The Cinematic Sophistication of William Powell

POWELL, WILLIAM 2Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December of 2010.

For appreciative American audiences of the 1930s and ’40s, no Hollywood actor more personified the urbane and polished leading man than William Powell, whose characters always kept their insouciant wit as dry as their martinis. Born in Pittsburgh in 1892, William Horatio Powell moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri as a teen (he was a classmate of baseball icon Casey Stengel and lived in the same neighborhood as Jean Harlow’s family, although the two never met until their Hollywood days). Shrugging off the legal career that his accountant father had planned for him, William headed for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York upon his high school graduation. Powell would have to hustle through the teens, refining his skills through vaudeville and legitimate theater.

He was 30 when Powell received his first screen opportunity in John Barrymore’s 1922 Sherlock Holmes, and would amass several dozen supporting credits for Paramount through the waning years of the silents. During this period, Powell was primarily relegated to playing the heavy; noteworthy are his turns as the arrogant director in von Sternberg’s The Last Command and a fake doctor in the comedy Feel My Pulse, both from 1928. His rich speaking voice insured his transition to the talkies, and he received his name-making opportunity as S.S. Van Dine’s stylish sleuth Philo Vance in five films for Paramount and Warner Bros., culminating with 1933’s The Kennel Murder Case, the most entertaining of the series.

From 1930 to 1932, Powell was paired six times at Paramount and Warners with leading lady Kay Francis, including such films as For the Defense (where he was a slick criminal lawyer), One Way Passage (as a condemned prisoner) and Jewel Robbery (as a gentleman thief), and the following year he co-starred with Ann Harding in RKO’s Double Harness before shifting to MGM in 1934. At that studio, where he made his home as well as his biggest successes, he soon found himself in another crowd-pleasing mystery franchise.

THIN MAN, THE 2The fortuitous pairing with Myrna Loy in the low-budget ’34 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man lead to the first of William’s three Best Actor Oscar nominations (he never won). Powell and Loy’s palpable chemistry as the glamorous sleuthing marrieds Nick and Nora Charles, however, was a hit with audiences and inspired five sequels; the duo would co-star in 14 projects overall.

The Powell-Loy films were big money makers for MGM but, more importantly, audiences fell in love with this dynamic duo. In the same year of their success in The Thin Man, they appeared with Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama, which became famous as the film that lured bank robbing criminal John Dillinger to his demise. Other notables from his output in the mid-’30s include the whodunit Star of Midnight (1935); The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) with Jean Arthur; the title role in the 1936 Best Picture Oscar-winner, The Great Ziegfeld, and the screwball classic My Man Godfrey (also ’36) with ex-wife Carole Lombard. Although the couple divorced in 1933 after a two-year marriage, they remained close friends until Lombard’s untimely death in 1942

RECKLESSTragedy was no stranger to Powell: when at the top of his game, he met and starred with platinum blonde sensation Jean Harlow in 1935’s Reckless. Their relationship immediately clicked both on screen and off and the two became engaged. It’s been said that he bought a sapphire engagement ring for Harlow that weighed in at 150 carats and at the time sold for $20,000, and the speculation is that they didn’t wed due to the wishes of MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, who thought it better if they remained single.

The pair worked together again in the lively farce Libeled Lady (1937) and when the film wrapped, they each moved on to their next projects. Powell had just finished a historical thriller with his former Great Ziegfeld co-star Luise Rainer, The Emperor’s Candlesticks, and was in the midst of filming Double Wedding opposite Loy. Harlow became ill on another MGM soundstage filming Saratoga with Gable when she was taken to the hospital, where she died at age 26. Harlow’s mother wanted Powell to pay the expenses for Jean’s funeral, reported to be $30,000. At first, he refused to pay but, always the gentleman–and trying to avoid negative publicity, he did so. After Harlow’s death, Powell had flowers delivered to her grave for many years.

