Photographer: Maynard L. Parker, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Movie star Tyrone Power‘s (1914-1958) acting ability always appeared effortless; many said it was in his genes. His family was an acting powerhouse of Irish comedians, Shakespearian actresses, and Broadway matinee idols. Power would spend most of the mid-20th century swashbuckling across movie screens of America. From his first acting job with his mother at age 7 until his early death at 44, Power portrayed a diverse list of historical/fictional film characters from Jesse James to Zorro to de Lesseps (designer of the Suez Canal). He was second only to Mickey Rooney as a box office draw in 1939 and with his exceptional good looks he would be the top leading man at 20th Century-Fox.
During his years in Hollywood, Tyrone Power lived in two Paul R. Williams’ designed homes. In 1937 Power and his wife Annabella, one of France’s most celebrated pre-World War II actresses, purchased the three-acre Brentwood Georgian Modern-style mansion Williams custom designed for singer Grace Moore (139 North Saltair). Unhappy with acting in movies, Moore and her husband Valentin Perreira abandoned Hollywood and their newly built home. The Powers were the first to tour the house and bought it before anyone else saw it. The couple fell in love with it as “every window was a French window. We were in and out…on the balcony, on the terrace…” (Fred Lawrence Guiles Tyrone Power: the Last Idol, 1979).
Sometimes described as Hollywood Grand, the Power home was casual and comfortable with an airy feeling beginning with the gracefully curved front entry staircase. Built in a semi-circle around a paved terrace and screened-in porch, the design encouraged outdoor living. The couple changed very little of the residence's physical structure only adding a staircase in the rear and a sauna/steam bath for Power.
Like most movie stars of the time the couple and their home were often featured in pictorial spreads in fan magazines. Shown in situations created and staged by their studios, gracious living was a reoccuring theme. Readers discovered "Ty's" favorite lunch was avocado salad eated by a pool large enough to sail a small boat across and that Annabella raised most of the vegetables they ate. To make her seem more accessible and not merely an entitled movie star it was noted "She even cuts her own hair, using a cuticle scissors." Domestic bliss was enhanced by the warmth and beauty of their Paul Williams home. (Movie Life. September, 1941)
In a 1944 photographic essay about Power's residence, House Beautiful described the interior as expressing "the prosperity and personal success every couple hopes for ... and see as the fulfillment of all their tastes and fancies." (April, 1944) Annabella's aesthetic taste was more restrained than Grace Moore's. Gone were the original pink silk wall coverings and mirrors with an etched P for Perreira — Mrs. Power thought these were pretentious. Instead she selected an interior paint of sea-foam green and thick carpets and "fabrics so unobtrusively elegant that owning them is like sharing a secret with Beauty." Moore's beautifully designed gardens and pool area remained the same and the home was a gathering spot for other film stars of the day including neighbor Gary Cooper.
These Maynard L. Parker photographs taken for House Beautiful show Power’s living room decorated by interior designer John F. Luccareni. This designer had worked previously with Williams in a redesign of the Beverly Hills Hotel in the 1930s. Luccareni created many custom pieces for the Power home including a sofa built to fit a curving window and his adaptation of the Hawaiian style lanai. The living room was the final area of the house to be decorated and Power surprised Annabella during Christmas by having Luccareni transform the room over night as she slept (Architectural Digest April 1994).In 1942 Tyrone Power abruptly left Annabella and his Hollywood studio to join the Marines and fight in the war. Movie magazines chronicled his split with Annabella. She vowed “I’ll keep right on living and working and dreaming in Our House so that it will stay the same for you to come home to!” After his return Power was a changed man described as “cool and distant." Their separation became permanent. Living in a variety of rented homes, Power eventually commissioned Williams to design a second residence in 1947 in Bel Aire.