A star of stage, screen, radio, and records, the 1930s would have been unquestionably more depressing without Dick Powell as a leading man.
Richard Ewing Powell was born on November 14, 1904 in Mountain View, Arkansas. He began singing as a child, and started out in choirs and local bands. Soon he got his big break as a vocalist with Myron Schultz’s Midwestern territory band, the Royal Peacock Orchestra. Not long after arriving in Indianapolis, he joined Charlie Davis’ orchestra. In 1927, Powell made his first records: “Beautiful” and “Is She My Girl Friend? (How-de-ow-dow)” for Vocalion. Finding success as a a master of ceremonies, he later relocated to Pittsburgh, and then off to Hollywood. When Warner Bros. bought out Brunswick Records—the parent company of Vocalion—in 1930, they offered him a motion picture contract. Thus, he began his ascent to stardom, as a “boy tenor” in musical pictures in the 1930s, then as a hard-boiled tough guy in film noir in the 1940s. He found early success paired with Ruby Keeler in a string of musicals: 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade, Dames, and Flirtation Walk, most of which were choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Later, he went on to portray Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in 1944’s Murder, My Sweet. The aforementioned six titles account for only a small fraction of his extensive career in films. In 1936, Powell married frequent co-star Joan Blondell, and later married June Allyson in 1945. When television came around, Powell got in on it; he hosted Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre and The Dick Powell Show, respectively, from 1956 to 1963. Dick Powell died of cancer on January 2, 1963, speculated to have been the result of radioactivity from nuclear testing near the set of the Howard Hughes film The Conqueror in 1956.
Conqueror 8183 was recorded on May 25, 1933 in New York City. According to Rust, Powell’s accompaniment includes Bunny Berigan, Mannie Klein, Charlie Margulis on trumpet, Russ Morgan or Charlie Butterfield on trombone, Chester Hazlett on clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto sax, and Larry Binyon on tenor sax and flute, among others. Both tunes are hits from one of my favorite movies, the 1933 (if that much doesn’t go without saying) Warner Bros. musical Gold Diggers of 1933, in which Powell starred.
First, Powell sings a bubbly rendition of “Pettin’ in the Park”, complete with sound effects.
On the flip, he sings Gold Diggers’ big hit: the “Shadow Waltz”.