Rock the Oscars: Dick Powell

The Oscars are on March 4.  In the days leading up to them, the Little Rock Culture Vulture will look at Little Rock connections to the Academy Awards over the 90 ceremonies.

First up is Dick Powell.  Though not born in Little Rock, he grew up here and graduated from Little Rock High School when it was on Scott Street (now the East Side Lofts).  He started earning money as a singer in Little Rock churches and masonic lodges before transitioning to nightspots which eventually led to him touring the country with dance bands.

When Hollywood beckoned, he first appeared in light musicals as a singer and dancer.  One of his first non-musical roles was in the  all-star A Midsummer Night’s Dream which earned four Oscar nominations and won two.  He starred opposite future Oscar winners Jimmy Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.  Eventually, he transitioned into film noir roles including playing Phillip Marlowe in 1945’s Murder, My Sweet.  

In 1948, Powell hosted the Oscars ceremony. Gentlemen’s Agreement won Best Picture and two other Oscars that year.  (He was not the first Arkansan to host the Oscars.  In 1938, Van Buren native Bob Burns hosted the ceremony.)  In 1959, he and his then-wife June Allyson were two of the presenters at the Oscars.  That ceremony came in at one hour and 40 minutes in length. It was under-time so the presenters and winners took to the stage floor with dancing as a way to fill time before NBC cut away and aired a documentary on target-shooting.

Powell was one of the stars of 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful.  The film won five Oscars but was not nominated for Best Picture.  It holds the record for the most wins by a film not nominated for Best Picture.

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