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Mala Powers, 75; starred in `Cyrano,' other 1950s films

June 13, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Actress Mala Powers, who played Roxane to Jose Ferrer's "Cyrano de Bergerac" and starred in other films of the 1950s, has died. She was 75.

Powers died Monday of complications from leukemia at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, according to actress Kim Barrett, who was Powers' protegee.

She was born Mary Ellen Powers in 1931 in San Francisco to journalist parents who moved to Hollywood. She began training as an actress at an early age at Max Reinhardt's Dramatic Workshop and as a preteen had a bit part in a 1942 Bowery Boys movie, "Tough As They Come."

In 1950 Powers appeared opposite Ferrer in "Cyrano de Bergerac," which won him an Oscar for best actor.

Also in 1950, she starred as a rape victim in "Outrage," directed by Ida Lupino. The film created a minor sensation because rape had not been treated frankly on the screen due to the industry's self-censorship.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 22, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Mala Powers obituary: An obituary of actress Mala Powers in the June 13 California section misidentified "Tough As They Come" as a Bowery Boys movie. The film was included in the "Little Tough Guys" series.

Howard Hughes was impressed by Powers' performances and placed her under contract at RKO. Among her films: "Edge of Doom," "Rose of Cimarron," "City Beneath the Sea," "City That Never Sleeps," "Bengazi" and "The Storm Rider."

Powers' movie career dwindled in the late 1950s, but she remained active in radio, stage and television.

In later years Powers became interested in children's stories, writing a Christmas book, "Follow the Star," in 1980 and, five years later, "Follow the Year," which explained holidays to children.

She also wrote and narrated stories for the New York Telephone Co.'s Dial-a-Children's-Story program starting in 1979. The one-minute stories, which could be accessed by dialing a special number, were later available in other markets.

Powers also taught acting, which she had studied while attending UCLA. In 2003, she made her final stage appearance in "Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood" at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach.

Powers is survived by Toren Vanton, her son from her first marriage. Her second husband, publisher M. Hughes Miller, died in 1989.

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