would soon link Power to Henie; it seems he had a habit of romancing his leading ladies – and ladies in supporting roles and in bit parts and among the extras, but little came of these liaisons until 1938.

Second Honeymoon (1937), hmmmmm...

Second Honeymoon was the fourth Power-Young pairing in less than a year, their last romantic comedy, and maybe Fox should’ve given the formula a rest for a while. Directed by Walter Lang, best known for his colorful Fox musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s and for directing three of the later Shirley Temple vehicles, the picture is – well, chaotic. Poorly scripted and lacking a cohesive structure, it is also overstuffed with characters, some of them irritating. Briefly, it’s the story of a divorced couple (Power and Young) who run into each other in Miami not long after she has remarried (Lyle Talbot).  He (a wealthy playboy) wants her back and, in the end, after endless lunatic hi-jinks, he gets her back. Had Second Honeymoon been better written, directed, and cast (the Stuart Erwin/Marjorie Weaver subplot is extraneous and both actors grate, plus Claire Trevor’s fine talent is wasted), it might’ve achieved the underrated gem status of Love is News and Café Metropole. But no. Young is shrill and not especially sympathetic through most of it. Power is…gorgeous – unbelievably so - and charming. And that’s all there is to say about Second Honeymoon.

Loretta Young as Eugénie and Tyrone Power as Ferdinand de Lesseps in Suez (1938)

Power need not have worried too much, he had gained self-assurance and experience and was about to move on to bigger and better things; his next film would be the disaster epic In Old Chicago (1937), nominated for six Oscars and winner of two. It was the hit film that introduced the team of Tyrone Power and his next serial co-star, Alice Faye, to the public. 

In 1938 Tyrone Power and Loretta Young would star in their final film together, Suez, an opulent historical fiction about the building of the Suez Canal, directed by Alan Dwan.  Power was cast as Ferdinand de Lesseps, the engineer who conceived and constructed the canal, and Young was cast as Countess (later Empress) Eugénie. Also featured, as the tomboy granddaughter of a French soldier in Egypt, was the French actress, Annabella. She and Power became passionately involved during filming and would marry, much to Darryl Zanuck's horror, in 1939.

In the years that Power and Young were Fox co-stars, they also posed together for many studio portraits. Theirs are some of the most glamorous and evocative Hollywood portraits of the 1930s and were shot by some of the best of the studio photographers. These dramatic photos served to fuel and reinforce the admiration and fantasies of fans for the great stars of the age. Decades later, Young admitted that these sessions had kindled some of her own fantasies.

Tyrone Power and Loretta Young by Hurrell

Though their lives and careers took them in different directions, Tyrone Power and Loretta Young remained lifelong friends. At the time of his death in 1958, she was working on her popular long-running TV anthology, "The Loretta Young Show." As it happened, Power's funeral was held on a day when she was in production on the series and, with no time to change, she rushed to the service still dressed in the Oriental costume she was wearing on the set.

On May 31, 1937, Tyrone Power and Loretta Young had their hand and footprints commemorated in cement during a joint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
 ~

This post is my entry in POWER-MAD, a blogathon celebrating the 100th anniversary of Tyrone Power's birth. Click here for links to all participating blogs.

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You might also like:

Nightmare Alley  (1947)

 

32 comments:

  1. It seems odd for me to be thinking about Loretta Young on Tyrone Power's birthday, but what a lovely woman she was...and what gravitas! Power was blessed to live in an era in which there were plenty of amazing actresses that had what it took to stand opposite him. Dignity and beauty abound when they're together, and then some.

    An elegant choice for the Blogathon.

    Clayton @ Claytonology

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    1. Thank you, Clayton. Tyrone Power did, indeed, have many lovely and talented co-stars (Loretta Young, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich). I've always wished he and Hedy Lamarr had shared the screen at least once -if only because she seems to me his female equivalent in terms of exotic looks.

      And thank you for your excellent post on King of the Khyber Rifles for our Power-Mad blogathon.

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    2. It was a fun article to do!

      I've been grabbing some nice images of Loretta Young for my desktop lately; she had the prettiest eyes. I've been digging up her movies lately. One never knows what a Blogathon can lead to! Thanks.

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    3. Her eyes were absolutely lovely, weren't they? Glad this blogathon inspired you to revisit Loretta Young, Clayton.

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  2. A wonderful tribute Lady Eve, to Tyrone Power, and to Loretta Young. I don't think a more perfect screen couple ever existed, certainly not one as gorgeous or glamorous. The films you highlight, Love is News and Cafe Metropole, symbolized that perfect union that can happen on screen, and did at Fox. Lighthearted romances, now dead in Hollywood, were so important to the stars - and the public ate them up as you say. Thank you and to Patti for this great blogathon tribute to Tyrone Power.

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    1. Thank you, Christian. They were a lovely pair onscreen, and the two films I spotlight here, Love is News and Cafe Metropole, showcase them marvelously. They were so young at the time - he was 22 when Love is News was released and Loretta had just turned 24. He was so fortunate to have in her an experienced professional as well as gorgeous co-star at the beginning of his career.