Powell and his good friend Loy were devastated by Jean’s death; their film was shut down for six weeks so that Powell could come to terms with her passing. Around the same time, the actor was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and underwent a successful experimental treatment with radium. These dual crises kept him away from the studio for a year. When he returned to work, his streak of hit films continued into the 1940s, starting with I Love You Again in 1940 and Love Crazy in ’41, both with Loy. In 1942, he paired with gorgeous Hedy Lamarr as husband and wife in Crossroads and again the following year in the astrological comedy The Heavenly Body. 1945 saw him reprise his turn as Flo Ziegfeld, this time looking down to Earth from Heaven and imagining what it would be like producing just one more show, in the Technicolor hit Ziegfeld Follies.

LIFE WITH FATHERBy the late ’40s, Powell had left MGM to freelance, and continued to bring his fine touch to comic classics like Life with Father (1947), which brought him his third Oscar nomination, with Irene Dunne; the political satire The Senator Was Indiscreet (also ’47); and  the 1948 aquatic romp Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. Always dapper and trim, when asked about his fit appearance, he once quipped, “I highly recommend worrying.  It’s much more effective than dieting.”

MISTER ROBERTSAfter a short absence, he returned to Hollywood for a key role in 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire and rendered a worthy capper to his fine career with his final film performance as Doc in Mister Roberts for director John Ford in 1955. Living a quiet retirement with his third wife, actress Diana Lewis, Powell adamantly resisted all efforts to coax him back onto the screen and stayed away from the headlines until his passing in 1984 at age 91.

He summed it all up when he said, “My friends have stood by me marvelously in the ups and downs of my career. I don’t believe there is anything more worthwhile in life than friendship…”

What’s your favorite (non-Thin Man) William Powell film role? Vote in MovieFanFare’s poll here.

  • Richard

    I still have to go with “The Thin Man”(1934)
    The first in the wonderful series.
    Now this was a truly great franchise, not like so many of the ones we see today which don’t even deserve the first film in a series.
    One of my all time favorite lines is during a party at the Charles place with a real potpourri of guests from many walks of life. Nora is looking around at the merrymakers and says…
    Nora Charles: Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?
    What a fantastic film from beginning to end.
    If they only made them like this nowadays.

  • Jerry Frebowitz

    The Thin Man series is definitely up there at the top. It’s comical that Nick is always hanging around with unsavory guys, which prompts Nora to say, “Oh Nicky, I love you because you know such lovely people.”

  • Valerie

    Too tough…Thin Man first I think, then My Man Godfrey, then Libeled Lady. The man was good in everything I ever saw him in …Life with Father is great too.

  • bogart10


  • JUanita Curtis

    A Class act – hard to pick one out of his many fine films. I loved his arched eyebrow look!!!

  • Jim

    Impossible to pick just one… they were all wonderful. He was the epitome of grace and sophistication.

  • Irv Slifkin

    Screwballs rule! So Libeled Lady!

  • Audrey

    I love anything William Powell is in, but for my money, My Man Godfrey is the best, not just for his performance, but everyone’s, they were all great. My next choice would be all the Thin Man movies, for both he and Myrna Loy’s acting, as well as the great writing.

  • Hank Zangara

    In “The Thin Man,” William Powell’s double-take reactions to Myrna Loy’s sexual double-entendres are priceless.

    I actually think “After the Thin Man” (second in the series) is a better film, but after the first time, you can never forget whodunit, so the surprise factor is ruined for repeated viewings.

    And don’t forget “Love Crazy,” one of the most hilarious screwball comedies wherein Powell takes slapstick pratfalls and dresses in drag. OK, maybe not great acting, but entertaining nonetheless.

  • Judy

    Nothing can really top the Thin Man movies but after that, my all time favorite is The Ex-Mrs Bradford with Jean Arthur. There were so great together, great chemistry. I was so thrilled when it was finally out on DVD this year. Honorable mentions include Double Wedding, Love Crazy, I love you again, Kennel Club Murder..I could go on and on.

  • William Sommerwerck

    Though it’s hardly his “best” film, “The Old Dark House” is worth seeing simply to see how far ahead of other actors he was in performing in a naturalistic, unmannered style.

