William Powell Bio Bits
click here to read a letter from Mr. Powell

age 4 First, of course, was when he was born.  July 29, 1892 is the answer to that one.  In Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. His father's work took the family to Kansas City, Missouri when William was a young boy.  Neither of his parents, Horatio and Nettie, had any theatrical leanings; his father  was an accountant, and his Irish mother, although musical, had never followed up on those talents. William was an only child and showed an early aptitude for performing, much to his father's concern. That concern became alarm as William grew up and showed no signs of interest in the legal career Horatio had planned for him.circa 1902

In high school in Kansas City, William's interest in all things theatrical blossomed to cover many areas - glee club, drama club, public speaking, cheerleading, even illustrations for his 1910 and 1911 school yearbooks.  
Click here for some yearbook selections.

Following graduation from high school, William left home for New York and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at the age of 18, a venture financed by his aunt, since his father was adamant about contributing money only for law school and nothing else, certainly not acting.  In all fairness, how was Horatio to know that his son would eventually become not only a fine stage actor, but a major Hollywood movie star?!  (A footnote: in 1940 Powell bought his parents a home near his own in Hollywood and Horatio became his business manager.)
Click here for photo of Powell with his parents.

Powell graduated from the AADA in 1912. There followed what can only be described as some very lean years as he worked his way through vaudeville and stock companies.
He met a young actress named Eileen Wilson in one of the companies, and they were married in 1914. (see photos of Ms. Wilson)


Although it soon became apparent that the marriage was not working out, it would be many years before they were divorced.  There was even a reconciliation in the 20's that produced Powell's only child, William David, born in 1925. (Click here for photo.)   Sadly, the boy was plagued by emotional instability and depression all his life, and committed suicide in 1968 at the age of 43.

Powell in the early days of his stage career              (courtesy Christian Anderson)
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