LBJBR’s Actor’s Guide: William Powell

If you know who William  Powell is, dear readers, then you are among the lucky few. A case could be made that Powell is one of the greatest actors of all time. While neither handsome nor an imposing figure, Powell commands the screen like no other, save maybe Spencer Tracy. Powell’s suave charisma, debonair charm, wry, machine gun speaking manner of verbiage, all contribute to form one of the most natural screen actor’s in cinema history.


One of the biggest reasons supporting arguments about Powell being one of the greatest actors ever is his natural style in his acting and presence.. Try you might, you will never find affected histrionics anywhere in Powell ‘s film roles. He didn’t need them.


Powell would find true stardom when talking pictures came into vogue in the latter part of the 1920s. Synchronized sound on film was sought from the early times in films but it took a while before technology would catch up with innovations and innovators, for that matter.


Powell’s biggest strength was his delivery of dialogue. At a time when most film actors moved and spoke affected stage histrionics, Powell’s dialogue delivery was quick, crisp and fast. Granted, the 1930s and 1940s were the era for that,  Powell’s precision separated him from the pact.


Powell would come into hit his high point in the private investigator/detective genre. Starting off first as Philo Vance adopted from SS Van Dine book. Watching it some years later, one begins to wonder just where the heck is Nora, as played by Myrna Loy.

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Nick and Nora are the world’s finest detective.  Well, Nick is the detective and Nora is his rich wife. Nick manages her money and tries not to do any more detecting. As Nick and Nora, Powell and Loy are a potent magical team. Their energy is as electric and crackling as their repartee.


The Powell/Loy tandem would become one of the most frequently paired combinations, appearing in 14 films together.