  • Tommy T

    Did he ever make a “bad” movie? It’s a shame that virtually none of our comtemporary actors have that kind of charisma or talent(?) that he had. My first introduction to William Powell was “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” decades ago when I was a youngster. Then a couple of years ago I caught “My Man Godfrey” and that was my favorite. Then I saw “One Way Passage” and that became my favorite as well. Then “the Thin Man” then “The Emperor’s Candlesticks” and so on. To pick only one would be like trying to pick only one favorite John Wayne movie favorite, although for very different reasons. But if pressed for a single answer I would have to say “One Way Passage” touched me the most. I cried at that one and I’m anything but a sentimental softy. But I’m trying to collect them all. Wish me good luck with that.

  • Martin Stumacher

    When you speak of William Powell, he was one of many who made the Golden Age of Films so memorable. My first choice would be the Thin Man Series. I loved him in My Man Godfrey. His role in Mr. Roberts was special. What comptemporary films don’t have is someone like William Powell.

  • Georgett Studnicka

    I really love the Thin Man series, but like everyone else, just one movie is hard to choose. He was the very best in everything, but whenever I see Mr. Roberts I always feel like we saw the real William Powell.

  • Edward S. Seeley Jr.

    All of Powell’s Thin Man films are great fun. But the most interesting may be the 1941 Shadow of the Thin Man. Because it features the legendary acting teacher STELLA ADLER in one of her few films. She plays a tough gangster’s moll masquerading as an upscale socialite. And watching her slip artfully from one personna to another is really something to see.

    Stella is best known for her Acting School in New York City. Whose alumni include Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro, among other notables. She was a member of the famous Yiddish Theater “Adler” family and her brother Luther also appeared in films.

  • Shawn

    I have the whole Thin Man series and watch those pretty often while My Man Godfrey is another favorite as Carole Lombard is also a favorite of mine. I think Powell and Loy came across as the best cinema couple of all time.

  • James Sedares

    So much goes into being a movie star: looks, voice, manner, etc. But the star’s “walk” is often overlooked. Watch any William Powell movie and when he walks anywhere, into a room, strolling on the sidewalk, or even from one side of the kitchen to the next, the “walk” is unmistakable. You’ve only to think of John Wayne, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, or even Groucho Marx(!) to bring this into sharp focus. All of these stars had distinctive walks, as well as looks, voices, etc. It’s a little talked about attribute, however Wayne spoke of it often, and studied it.
    Powell’s movies all epitomized Hollywood glamor, but for me his best was Another Thin Man.

  • Melinda Kay

    I would like to find out if anyone knows about a missing schene from The Thin Man Goes Home. I have a vague recollection from seeing the movie as a child in which there was reference to Crazy Mary as being the person who contacted Nick to investigate the trouble her secret son was in. You see evidence of this when Laura Bell Ronson shows up in the yard and Nick perks up and peeks over his magazine when his Mother introduces Laura Bell. Why would that alert him otherwise? Anyone know?

  • Sue

    I can’t pick just one. I love all of his films with the exception of “How to Marry a Millionaire.”

  • Barbara Atkinson

    Many good comments here… Yes, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Perhaps not among his finest, but worth a look, is a take-off of “The Thin Man” series, another detective flick, called “Star of Midnight” from 1935. His female co-star was a young Ginger Rogers, still at this point working toward top star status. Is fun… If you haven’t seen it, give it a try.

  • L. A. Womack

    After The Thin Man-without a doubt! I love the start of the movie when they’re on the train coming home. She says something like “are you packing, dear?” & he says “Yes, I’m just putting this liquor away now.” quotes may not be exact.

  • Carole O’Connell

    There isn’t a Powell movie that I don’t like: love watching him evolve in the “Thin Man” movies. Libeled Lady & Manhattan Melodrama are right up there. Charming, sophisticated; the man I wish I had in my life!

  • Jay

    I have to go with ‘The Thin Man’…other Thin Man movies are great too, and ‘My Man Godfrey’.

