Janet Gaynor, Sonja Henie, Norma Shearer, Lana Turner – were those romances for real, or were they (or some of them) just publicity stunts? What were his marriages to actresses Annabella and Linda Christian (right) like?
Tyrone Power told Sonja Henie, when he wrote to her while she was out of town, that the studio asked him to escort Janet Gaynor around; whether he was telling her the truth or not, I don't know, because Sonja had her hooks into him big time. They had sex all the time in her dressing room, and as one of the scriptwriters on Thin Ice said, when they would emerge, Tyrone would look as if he was ready to keel over! They named each other's genitals – his was Jimmy – and he once wrote her a note from somewhere saying, "Jimmy thinks I'm sick or something."
As far as Janet, she definitely got to know his family, so while he escorted her for the studio, some sort of friendship developed. He also gave her the book Forever [by Mildred Cram], which he gave all his girlfriends, because he wanted to do the movie. I'm sure they at least had a close friendship. His cousin Bill lived with him and the family from 1936-1939 and went back to Cincinnati when his mother was dying and got married. His wife Madge told me that she was in the drama school that Power's mother worked in one day and found a photo of Janet Gaynor autographed to "my darling Billy" (Ty's cousin and her new husband). Madge was jealous, so she threw it out!
He never had a romance with Norma Shearer – by the time he met Norma, he was dating Annabella and he wasn't interested, though she was. Lana Turner was the real thing totally; in fact, I own jewelry that he gave her. She had an abortion of his child. He never was going to marry her, and dumped her for Linda Christian, with whom he fell madly in love. They had a very passionate love and a very volatile relationship. She told a friend of mine that though they had just two children, she was pregnant almost the entire time they were married – she miscarried several times, and one child, a son, was stillborn.
He had a lot of affairs while he was married to Linda Christian (above), including with Anita Ekberg, whom he met when she was an extra on the set of Mississippi Gambler, and that continued for quite a few years. He also had an affair while he was separated from Linda – with Mary Roblee, an editor at Vogue, and he proposed to her. Later on, he was involved with a British actress, Thelma Faye, and then Mai. While he was with Mai, he met his third wife, Debbie. This has all been verified by On the Wing, by Nora Sayre, All Those Tomorrows, by Mai Zetterling, Two Lives in the Theatre, by Thelma Faye, that all deal with the same period, from about 1955-1958.
Annabella [above, Power with her daughter Anne] probably understood him better than anyone else, and he realized later that he was foolish to have let her go. The problem first was the breakout of the war in Europe. Power was working very hard at the studio, and Annabella was near hysterics about her family in France and under constant strain. Later on, Annabella found that she could not have another child and several different surgeries were done, including one at Mount Sinai in NYC. She wrote to him at the end of their marriage "Our little baby, why didn't he ever come? All that hoping, all that praying." It put a terrific strain on the marriage.
He had affairs during the marriage, his big affair was with Judy Garland and over that, he gave into pressure from Judy and actually asked Annabella for a divorce. Annabella refused. After the war, he and Annabella both wanted to try again – he hadn't expected her to want to, but she did. Before he left for the war, he gave her half a heart and said, "Here is my heart." He kept the other half.
What happened with Judy was that Mayer had hired that woman Betty Asher to be Judy's friend and report back to him. On instructions from the studio, she told Judy that Tyrone was reading her love letters out loud in the barracks. This, of course, wasn't true. But that studio-engineered breakup worked. Power wrote later that he couldn't believe how beautiful she was in The Clock, which he saw while he was in the Marines. He regretted losing her.
A lot of people think that he had an affair with Gene Tierney (right, in The Razor's Edge), but he didn't. He had a crush on her and gave her a scarf that said “Love” on it, but nothing transpired.
The best romantic story I ever heard about Power was that Lana Turner gave him a party that he did not want her to give. Corinne Calvet came to the party, and Power started following her around and talking to her. Lana walked in with a pewter coffee pot, and as she walked by Calvet, she pressed the coffee pot into her bare arm. Then she asked, “Coffee anyone?”