Image of William Powell

William Powell

William Powell was on the New York stage by 1912, but it would be ten years before his film career would begin. In 1924 he went to Paramount Pictures, where he was employed for the next seven years. During that time, he played in a number of interesting films, but stardom was elusive. He did finally attract attention with The Last Command (1928) as Leo, the arrogant film director. Stardom finally came via his role as Philo Vance in The Canary Murder Case (1929), in which he investigates the death of Louise Brooks, "the Canary." Unlike many silent actors, sound boosted Powell's career. He had a fine, urbane voice and his stage training and comic timing greatly aided his introduction to sound pictures. However, he was not happy with the type of roles he was playing at Paramount, so in 1931 he switched to Warner Bros. There, he again became disappointed with his roles, and his last appearance for Warners was as Philo Vance in The Kennel Murder Case (1933). In 1934 Powell went to MGM, where he was teamed with Myrna Loy in Manhattan Melodrama (1934). While Philo made Powell a star, another detective, Nick Charles, made him famous. Powell received an Academy Award nomination for The Thin Man (1934) and later starred in the Best Picture winner for 1936, The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Powell could play any role with authority, whether in a comedy, thriller, or drama. He received his second Academy Award nomination for My Man Godfrey (1936) and was on top of the world until 1937, when he made his first picture with Jean Harlow, Reckless (1935). The two clicked, off-screen as well as on-screen, and shortly became engaged. One day, while Powell was filming Double Wedding (1937) on one MGM sound stage, Harlow became ill on another. She was finally taken to the hospital, where she died. Her death greatly upset both Powell and Myrna Loy, and he took six weeks off from making the movie to deal with his sorrow. After that he traveled, not making another MGM film for a year. He eventually did five sequels to "The Thin Man," the last one in 1947. He also received his third Academy Award nomination for his work in Life with Father (1947). His screen appearances became less frequent after that, and his last role was in 1955. He had come a long way from playing the villain in 1922.