  • Tom

    Without a doubt, William Powell in “Love Crazy”, “My Man Godfrey”, “I Love You Again”, and “The Thin Man” show him at the apex of his mastery of romantic comedy. In a hint of what a good dramatic actor he was and could’ve been if he had gone after more dramatic roles was “Dancing in The Dark” (1949). He took his sophisticated, dapper persona and showed the “man beneath the persona”, a rich performance in a film that is no classic but showed more of the real film industry in some of its scenes than “A Star is Born”. Worth a look!

  • margo

    My Man Godfrey–I loved many of his movies but this one will forever be my favorite–because my mother brought it to my house to watch with my sons and they both loved it, it was so funny and lighthearted–it is one of their childhood memories of their grandma–they still watch it sometimes and talk about the first time grandma brought it to our house–

  • Mohan

    My favorite is My Man Godfrey, too. It is refreshingly light, yet sincere in its message.

  • Anonymous.

    I spent a lot of years working my tail off on stage and televison to become a successful actor. More than that, I’m a true anomaly in Hollywood: I actually have genuine talent! And that’s what I don’t understand about William Powell. He too was a genuinely talented actor. One of the best. More than that, I’m sure he was well aware of this fact. So why did he retire at such a relatively young age? What’s that? He didn’t need the money? So what? Artists owe the world the benefits of their creativity. At least that’s the way I see it. Yes indeed, it was his right to retire. I can offer no argument about that point. But I just can’t stop thinking about all the great work he might have done after “Mister Roberts.” Let me tell you, when my time comes I intend to check out of this world just like Tyrone Power: in front of a camera!

  • Tom S

    After The Thin Man is just the best. Powell and Loy just personify the chic, wordly couple who are however never dull. There are so many great lines in that movie and the scene where Asta arrives home and finds that Mrs Asta has cheated on him is just too funny. Also loved Libeled Lady, My Man Godfrey, The Ex Mrs Bradford and Star of Midnight.

  • Steven F.

    Loved My Man Godfrey, then saw The Thin Man and that was it.I could sit there and just listen to the dialog. Why cann’t they write great scripts like that any more?

  • Kathryeen Lite

    Love William Powell, The Thin Man, My Man Godfrey also Life with father. All of them! Why did he retire when he did? Anyone know?

  • Pepe

    William Powell was great in all the movies he played in.He had a great flair for comedy. Libeled Lady and My Man Godfrey were hilarious.In the latter he out did Spencer Tracy.
    We who grew up in the forties were lucky to have seen great actors in abundance.

  • M.T.

    He was marvelous in LIFE WITH FATHER, my favorite performance. He and Dunner were such a terrific team.

  • John

    This is to the actor who criticized Mr. Powell for retiring. You must remember that he was in his sixties by then and was starting to be seen in supporting roles.While there may be no small parts,only small actors,our time on earth is limited so I don’t blame him for living life instead of playing second fiddle when he had already made his mark.

  • Joanne

    Was the dog’s name Astor??? Iloved these movies as a child….ALL the Thin Man movies…But I really loved Mister Roberts

  • Linda Hebert

    My favorite, like so many others, is “The Thin Man.” However, he was wonderful in “Life With Father” and “Libeled Lady.” Just about perfect in all of his efforts. Love watching him so much.

  • Christopher Anne Samson

    The charm of William Powell cannot be summed up in one film alone. He had a lovely voice and an impeccable sense of timing and delivery. He could play broad when the script called for it. He also could also convey more through one arched eyebrow than words can account.

    My first impulse would be to pick ‘The Thin Man’. Only this week I dreamt I was severely disappointed when informed that one could no longer order 6 drinks at once, which meant I could never reenact Loy’s entrance. (Not that I have ever contemplated doing so when awake…) On reflection I realized that it was the heady cocktail of Powell and Loy so skillfully mixed with a witty script that made that film such a delight. When these two mixed, even with lesser scripts, the result was defiantly more than the sum of the parts.

    I guess I would have to choose between either of two performances: ‘My Man Godfrey’, because it captured the sophisticated smooth with a bit of bite essence of the leading man Powell or ‘Mr. Roberts’ because it showcased a vintage Powell, well seasoned to perfection.

