Hollywood marries Tunica

May of 1958 was not an exciting year in world politics or national news. Movies like Vertigo and Dracula were hits in the theaters. Many young ladies around the mid south were probably still thinking of singer Elvis Presley who had been inducted into the army in March. Television hits included Gunsmoke and I love Lucy. Number one songs on the radio were Witch Doctor by David Seville and Twilight Zone by the Platters.

Tunica, Mississippi was in the midst of another hot summer like so many before. Farmers were busy and local merchants provided their wares for needy families. It was all too normal until that day on May 7th, 1958 when a Hollywood star married a local girl in the Tunica Presbyterian Church. The groom was Tyrone Power, world famous actor of stage and film and the bride was Deborah Montgomery Minardos. They were married by Pastor T. T. Williams. Mrs. Rice Hungerford II, mother of the bride, gave her daughter away while Deborah’s step father served as best man. Soon after the couple left for Memphis where they caught a flight for Los Angeles. Everything had been done secretly to keep the media and prying eyes away.

The whirlwind romance of Power and Deborah had begun about a year earlier when the pair had met over lunch in Hollywood. She was getting divorced from Nico Minardos, a Greek actor that moved to Los Angeles. Tyrone Power had already been married several times and had been divorced since 1955 when he became smitten with the young lady from Mississippi.

Deborah Ann Montgomery was born November 30, 1931 and graduated Cleveland High School. She later attended the University of Mississippi before briefly moving to Tunica where her mother married Rice Hungerford. Deborah’s birth father was Jeff Smith who was a mail carrier in Jackson. The big brown eyed young lady was evidently very attractive to the opposite sex and even dated Elvis Presley briefly.

Tyrone Power was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 5, 1914 into an acting family. His parents were English born stage and screen actor Frederick Tyrone Edmond Power and actress Emma Reaume. The family soon moved to California where the couple continued their career. Unfortunately Tyrone’s parents divorced around 1920 and the elder Power passed away from a heart attack in 1931. Saddened but determined by his father’s death, Tyrone began an acting career on stage in New York. Hollywood scouts eventually offered him a chance to appear on the big screen. In 1936 he was signed with 20th Century Fox and would be one of their leading men for years to come. Power starred in dozens of movies from romantic comedies to action and dramas throughout the 30s and 40s. Some of his more well known films were Yank in the R.A.F. and The Mask of Zorro. Tyrone was one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors when he married French actress Annabella on April 23, 1939. His movie career was put on the back burner by World War II when he enlisted in the Marine Corp in August 1942. After boot camp the daring actor was selected for Officer’s Candidate School and promoted to Second Lieutenant on June 2, 1943. Because he had logged so many flying hours before enlisting he earned his wings after a brief training program and promoted to First Lieutenant. Power served in the Pacific theater flying supplies and wounded out. After the war ended he returned to Hollywood but his personal life had suffered during the time away. Tyrone’s first marriage ended in 1949, but his career was taking off again. After flying his personal plane on an around the world trip he married a beautiful starlet named Linda Christian. The couple would have two daughters, but they separated in 1955. Once again Tyrone turned to work and starred in the stage version of “Mister Roberts” for six months. After filming “The Mississippi Gambler” he became one of the few actors to earn over a million dollars from a role. Power then had a leading part in the in the Agatha Christie film “Witness for the Prosecution.” That would be his last completed work before the marriage to Deborah.

Tyrone Power as Zorro

Mr. and Mrs. Power were the talk of Hollywood. A reporter asked the star why he had gotten married in Tunica? He responded, ” Well, Debbie’s folks live there. You might say for sort of sentimental reasons. They grow a lot of cotton around there. It’s pretty country.”

Tyrone and Deborah in Spain on the film set of Solomon and Sheba

In September 1958 Tyrone and Deborah traveled to Madrid, Spain so he could begin filming the epic “Solomon and Sheba.” They had just learned that Deborah was expecting and the faithful Tyrone was hoping for a boy. Life was really going great. Power had filmed about 75 percent of his scenes when he was stricken with a massive heart attack on November 15, 1958. He was filming a duel and actually died on the way to the hospital. The movie would be completed by adding in scenes with Yul Brynner. The show must go on.

Tyrone Power was buried at Hollywood Cemetery. His tombstone is in the form of a marble bench. There is also a quote from Shakespeare ending in “Goodnight Sweet Prince.”

Deborah gave birth to Tyrone William Power IV on January 22, 1959. Later that year Mrs. Deborah Power married film producer Arthur Loew Jr. in Las Vegas. The couple would have a son but their marriage only lasted a short time. Deborah would pass away on April 3, 2006 from complications of a stroke. Although Tyrone and Deborah Power were only married a short time, the couple’s story became a page of the Delta’s history.

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