The Long Goodbye — Another Project for Dick Powell 🇺🇸
Actor — Producer — Hobbyist Makes ‘Live’ TV Debut This Week
Dick Powell has made his pursuit of know-how pay off like a ticket across the board on a dark-horse winner.
Cash alone hasn’t been the goad. As — or more — important has been an insatiable desire to “keep ahead.” An ambiguous term, it also applies to non-money-making ventures into flying, yachting, photography, wood-working, ranching and many another challenging field of endeavor.
Dick, alias Richard E., Powell is credited with knowing just about everything there is to know about performing, directing, producing and investing. Yet, although he has now reached the stature of Hollywood producer-director, next Thursday (Oct. 7) he’ll brave “opening night butterflies” to make his “live” acting debut on TV. (He discounts one “quickie” appearance with Kate Smith.)
He’ll co-star with Teresa Wright and Cesar Romero in the first of Chrysler’s hour-long Climax dramas, an adaptation of the Raymond Chandler whodunit, “The Long Goodbye.”
“If it weren’t for the fact that I’ll be playing detective Philip Marlowe again,” says Powell, “the thought of live TV would be even more painful. But Marlowe by now is second nature. I can ad lib him”
His tie-up with Raymond Chandler is more than a happy coincidence. It was by courtesy of the same author’s Philip Marlowe in the film “Murder, My Sweet” that Crooner Powell became Tough Guy Powell and went on to bigger and better things as a movie actor.
Movie-acting, however, has long ceased to be his No. 1 occupation and preoccupation. He’s the star and co- owner of “Richard Diamond,” a radio series he’s readying for another go-round. With Charles Boyer, David Niven and entrepreneur Don Sharpe he owns TV’s Four Star Playhouse, taking a regular turn as star and producer.
Now in its third year, Four Star has yet to net Powell and Partners a dime, a fact which discomfits him not at all. “We decided to defer our salaries to make good pictures,” he explains. “The first year we lost $140,000. The second year we broke even. I seriously doubt if we do any better this year. But we believe that eventually films with quality, films of lasting value, will pay off.”
Powell is responsible for 10 Four Star films to be made this season. The first, “Interlude,” will be telecast Oct. 14. By the end of the year the company will have made 90 films for Four Star Playhouse and 39 for another television series, The Star and the Story. One of the Four Star items will be a “special,” co-starring its three “regulars” at Christmas time. (A similar stunt was proposed for last year.)
Of all his Four Star characterizations, Powell prefers the “Dante” role created by Blake Edwards. This season the amicable, but tough, cabaret owner will sing, too, thanks to new union rules about live music on TV.
Meanwhile, with plans well formulated TV-wise, Powell spends a great deal of his time putting a high polish on RKO’s “The Conqueror,” a biography of Genghis Khan starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward. Although he directed a feature movie, “Split Second,” a year ago, this is his first job as both producer and director.
“Don’t tell Howard Hughes,” he commented the other day, “but I would have done it for nothing.” Hughes, owner of RKO Studios, and Powell currently are dickering over a new job for the latter, that of executive producer for all RKO films — a large plum for anyone’s pie.
Meanwhile, Powell is teamed with Ginger Rogers, Tony Martin and Peggy Lee in a taped radio show in which each handles 15-minute disc jockey chores. Two Powell waxings for Bell Records — “Susan Slept Here” and “Hold My Hand” — are getting turntable rides from other jockeys. The feature film, “Susan Slept Here,” in which he co-starred, is now playing the neighborhood circuit.
Two “maybes” on the Powell agenda are a full-length feature by the Four Star company and, on a less happy note, court action against “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” producers because he failed to get program credit as initial director of the Broadway hit.
Powell doesn’t consider himself “an overworked man.” “I have enough worries that I don’t oversleep; enough things-to do that I don’t have time to overeat,” he says. “I’ve worked hard all my life. I think that is pretty much what life is about.
“I kid around and say I work because, with things the way they are, I’ll have to be earning money 10 years after I’m in the grave to get my four kids through college.
“But that’s not true. I work because it is the only way to keep ahead.
“When I came to Hollywood in 1931, I planned to stay until I made $100,000.
Then I was going to leave. But it didn’t work out that way. I found that I wasn’t just working for money. To know and to do became important.”
Cash-wise, Powell did all right before Hollywood. At Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theatre he was a $1000-a-week crooner-emcee-orchestra leader, which seemed a nice, profitable culmination to his years as a high school and college song-and-instrument man. (He had even tried eight months of the classical touch, billed as “Richard E. Powell, concert tenor.”)
“But as young and inexperienced as I was then,” he says, “I saw the handwriting on the wall. The movies, at only $300 a week, loomed like nice, fresh territory to an explorer.” His first Hollywood venture: “Blessed Event,” with Mary Brian.
Looking not very different, except for maturity and confidence, Dick approaches 50 (on Nov. 14) with the same figure and most of the hair he had when he crooned down Flirtation Walk. He and his film star wife, June Allyson, have two children, Pamela, 6; Ricky, 4. He also has two teen-agers, Norman and Ellen, by a marriage to actress Joan Blondell.
Oh, yes. Because of Ellen’s equestrian interests Papa Powell recently stuck still another feather in his crooner-band leader-actor-producer-director cap: he’s a quarterhorse raiser, too.
June Allyson (Mrs. Powell) watches over husband’s shoulder during making of TV film.
TV role; Dick Powell rehearses ‘Long Goodbye’ with Teresa Wright.
Four Star Playhouse partners ponder: from left, Charles Boyer, David Niven and Dick Powell.
Source: TV Guide Chicago, October 1954