  • Sherry H

    Whether I have seen Wm Powell’s movies 2 times or 15 I am delighted with his performance. He has always been one of my truly all time favorites. I especially prefer all the movies with Myrna Loy.
    They were were quite the team. Everything was so
    believable when they did it.

  • victor thompson

    I liked the “Thin Man” series. I also liked “The Ex Mrs Bradford” with Jean Arthur

  • Gregg

    Manhattan Melodrama w/ Gable and Loy.One of the few stars who could hold their own against and with such headliners. Always a class act.

  • Jeanette

    I used to watch old movies with my mom when we got our first tv. I must have fallen in love with Wm. Powell then, as when we went to see the newly released MISTER ROBERTS, I remember being delighted to see him in that one. To answer one earlier comment, in the DVD of The Thin Man Goes Home, they DO have the idea that Crazy Mary contacted Nick. As for why they don’t make movies like this any more, VERY FEW modern actors have the ability to do clever dialogue in every day speech, without shouting or waiting for a laugh. Has anyone seen a little gem titled The Treasure of Lost Canyon? One of the last 5 or 6 he made…few have heard of it, but he’s at his best.

  • Jeanette

    Forgot to add…NO, I refuse to choose a favorite. Any time my husband and I can’t find anything to watch on tv, “put on a Wm Powell movie.” We can watch them over and over. He could play so many different types.

  • Jim Twomey

    I am another vote for The Thin Man. Love how he and Loy pretend to be ready to slug each other when you know they are just playing. And Myrna Loy’s entrance in the Thin Man where she falls on the floor of the restaurant is classic.

  • debbi

    Having the pleasure of collecting Wm Powell moves, photos, and books over the years, I too have a difficult time choosing a single favorite performance. Powell/Loy pairings aside, I love his performance in Rendesvous (written for Myrna Loy who was on strike at the time and doing charity work for the war effort). He’s funny, suave, romantic, dashing…the man has it all. For pure talent showcase, I might have to go with Life With Father. He doesn’t look or act like the man we’re used to – and yet he’s screamingly funny, touching, and just lovely. Yeah, give me any William Powell movie ANY time and I’m in heaven

  • Gena

    All of the Thin Man series!

  • Shirley French

    Shirl Says:
    Life With Father and also My Man Godfrey are my best.I also love the Thin Man series. All of the movies he did were great!!! He presence alone can not be beat by anyone he was a class act.

  • Raif Damico

    I first saw Powell in Mr. Roberts and became a fan. Then old movies on TV and I had to see any movie he did and loved all of them. My favorites are The Thin Man and My Man Godfrey.Willam Powell had to be what Cary Grant made himself into from Archie Leach. And Powell and Loy were and are the BEST.

  • Marco

    Powell was superb in every role. He was the epitome of debonair, understated sophistication. My favorite was a departure for Powell, “Life With Father”. His turn as the alpha male who is consistently outwitted by the the ostensibly naive Irene Dunne is pure gold. When I think of the classic “Movie Star”, Powell is always first to come to mind.

  • Sandy

    All the ‘Thin Man’ movies!!! I can watch them over & over again!!!

  • Pat Valli

    Love ALL his movies. My favorites are The Thin Man movies. Love him with Myrna Loy.
    Always tape his movies when they are on. He is a great actor.

  • Marshall

    To Joanne: I believe the dog’s name was Asta.

  • Tlynette

    What’s not to like about William Powell? His eyes? His walk? His smoothness? He was pretty damned cool!
    Love all those “Thin Man” flix, and “Manhattan Melodrama” is one of my faves, but I absolutely ADORED him as the doctor in “Mister Roberts!”

    • Mr.B

      “Tell me, that ringing in your ears; Would that be, ding-ding, or dong-dong? It’s very important, you see.”

  • Jeff C

    William Powell was suave, debonair, and sophisticated but was not only great with witty dialogue and verbal badinage, he was also hysterical doing physical comedy like trout fishing in “Libeled Lady” or leading a boy scout troop in “I Love You Again”. My favorite though is probably “My Man Godfrey”. “Oh tomorrow may bring sorrow so tonight let’s be gay”. Oh hell, they were all my favorites.

