Hollywood in the 1940s employeed a pleathora of attractive men: Van Johnson, Clark Gable, John Hodiak, James Stewart, John Wayne…
The list could continue for hours, but who are the two men that stand on top of the whole stack of them?
Robert Taylor and Tyrone Power
In April 2010 when Robert Taylor was the TCM Star of the Month, Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies’ prime time host, said the MGM star was dubbed the most attractive star in Hollywood. His only competition was Tyrone Power of Twentieth Century Fox studio.
Robert Taylor emerged as a young and handsome actor in the mid-1930s in movies like “Broadway Melody of 1936″ (1935) and “Camille” (1936). With his slicked back black hair, attractive smile and pleasing disposition, he left many women swooning and his male counterparts seething, Robert Osborne said. Taylor’s career was successful from the start and was in top notch films until the mid-1950s.
On the other side of the spectrum, Tyrone Power was signed to 20th Century Fox in 1936 as their answer to MGM’s Robert Taylor. Power’s career didn’t launch as quickly as Taylor’s, acting in small roles in a bit part in “Flirtation Walk” (1934). ”Marie Antoinette” (1938) as Norma Shearer’s lover. His career launched when he was paired with Alice Faye and Don Ameche in both “In Old Chicago” (1937) and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1938).
Interestingly enough, after both being hired as the pretty boys of the studios, their careers and lives were very similar.
Both men struggled with only being seen as a pretty face. Robert Taylor took on “manlier” roles like “Valley of the Kings” (1954) and “The Law and Jake Wade” (1958) that offered rougher, meaner characters. Sadly, I have to plead ignorance when it comes to Tyrone Power’s career. However, from looking at his film list and reading about his career, it looks like his peak was in the 1940s.
In the 1950s, Tyrone was unhappy with the roles he was getting and turned to stage work. Probably his best role in the 1950s was his last role, “Witness and Prosecution”(1957) with Charles Laughton.
Both men were married to actresses (Power-Annabelle, Tayor- Barbara Stanwyck) and also had several love affairs. One affair in particular was with one glamorous actress: Lana Turner. Turner called Power the love of her life, according to her book Lana Turner: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies. However, though Lana Turner successfully seduced Taylor during the filming of “Johnny Eager” (1941), she told her best friend Ava Gardner that Robert Taylor was a lover you “shouldn’t waste your mouth on.”
Later in life, careers and looks took turns for the worse for the two men. Neither Robert Taylor or Tyrone Power aged very well, and both were not recieving quality roles. Robert Taylor was one of the actors who stayed until MGM studio’s fall in the early 1960s even though his roles grew increasingly worse, according to Esther Williams in her autobiography “Million Dollar Mermaid.”
Tyrone Power died at the young age of 44 in 1958 due to aheart attack. Eleven years later, Robert Taylor died in 1969 at a similarly young age of 57 of lung cancer. Ronald Reagan and Robert Taylor were close friends, after the death of Taylor, Reagan was anti-smoking.
It’s funny how two attractive actors lived such seemingly parallel lives. But it all boils down to one question:
Which one was more attractive?
Which one was the most handsome man in Hollywood during the 1940s?
I know my answer. What’s yours?