      By the way, I changed the name of the costume designer from "Gwen Wakeling" to "Royer" re: Cafe Metropole (my mistake). It seems to me you've mentioned Royer on your blog (possibly when it was Modiste). Curious about your opinion of Loretta's gowns in Metropole.

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  3. I can remember how disappointed I was in Second Honeymoon, because I enjoyed the other two team-ups so much. It is a bit much the characters aren't that likeable. But as you said, Cafe Metropole is a small gem.I always enjoy these 1930s movies set in a Europe that never was, but should have been.

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    1. I'm with you, Kevin, I just love '30s pictures set in make-believe "old Europe" and Cafe Metropole is, for me, a delight. Love is News is also a favorite - and so underrated. I want to like Second Honeymoon but it's just such a mess. I much prefer Day-Time Wife, a film Young was supposed to co-star in with Power, but she balked due to second billing and 15 yr. old Linda Darnell was cast instead. Mistake!

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  4. I loved your descriptions of the better of the couples' films. Fantasy indeed, but with an undeniable underlying likeability that draws us to them.

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    1. Yes, CW, the two - together and individually - and other-worldly as they may be in some ways, are eminently likeable.

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  5. Patricia, I loved this so much, I shared it with the gang over on Loretta Young's FB page...I hope you'll come visit your work there. I have always admired their work together and like I always say, sometimes, you just watch a film because it's so beautiful. In this case, the gorgeous Tyrone Power and Loretta Young were, indeed, a matched pair. So much beauty must have been devastating in person!! What a lovely post. Thanks so much for it! Loved it! Kay

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    1. Hi Kay, Thanks for sharing this post with the Loretta Young FB group. I'll definitely stop by.

      I hadn't seen most of the films Tyrone Power and Loretta Young made together until fairly recently though I had seen, and was captivated by, their still portraits (!). I've seen all the movies now (including Ladies in Love - on YouTube) and completely understand why they were such a popular movie couple. Such beauty - and serious chemistry.

      Anne Baxter once said that Tyrone Power was the best looking man she'd ever known - and that he was more handsome in person than onscreen. If you can imagine that. As you might remember, I met Loretta Young once when she was about 70 - the most beautiful older woman I've ever seen (and with no surgical assistance that I could detect).

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  6. I love your opening line. I had forgotten how many films Tyrone and Loretta made together! I haven't seen these movies in a long time and have now added them to my "wanna see" TCM list. Great idea for a blogathon and, again, I adore the blogathon title.

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    1. Thanks, Rick, I'm glad you liked that opening. I thought it might be a little much, but I guess not.

      I'm hoping TCM will begin airing more Tyrone Power films one day soon. I don't know what the problem is between TCM and Fox, but I wish they'd get it worked out.

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  7. Lady Eve - regarding the costume designer Royer, yes he did design for Love is News and Cafe Metropole - wonderful designs in both. He was very talented at designing both contemporary and period costumes. So while at Fox he designed Lloyds of London, Suez and In Old Chicago. He free-lanced after his Fox years, they never kept designers very long until Charles LeMaire took over in 42 (?). Pity he's not better known, one of many however.

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    1. Thanks, Christian. I have noticed his name in other credits, but his gowns for Loretta in Cafe Metropole made me sit up and take notice. I'm hoping you're at work on another book (or two) these days - it would be great to have something on all those unsung designers who did such sensational work during the glory days of the studio system.

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  8. Have to admit I have not seen these films but I love a good romantic comedy so the first two seem like must sees. Wow,Power and Young made for a fantastic looking couple! It should be illegal that these two even exist! (LOL). I am adding them to my list! Excellent!

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    1. Thanks, John. I saw all three films for the first time last year and was very pleasantly surprised - with two of them. In fact, as is obvious, I became an instant fan of Love is News and Cafe Metropole and wondered why Ty and Loretta hadn't made more romantic comedies. I suspect Zanuck had figured out there was more money to be made on epics and adventures. Plus, Loretta escaped Fox in 1939...

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  9. Patty, I loved joining forces with you to celebrate our beloved Tyrone on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Thanks so much for all your hard work in making the event a success.

    Of the Power/Young romantic comedies, I've seen 2 of them---Love Is News and Second Honeymoon. Cafe Metropole has not yet crossed my path, but with your description of the film "as delectable an indulgence as fresh strawberries with a dollop of mascarpone and a glass of champagne," you can bet I'm going to be on the lookout for it.

    Did you know that "Love Is News" was remade as "That Wonderful Urge" in 1948? That time Power played opposite Gene Tierney. Tyrone sure was paired with beautiful women!

    Funny, both Tyrone Power and Loretta Young bring 2 of my grandparents strongly to mind. Tyrone Power and one of my grandfathers bore a great resemblance to one another, and Loretta Young was my grandmother's favorite actress, and they also shared the same birthday. I can't look at either Power or Young without thinking of beloved grandparents.