  • mnewlands358

    the often forgotten 1948 innocently funny
    “Mr Peabody and the Mermaid”, and no it’s not “Splash”.

  • Walt

    William Powell was the greatest! But his magical melding with Myrna Loy was the best possible pairing of fine talents on screen ever achieved. I fell in love with Loy as a teen-ager and at 82 continue to renew my mad crush on her each time I watch a Thin Man flick for the umpteenth time.

  • Gwen Livingstone Pokora

    For more than fifty years, I have enjoyed The Thin Man series, but my favorite William Powell film? Gotta be _My Man Godfrey_!

  • Noel Bjorndahl

    I agree, it has to be My Man Godfrey, but One Way Passage (where the chemistry with delicious Kay Francis is palpable!), and, of course, The Thin Man series allow Powell’s knowing underplaying full rein.

  • harriett

    The best movie and my favorite is The Thin Man the first one.

  • Vincent

    Powell’s 1936 may have been the best calendar year any actor has ever had. These films of his came out during ’36: “My Man Godfrey,” “Libeled Lady” (it did not come out in ’37) “The Great Ziegfeld,” “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” and “After The Thin Man.” That’s a darn good bunch of movies.

    Glad someone mentioned “One-Way Passage” with Kay Francis, a splendid film. Another they made in ’32 was “Jewel Robbery,” perhaps the closest Warners ever came to a Lubitsch-like movie. (Bill disables his enemies by giving them cigarettes laced with marijuana — that’s right, the king of debonair supplying wacky tobacky!) Powell also did several Philo Vance detective movies for both Paramount and Warners, of which the best was probably “The Kennel Murder Case” for Warners in ’33.

    I’ll watch Powell in just about anything; I love that charm, that rich voice of his, his comedic flair. I wish I could emulate him. (Any man whose romances included goddesses like Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow must be doing something right!)

  • Mary K

    My favorites will always be the Thin Man can’t get enough, including Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, still looking for it in DVD.

  • MB

    I like any movie that William Powell did with Myrna Loy! “The Thin Man” is particularly great! However, his film partnership with Kay Francis (“One Way Passage” in particular) was almost as great. Each actress brought out different qualities in Powell.

  • Tammy

    Each film a pearl on a long string of witty,sophisticated, and always classy performances. Even in his comedic moments, William Powell was charming. I loved them all. Of course, The Thin Man series was perhaps his most popular. The perfect pairing of Powell and Loy to create one of the most legendary on screen couples. I found Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid a delightful lighthearted film and My man Godfrey has a splendid cast for Powell to play off of.
    He was truly a Hollywood star and continues to be a film legand. They don’t make them like that anymore!

  • cody bright

    I have always loved William Powell. Song of the Thin Man and life with Father are probably my favorites. I always wondered if he had any children? I would have loved to have talked with him about the golden age of Hollywood. He endured some tragedy in his lifetime losing Harlow and later Lombard. He seemed very devoted to his last wife who was a dancer I believe. I wish there was a biography available about him. The epitome of suave. What a great voice.

  • Adoresixtyfour

    My Man Godfrey–one of the greatest screwball comedies ever.

  • Ted E. Limpert

    The Baroness and the Butler, starring William Powell and Annabella, should also be mentioned as one of his entertaining comedies. It was about a butler (Powell) who was in love with his employer, the baroness (Annabella), but he could not tell her because of the social chasm between them. He also kept secret the fact that he had been elected to parliament as a man of the people. In the end, of course, he managed to save Annabella from some predicament, and there was a happy ending.

  • John Goodwin

    I would love to see “Private Detective 62” but I assume it is a lost film – “Star of Midnight” and the “Ex-Mrs. Bradford” are great too.

