Screenland (Nov 1939–Apr 1940)

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By Charles Darnton Two of Hollywood's best actors— William Powell, here, and Walter Brennan, opposite — give you, out of rich experience, their philosophy for successful living. Their salaries may be bigger, but their problems are much the same as yours, and ours FRANKLY, it was a great surprise — and a most happy one. More astonishing, it hit me bang in the eye. For there, standing in the open doorway of his Tower Road house with a welcoming smile, was the Thin Man, brown as his sweater and, if you please, grown more rather than less. Just how I had expected to find William Powell looking would be hard to say. But surely he would bear some mark of the deep grief and suffering he had borne for a year and a half, first heart sick, then body sick. There was none. None except, perhaps, for a faintly new light in his eyes, seeming to reflect at thoughtful moments the beauty and the sorrow of life. What struck me most of all was that here was a man who could stand the gaff. Yes, he could take it — indeed, had taken far more than his fair share of it. That was all to the good of his strength of character. Weakness, it could plainly be seen, was no> part of him. Another actor might have been tempted to play the interesting invalid. Not Bill Powell. Another actor might have dramatized himself in a wheel chair. Not Bill Powell. Another actor might have seen himself forsaken by the fateful gods. Not Bill Powell. This man Powell was up and doing with both feet, smiling the same old smile at those fates who had knocked him off them, asking you what you would have to drink and having one himself. Another thing : it was late in the afternoon, with the nightly California chill already creeping into the air. Yet no sooner had we crossed his threshold than the William Powell, after his illness, comes back to the screen in "Another Thin Man," with Myrna Loy — and tells Darnton in this brilliant story what he learned in his long exile. The close-up shows that the screen's Thin Man has grown more rather than less. ever solicitous host inquired, "Would you like to sit here or outside ?" With the choice left to him, we went straight through to the patio. There, in merely sweater and slacks, his man neither suggesting nor bringing a rug to spread over him, William Powell, restored Hollywood idol, dispelled any possible notion as to his being a sensitive convalescent. -"No," he grinned, "I don't seem to be that kind of plant, but more like a hardy perennial. Anyway, hospitalization developed me into a series player. My first appearance in the operating theater was so well received that I took two encores. They called me back again and again with such flattering enthusiasm that there was no resisting it. In the cordial circumstances, it was only natural, perhaps, to feel I had made a distinct hit. Although a few of my essentially personal lines were cut out, there was every assurance I would never miss them." With due allowance for his visceral sense^of humor, Mr. Powell certainly appeared to be all there, in fact, slightly to exceed his original Thin Man specifications. He nodded. "I'm a few pounds up. When 'The Thin Man' was done the first time, I weighed 160 pounds. It was made so fast, in sixteen days, that I may have lost an ounce or two in the process. That early speed was explained by the fact we were doing what now is called a B picture, though I liked it immensely and thoroughly believed it would turn out to be far more than was expected. This time we were not striving for a record, and so 'Another Thin Man' took {Please turn to page 76) 30