Mala Powers, star in films of '40s and '50s, dies at 76


Actress Mala Powers, who played Roxanne to Jose Ferrer's "Cyrano de Bergerac" and starred in other films of the 1940s and 1950s, has died of complications from leukemia. She was 76.

Powers died Monday evening at St. Joseph's Hospital in Santa Monica, according to actress Kim Barrett, who was Powers' protegee.

She was born Mary Ellen Powers on Dec. 20, 1931, in San Francisco to journalist parents who moved to Hollywood after losing their jobs. The girl began training as an actress at an early age and at 11 played in a Bowery Boys movie, "Tough as They Come."

At 19, Powers appeared opposite Ferrer in "Cyrano de Bergerac," which won him an Oscar. 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 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 "Storm Rider."

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

In her later years, Powers became a teacher of acting, and appeared at major universities across the country, Barrett said. In 2002, she made her final stage appearance in "Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood" at the Laguna Playhouse.

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