  • John

    As good as the Tracy-Hepburn team was,I still think the Powell-Loy partnership was the best of all.I would recommend any of their films.I always wish that he had played the Fredric March part in”The Best Years of Our Lives”-it would have been perfect for him and the movie would have had more emotional resonance with the viewer due to Powell and Loy’s movie history.For non-Loy films,I’d recommend “Life with Father”-Powell is a real hoot in that one.

  • Jennifer T

    @Cody – Bill powell did have a son (his only child) who committed suicide in 1968 at the age of 43. So, yeah the tragedy continued for him. There are two biographies on him. I have them both and enjoy them.

    My fav movie EVER is My Man Godfrey but I also love The Thin Man Movies, Libeled Lady, Double Harness, For the Defense, Interference, Romola and the Last Command. Powell’s favorite of his own movies was The Last Command. I own over 65 movies of his, several on DVD, several on VHS. If anyone is intersted in a copy of the ones that are public domain (I will NOT break any laws so I will not give out copies of copywritten ones) let me know in an email at Please tell me that you are responding to my post on Movies Unlimited on your heading or I may accidentally delete your email as spam. I have an extensive list of his movies – many silents and many that are Public Domain. My collection runs from his first movie Sherlock Holmes (1922 with John Barrymore) all the way to his last movie Mr Roberts. Have a great day everyone!! Jennifer 🙂

  • BadGnx2

    After all of the comments above, anything else that’s written is gonna sound repetitive – but I gotta throw my two cents in!!
    William Powell was a class act with the wit and sophistication to rival ONLY the great Cary Grant. In fact, neither of these great actors took themselves seriously and their charm and effortless acting styles was probably the reasons they never got any Oscars. Both could pull off drama and comedy without a hitch – no easy thing to do.

    I would have to say that my Powell favorites are The Thin Man movies. The first Thin Man is my absolute favorite. But although its hardly ever mentioned, the Thin Man movies were also pretty good crime procedurals (early CSIs) for their times. In the first film, mixed within the snappy dialog are references only known to true Detectives. Its touches like these that make these films true standouts in my opinion and enhances their classic status.

  • Sally

    I really enjoyed everything I’ve seen him in, but MY MAN GODFREY and MR. ROBERTS are my favs, along with the THIN MAN SERIES. My favourite drama is 1934’s THE KEY (WB). Powell plays a devil may care British Officer in war torn Dublin. His return into an old flame’s life nearly destroys her marriage, and almost causes his best friend’s death. Needless to say, honour and friendship save the day, and the part fits Mr. Powell like quick-dry enamel. This film is VERY rare, but it occasionally pops up on TCM. If enough Powell fans pester them, it might show up again.!

  • sugarpussoshea

    I just have to say it in writing – Wm Powell was one of the finest actors to come out of the studio system (or anywhere else). He always appeared soo comfortable on screen – like we were his close friends. And – from these comments – most did feel that way.
    If I want to be entertained, I will turn on a Wm Powell movie (as I call them): The Thin Man (the series of 6), The Ex-Mrs Bradford, Star of Midnight, The Kennel Murder Case – with his insights into the characters and mental agility at figuring “it” out while always being the gentleman. Which also stays in character off the screen – with his marriage to Carole Lombard and engagement to Jean Harlow. That sapphire is worn in her last complete movie – “Property ?” with Rbt Taylor.
    I really didn’t care for Wm Powell in “The Last of Mrs. Cheney” – I enjoyed Rbt Mgm – but don’t care for Powell in a down-graded role. We-ll, except for Mr Roberts. He’s is perfect as “doc” that every one goes to for help or just talk – like a bartender.
    Aaagh…….William Heratio Powell – they just don’t make ’em like that n-e-more.

  • sugarpussoshea

    William Horatio Powell …………
    sorry, he deserves the corrected spelling

  • Pingback: Movie Marathons | MovieFanFare()

  • Cherib5

    I love all William Powell movies! I too believe The Thin Man series are great but I also like The Kennel Club Murder Case and Star of Midnight. He was truly a class act!!

  • libldy1

    William Powell is the best actor of any time period. All his films are good.
    I guess my most favorite are the Thin Man series, but really I love them all.

