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William Powell Fell Terribly Ill After Losing His Soulmate

William Powell made marriage appear enjoyable in his role as Nick Charles, half of the crime-fighting team, Nick and Nora. When the two got together to do what they do best, they looked immaculately put together. Their depiction of marriage was so blissful and convincing that fans began to consult them on marriage issues. Little did they know that what they saw William portray on screen was the exact opposite of how his marriage turned out. Join FactsVerse as we take you on the journey of how William Powell fell terribly ill after losing his soulmate.

Powell, for one, didn’t enjoy so much of a long, happy marriage till after he had exhausted his youthfulness. His first two marriages failed, and he suffered the worst heartbreak of his life with the death of Jean Harlow. However, he eventually found light at the end of his marriage tunnel during the last decades of his life.

His first marriage was to actress Eileen Wilson, with whom he had William David Powell, his only son. William was only 23 years old when he married Eileen, who was 19 at the time. Their marriage lasted for 15 years before they both called it quits. He attributed his decision to end things with Eileen to noticing that the playboys and playgirls he was surrounded by seemed happy, although they were single.

On the other hand, he was more lonely despite being married. Almost a year after getting divorced from Eileen, William soon found his heart beating insanely hard for Carole Lombard, who also happened to be an actress, just like his ex-wife. The two first met on the set of Man of the World and soon found delight in each other’s company. Lombard had been a long-time admirer of Powell for his good looks and acting talents.

 “The day I met Carole, I had the same feeling as a 16-year-old boy on his first date,”, Powell’s exact words when he first set eyes on Lombard. Before long, their friendship turned into long dinner dates, and that escalated into pure desire. On June 6, 1931, Powell and Lombard became officially married at Lombard’s home in Beverly Hills. While it was a perfect union, the demands of twin careers in Hollywood caused long separations, and the pair amiably divorced after less than three years. Despite their deep affection, they realized they were best suited as friends. While it is rare to see a divorced couple become close friends, Powell and Lombard made it look relatively easy. So easy that the two appeared in a romantic movie together, playing the lead roles three years after their divorce. They team up again on screen in 1936’s screwball comedy My Man Godfrey. Not only did their joint performance amaze fans, but also their collaboration earned them Academy Award nominations.  

Jean Harlow was born initially as Harlean Carpenter and is known as the blonde bombshell who paved the way for other blond bombshells in Hollywood today. Surprisingly, both Jean and William were raised in Kansas City but never knew each other until they met as performers in Hollywood. Speculations about Jean Harlow and William Powell entered the atmosphere during 1934; whiles Jean was married to Rosson. Fans of the stars were rooting for them to be together so much that the hype soon began to manifest. Their fans were super excited when both Powell and Harlow featured in Reckless (1935), in which Powell’s character, Ned, falls madly in love with Mona, Harlow’s character. Initially, Joan Crawford was cast to play Mona, but the production company decided to cast Harlow to ride on the excitement over the Powell/Harlow hype. In the film’s trailer, the couple is referred to as “Hollywood’s most talked about couple.” In the movie, Ned follows his heart and asks Mona to marry him. He buys her a ring as proof of his affection but later reads in the news that Mona had eloped with her lover. The catastrophe of heartbreak sets in and Ned becomes devastated to the point that he takes to alcohol.

Harlow had already made a name for herself in Hollywood before they met.

In 1933, she appeared as the sultry blonde movie star Lola Burns in the pre-code film Bombshell. The character has to deal with the responsibilities of being an on-screen sex goddess and a movie vamp, including dealing with a parasitic family. Coincidentally or not, some of the movie’s themes resonated with Harlow’s own experiences.

At age 23, Harlow had been married three times before meeting William Powell in 1934. Although he was a full 19 years her senior, by Hollywood standards, that is not an unusual age difference. In Hollywood romances, the age gap can range from 20 to 40 years.

Powell, on the other hand, had previously been married twice.

With each passing day, the public’s interest in their love story grew stronger. The media pounced on any public display of affection between them. “Will hugged and kissed Jean when she arrived at the airport.” “What does that mean?” The couple seemed to be the subject of unending fascination. A biography of Jean Harlow wouldn’t be complete unless it discussed her relationship with William Powell.