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Jul 29, 1892 In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the movie Sherlock Holmes 1922-03-07
Latest Project:
Movie William Powell: A True Gentleman 2005-08-02
Known For
Poster of Escapade
Poster of The Road to Singapore
Poster of Street of Chance
Movie William Powell: A True Gentleman 2005-08-02
Movie Harlow: The Blonde Bombshell Himself 1993-02-06
Movie Hollywood Remembers: Myrna Loy - So Nice to Come Home to (archive footage) 1991-01-01
Movie James Stewart's Wonderful Life (archive footage) 1988-11-22
Movie The Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute by Katharine Hepburn 1986-03-09
Movie Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage Himself (archive footage) 1983-02-25
Movie It's Showtime 1976-03-31
Movie That's Entertainment, Part II (archive footage) 1976-05-17
Movie Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (archive footage) 1975-08-06
Movie The Big Parade of Comedy Nick Charles (archive footage) 1964-09-02
Movie Mister Roberts Doc 1955-07-10
Movie The Girl Who Had Everything Steve Latimer 1953-03-27
Movie The Treasure of Lost Canyon Homer 'Doc' Brown 1952-03-01
Movie It's a Big Country Professor 1951-11-20
Movie Take One False Step Andrew Gentling 1949-06-22
Movie Dancing in the Dark Emery Slade 1949-12-02
Movie Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid Mr. Peabody 1948-08-11
Movie Song of the Thin Man Nick Charles 1947-08-28
Movie Life with Father Clarence Day Sr. 1947-09-13
Movie The Senator Was Indiscreet Senator Melvin G. Ashton 1947-12-31
Movie The Hoodlum Saint Terence Ellerton 'Terry' O'Neill 1946-04-04
Movie Ziegfeld Follies Flo Ziegfeld 1945-08-26
Movie The Great Morgan William Powell (voice) (uncredited) 1945-01-01
Movie Twenty Years After 1944-01-01
Movie The Thin Man Goes Home Nick Charles 1944-12-24
Movie The Heavenly Body William S. Whitley 1944-03-23
Movie The Youngest Profession Himself - Guest Star 1943-02-26
Movie Crossroads David Talbot aka Jean Pelletier 1942-07-23
Movie Shadow of the Thin Man Nick Charles 1941-11-21
Movie Love Crazy Steve Ireland 1941-05-23
Movie The Miracle of Sound 1940-01-01
Movie I Love You Again Larry Wilson aka George Carey 1940-08-09
Movie Hollywood: Style Center of the World Himself 1940-05-29
Movie From the Ends of the Earth 1939-05-28
Movie Another Thin Man Nick Charles 1939-11-17
Movie The Baroness and the Butler Johann Porok 1938-02-18
Movie The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Charles 1937-02-19
Movie The Emperor's Candlesticks Baron Stephan Wolensky 1937-07-02
Movie The Romance of Celluloid 1937-08-26
Movie Double Wedding Charles Lodge 1937-10-15
Movie The Great Ziegfeld Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. 1936-04-08
Movie The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Dr. Lawrence Bradford 1936-05-13
Movie Libeled Lady William 'Bill' Stephens Chandler 1936-10-09
Movie My Man Godfrey Godfrey 1936-09-02
Movie After the Thin Man Nicholas 'Nick' Charles 1936-12-25
Movie Star of Midnight Clay 'Dal' Dalzell 1935-04-19
Movie Reckless Ned Riley 1935-04-19
Movie Escapade Fritz 1935-07-05
Movie Rendezvous Lt. William 'Bill' Gordon / Anson Meridan 1935-10-25
Movie Manhattan Melodrama Jim Wade 1934-05-04
Movie Fashions of 1934 Sherwood Nash 1934-02-14
Movie The Key Capt. Bill Tennant 1934-06-09
Movie The Thin Man Nick Charles 1934-05-25
Movie Evelyn Prentice John Prentice 1934-11-09
Movie Private Detective 62 Donald Free 1933-06-10
Movie The Kennel Murder Case Philo Vance 1933-10-28
Movie Double Harness John Fletcher 1933-07-21
Movie High Pressure Gar Evans 1932-01-30
Movie Jewel Robbery The Robber 1932-07-08
Movie One Way Passage Dan Hardesty 1932-10-04
Movie Lawyer Man Anton Adam 1932-12-24
Movie Man of the World Michael Trevor 1931-03-28
Movie The Road to Singapore Hugh Dawltry 1931-10-10
Movie Ladies' Man Jamie Darricott 1931-05-09
Movie Street of Chance John D. Marsden / 'Natural' Davis 1930-02-08
Movie The Benson Murder Case Philo Vance 1930-04-13
Movie Behind the Make-Up Gardoni 1930-01-18
Movie Paramount on Parade Philo Vance 1930-04-22
Movie For the Defense William Foster 1930-07-19
Movie Shadow of the Law Jim Montgomery aka John Nelson 1930-06-06
Movie The Canary Murder Case Philo Vance 1929-02-16
Movie The Four Feathers Capt. William Trench 1929-06-01
Movie The Greene Murder Case Philo Vance 1929-08-11
Movie Charming Sinners Karl Kraley 1929-08-17
Movie Pointed Heels Robert Courtland 1929-12-20
Movie Feel My Pulse Her Nemesis 1928-02-26
Movie Beau Sabreur 1928-01-22
Movie Partners in Crime Smith 1928-03-01
Movie The Last Command Lev Andreyev 1928-01-21
Movie The Dragnet 1928-05-01
Movie Forgotten Faces Froggy 1928-08-05
Movie Interference Philip Voaze 1928-11-04
Movie The Vanishing Pioneer 1928-06-23
Movie Señorita Manuel Oliveros 1927-04-29
Movie Love's Greatest Mistake 1927-02-20
Movie New York 1927-01-30
Movie Special Delivery Harold Jones 1927-05-06
Movie Time to Love 1927-06-18
Movie She's a Sheik Kada 1927-11-12
Movie Nevada Clan Dillon 1927-08-01
Movie Paid to Love Prince Eric 1927-07-23
Movie Desert Gold 1926-03-22
Movie White Mice 1926-01-31
Movie The Runaway Jack Harrison 1926-04-04
Movie Sea Horses 1926-02-22
Movie Aloma of the South Seas Van Templeton 1926-05-15
Movie Beau Geste Boldini 1926-08-24
Movie The Great Gatsby George Wilson 1926-11-21
Movie Tin Gods Tony Santelli 1926-09-19
Movie Faint Perfume 1925-06-08
Movie Too Many Kisses Julio 1925-01-11
Movie My Lady's Lips 1925-07-01
Movie The Beautiful City Nick Di Silva 1925-10-25
Movie Dangerous Money 1924-10-13
Movie Romola Tito Melema 1924-12-06
Movie The Bright Shawl Gaspar De Vaca 1923-04-22
Movie Under the Red Robe Duke of Orleans (as William H. Powell) 1923-11-12
Movie Sherlock Holmes Forman Wells 1922-03-07
Movie When Knighthood Was in Flower Francis I 1922-09-15
Movie Outcast 1922-12-07
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