  • Pingback: After the Silents: Love Crazy (1941) | Movies, Silently()

  • Richy

    Was there anyone more reliably cool, in the sophisticated sense, than William Powell?

  • rob

    How about a mention that he had rectal cancer in the late thirties which they just cut out (wouldn’t proceed that way today) and then he went on to live another 40+ years? Also he did end up having a very long and happy marriage to Diana Lewis that lasted 44 years until his death (also not typical of Hollywood) and counter to the many failed marriages of his “on screen” wife Myrna Loy. While I love the Thin Man pairings, to me “I Love You Again” may be the best Powell – Loy combination.

  • Johnny Sherman

    The Thin Man is a terrific series, and Life With Father is an all-time favorite. Powell deserved an Oscar for his role as a fictional Clarence Darrow.
    The Treasure of Lost Canyon is one of Powell’s later films; not a blockbuster, but great fun to watch.

  • Michael Taylor

    I think my favorite William Powell film is “My Man Godfrey”………………….but i could be wrong!!

  • Jan

    How can you possibly pick only 1. William Powell was a wonderful actor and seemed to embrace every role he played. Nick Charles was probably my favorite character – but I had a crush on him through them all.

  • Toph Morris

    Being only 39 now, I didn’t grow up with Powell the way my mom’s generation did, so I haven’t seen most of his movies. But I remember seeing The Thin Man for the first time just a few years ago and falling in love with the chemistry between Powell and Loy.

  • Bruce Reber

    William Powell was one of the finest actors of the classic Hollywood era. His sophisticated and witty personality rivaled that of another screen legend, Cary Grant. Powell was excellent in everything he did, especially screwball comedies like “Libeled Lady”, “My Man Godfrey” and “Love Crazy”, and he and Myrna Loy made one of the screen’s greatest couples in “The Thin Man” series. His relationship with Jean Harlow was indeed tragic – if it wasn’t for control freak L.B. Mayer they might have been married. There’s been some speculation that Harlow’s frustration over Powell might have been a contributing factor in her untimely death.

  • Dana Thompson

    I love William Powell too and my favorite is My Man Godfrey, wow, he and Jean Harlow that was so sad,

  • debbie

    My favorite comedy is I Love You Again & for drama Double Harness

  • Sandra

    I LOVE William Powell in ANY movie. If I have to name a favorite.. ‘Life with Father’..

  • Sandra

    ANY Movie with William Powell and Myra Loy is my favorite.

  • Jehanne Lily

    I wish we had stars like William Powell today. He was great!

  • Pingback: What's Your Favorite Non-"Thin Man" William Powell Film Role?()

  • Sherrie

    watching Libeled Lady right now and to know Jean Harlow would die soon after this movie was made is very sad. I love William Powell I wish they would have married. Not sure why they didnt, I hear he broke her heart….not sure if that is true.

  • Sliceo’pie

    I just caught, “Libeled Lady” again on TCM. It’s a great movie with a wonderful cast-I agree with other posters that it’s sad watching Harlow knowing she would die so soon after shooting-she was so young and talented. I had always read that Harlow’s mother denied her medical care during her final illness but I recently learned that was actually an “urban legend”. She was treated by doctors at the hospital and there are medical records to back this up-there was just limited care for Kidney disease at the time. I like William Powell in everything-it’s too difficult to pick one movie although I especially enjoy him in, “Libeled Lady” and “Life with Father” He was a class act. Is there an actor today to rival him?

  • Lola

    Loved William Powell’s acting ability and style. What his friends said about him speaks volumes at to his character.

  • Raquel12pts

    After i saw “My Man Godfrey”, i was hooked. I’m going to collect all his movies. Wish i lived in the 30’s-40’s!

  • cc

    What a fascinating actor. So adorable, really. The ups and downs in his life are unbelievable.
    Wish there was more information on his life in retirement. He seems like he could have been
    a pretty fun old timer to know. Today is the anniversary of his death. What a loss.

  • Pingback: Stop Dieting Start Living Barbara Godfrey | Fix Good Health Lost()