Posted by Susan Doll on August 25, 2014 Movie Morlocks
Ed here: Pauline Kael once referred to Dick Powell as "the sappiest crooner" of the Thirties. Yet he ended up doing well by Philip Marlowe. On the other hand a William Powell's fedora tip to the crime genre was playing Philo Vance as well as appearing in several other mysteries. Susan Doll's take on the two is well done..
Today, TCM pays tribute to Dick Powell, airing 14 of his films as part of Summer Under the Stars. Earlier this month, a day had been devoted to William Powell. As a major fan of both stars, I can’t decide if I was more excited to listen to Dick Powell croon and crack wise, or watch William Powell woo his costars with wit and style.
Like several male stars from the Golden Age, neither Powell was classically handsome. Yet, both are attractive and appealing because of their cultivated charisma and star images. WP was the elegant gentleman who exuded romance and class, while his keen sense of humor prevented his characters from becoming too high brow or pompous. Though he played oily cads very early in his career, his star image as the suave gent was cemented by the 1930s and remained remarkably consistent until his last movie, Mr. Roberts, in 1955. I admire those Golden Age movie stars who were able to maneuver their images through the changes in the industry and the ravages of aging. But, then again, who doesn’t respect Dick Powell for completely changing his star image from the sweet-faced crooner of backstage musicals to the wise-cracking, hard-boiled anti-hero of film noir.
William Powell is the very essence of romance in his films from the 1930s. His graciousness and consummate manners seem like a throwback to another era, when men treated women with respect and approached them with gallantry. Or, perhaps there never was such an era and it is only “movie memory” that makes me think there was. Even when his character deceives Myrna Loy—his most constant costar—in Libeled Lady or goads her inDouble Wedding, we know he will ultimately act in her best interests at the expense of his own. WP’s best tool for charming women was his voice—so smooth, soothing, melodious.
Dick Powell’s voice was also his best asset, and not just because he could sing in that high tenor voice (see 42nd Street today at 1:00pm). With his impeccable timing and sarcastic tone, he could toss off a verbal barb with wit and aplomb. Of all the actors to play Philip Marlowe, Dick Powell was the best at handling Raymond Chandler’s wise-cracking one-liners and smart dialogue. Revisit Murder, My Sweet this evening at 9:15 on TCM and focus on Powell’s line delivery. The back-and-forth banter between Powell and his leading ladies in his film noirs is a verbal dance—sexy in its sarcasm and modern in its suggestion that all romance is a sham. This is miles away from William Powell’s star image—yet I find both romantic in different ways.
for the rest go here: