1940s, '50s Film and TV Actress Mala Powers

By Bob Thomas
Associated Press
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mala Powers, 75, an actress who played Roxane to Jose Ferrer's "Cyrano de Bergerac" in 1950 and starred in other films of the 1940s and 1950s, died June 11 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. She had complications from leukemia.

She was born Mary Ellen Powers in 1931 in San Francisco to journalist parents who moved to Hollywood after losing their jobs. She began training as an actress at an early age and at 11 played in a Bowery Boys movie, "Tough as They Come."

At 19, Ms. Powers appeared opposite Ferrer in "Cyrano de Bergerac," which won him an Academy Award 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 never been treated frankly on the screen due to the industry's self-censorship.

Howard Hughes was impressed by Ms. Powers 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."

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

In her later years, she became an acting teacher. In 2002, she made her final stage appearance in "Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood" at the Laguna Playhouse.

Her marriage to Monte Vanton ended in divorce. Her second husband, book publisher M. Hughes Miller, whom she married in 1970, died in 1989.

Survivors include a son from her first marriage.

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