    Again, thanks for hosting this blogathon with me. I enjoyed working with you to celebrate the under-rated Tyrone Power.

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    1. Hi Patti, Thanks for being a fabulous co-host on Power-Mad, it's been a lot of fun.

      I'm sure you'll enjoy Cafe Metropole, and would love to hear what you think once you've seen it.

      I did know that That Wonderful Urge was a remake of Love is News, but I don't like it as much. I love Ty's youthful energy and spark in the first one and prefer Loretta as a co-star, as a rule.

      I have another blogger friend whose grandfather looked like Tyrone Power. It came up when TCM featured Ty one day during "Summer Under the Stars" in 2012 - we both blogged about him at the time and she mentioned the resemblance. I happened to meet Loretta young once, very briefly, when she was about 70 and all I can say was that she still lit up a room and was still beautiful (and not in a surgically enhanced way).

      I enjoyed celebrating Tyrone Power with you - he certainly deserved it and the response we've gotten to our blogathon is proof that his fans are still out there, in droves.

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  10. You've given us such a charming evaluation of the comic vehicles Fox provided for this match made in celluloid heaven. You evoke the fairytale couple and the often bubbly tone of their films so vividly—I'm now craving strawberries and champagne for some reason... :)

    I must say, I didn't realize that Young and Power were so close, so I was touched to find out that they remained friends. Plus, I love "Cafe Metropole," so your appraisal has now convinced me to look up "Love is News." Thanks for this lovely guide and for co-hosting a fantastic blogathon!

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    1. Someday I'm going to actually watch Cafe Metropole while drinking champagne and eating strawberries with mascarpone (this could be the beginning of a new New Years tradition). Thanks for your very kind comments, Diva, I'm glad you enjoyed this post - and the blogathon. Loved your piece on Day-Time Wife, truly one Power-Mad's best.

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  11. Dear Lady Eve - thanks for an outstanding piece of work on Loretta Young and Tyrone Power! LY was my beloved mother-in-law, Karen Noske was kind enough to share your blog on our FB Tribute page. LY was very fond of Ty and loved working with him, she told a story of looking at proofs of their first publicity photos and thinking that he was prettier than she was in the photos! :-) After reading your article, we're inspired to watch their films again and we will enjoy them more this time! Linda Lewis

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    1. Hi Linda, Thank you so much for stopping by - I'm honored! I visited the Loretta Young FB page and was dazzled by the many portraits posted there of her with Tyrone Power - a few I'd never seen before. Wonderful.

      I happened to meet her - very briefly - at Coit Tower's 50th anniversary party in San Francisco (I worked for KOIT radio then) in about 1983. She created quite a stir that night. She was, of course, very gracious and I will never forget that face, so serene and lovely - she looked like an angel.

      Thanks, too, for sharing some of Loretta's memories of Ty. I only wish the two had co-starred in more films, they were magic together onscreen.

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  12. I'm not sure if I've seen any of these! I no longer have TCM but we do have a channel PubDHub which has some wonderful films from the 30's and 40's, I'll have to do a search on there and see if I can find these.

    I think Loretta Young was so stunningly beautiful, I've watched her in "Cause for Alarm" more times than I count.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for your comment:)

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    1. Hi Victoria, Somehow I missed your comment when you originally submitted it - my apologies! Hopefully, you've been able to find and watch "Cafe Metropole" and "Love is News," light but very charming fare from two stunning and talented stars.

      Lady Eve
      6/26/14

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  13. What a great posting and ensuing discussion, Patty. You've made me keen to catch up with 'Love Is News' and 'Cafe Metropole' in particular - will hope to do so soon. I do like Loretta Young a lot and would be interested to see more of her work with Power.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. It's always a delight when a movie exceeds one's expectations and both Love is News and Cafe Metropole exceeded mine. Metropole may not be Lubitsch and News isn't The Awful Truth, but they're definitely worth watching. I've watched both a few times and still haven't lost interest. I hope you enjoy them!

      Thank you, by the way, for your excellent post on Witness for the Prosecution for Power-Mad.

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  14. Such a glamorous couple! I've read about them and the 20th Century Fox publicity team in Jeanine Basinger's "The Star Machine". I really liked the background info you provided here.

    Now, I have NEVER seen the two of them in a film together – especially these ones! Why is that! I know I'd love them. I've got to hunt them down.

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    1. Hi Ruth, Love is News and Cafe Metropole show up occasionally on the Fox Movie Channel, no idea if they're available on Netflix or other, but they can also be found on the Matinee Idol boxed set. Loved Basinger's book, The Star Machine, and the chapter devoted to Tyrone Power is one of the most insightful I've read.

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  15. Wow! I've never been a huge fan of Loretta Young, but now I'm wanting to track down a couple of these myself. Great post!

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    1. Thanks! I think you'll like her in these films - she's got a lot of sparkle and spark - though she plays an heiress in both, she isn't aloof or at all prim. Plus, she and Ty have a lot of chemistry.

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