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Fans couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw Harlow’s finger adorned with a large, flashy, and exquisitely beautiful ring featuring a 152-carat star sapphire and a few tiny diamonds. It sparked a new level of debate in the media. People close to her claimed it was a gift from her mother, while fans of the stars interpreted it as a sign of their devotion.

Most of the time, they remained vague when it came to the ring, only grinning when prompted. Powell decided to downplay the controversy by telling a reporter that the diamond ring was actually a gift from Jean’s mother. But to die-hard fans, the signs of the relationship between the two were too obvious to be ignored.

In addition, Powell had a bracelet made especially for her, with charms depicting her two Persian cats.

Media coverage of their romance was so intense that they lost all privacy in their daily routines. Documentation of everything they did and saw was fed to the masses, who only craved more. Like the media, Harlow yearned to be with Powell. The only problem was that Rosson was still her husband. With fans aware of Harlow’s marriage to Rosson, they came up with the craziest of ideas: eloping with Powell. Suggestions that Harlow and Powell might run away together were about as steamy as it got for this couple.

According to a late 1936 newspaper tidbit, they were “shopping for kitchen equipment” in Santa Barbara, “a hundred miles from Hollywood.”

Harlow eventually got separated from Rosson, and in June 1945, the coupled became officially divorced.

Just when everyone thought that Harlow’s divorce from Rosson would finally allow her to have a relationship with Powell, another obstacle was put in the way of that. An amendment to the contract she signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer prohibited her from marrying Powell. Because both actors were signed to MGM, they were powerless in their efforts to find true love. Harlow gained a reputation as a prominent sex symbol in Hollywood, and since he was signed to MGM, keeping her as a sex symbol became their top priority. Unfortunately, MGM decided it would be best if she never got married for the foreseeable future since a wife couldn’t be a bombshell. So, after her divorce from Rosson, they took action. They feared that her allure as a sexual object would wane once she re-married.  So they included a clause prohibiting her from getting married in her contract. To increase the marketability of their films, MGM, however, took advantage of their relationship.

The Powell-Harlow love story worsened when Harlow fell sick while filming Saratoga (1937). Jean’s pain and vomiting were misdiagnosed by a studio doctor as flu-related repercussions when in fact, they were much more serious. Her illness became so serious that it ended up claiming her life. Harlow passed away unexpectedly at the age of 26 in 1937 due to cerebral swelling caused by extreme kidney failure. While her death caused great shock to the Hollywood community and everyone who was a fan, Powell suffered the worst part of it.

When Harlow died, Powell was plunged into a deep depression and a period of physical and emotional exhaustion. Following the funeral, he withdrew into seclusion. He was so distraught that he fell ill. His ill health was determined to have been caused by rectal cancer. Surgery and experimental radiation therapy helped him recover from the disease within two years. Over the course of a year, due to his health and grief over Jean Harlow’s death, Powell did not appear in any films.

It took him some time to come to terms with the death of the woman he knew to be his soulmate.

However, Powell did find love again with Diana Lewis, who happened to be an actress. It happened that Lewis and Powell were both signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and attended a Beverly Hills luncheon with Mayer and other Hollywood royalty. The two got acquainted and established a bond. From then on, Powell called her “Mousie” whenever he saw her because she reminded him of a little mouse.

They travelled to Palm Springs for the weekend to stay at The Desert Inn not long after establishing their bond. During their weekend away, Powell proposed to Lewis, and on January 5, 1940, they got married in Las Vegas. After their marriage ceremony, Lewis became known as “Mousie” Powell. In 1941, Diane Lewis and William Powell drove to Palm Springs to spend a few days, but they ended up staying for months. They’d discovered the perfect spot to combine work and recreation. The couple moved there permanently when William retired in 1955.

They lived in a Mediterranean-style villa in the Old Las Palmas neighbourhood. It was at the Racquet Club that they found their closest friends and had the most fun.

There you have it. It’s now time to hear from you. Let us know in the comments section what you think about Powell’s love story. And also, let us know your thoughts on whether it’s ethical for media companies to control essential aspects like the marriage of their signees. Remember to show your support by liking this video and subscribing to the channel. Enabling post notifications will ensure that you don’t miss any of our daily uploads. Catch you in the next one.

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