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Mala Powers
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actress
Was Actor Television actor Film actor Stage actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender female
Birth 20 December 1931, San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, USA
Death 11 June 2007, Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, USA (aged 75 years)
Star sign Sagittarius
The details (from wikipedia)


Mary Ellen "Mala" Powers (December 20, 1931 – June 11, 2007) was an American film and television actress.

Early life

Powers was born in San Francisco, California. In 1940, her family moved to Los Angeles. Her father was an executive with United Press. Her mother was a minister. Powers later told a reporter, "I've worked in show business since I've been seven."

In the summer of her relocation, Powers attended the Max Reinhardt Junior Workshop, where she enjoyed her first role in a play before a live audience. She continued with her drama lessons, and a year later she auditioned and won a part in the 1942 Little Tough Guys film Tough as They Come.


At the age of 16, Powers began working in radio drama, before becoming a film actress in 1950.


Powers' first movie roles were in Outrage and Edge of Doom in 1950. That same year, Stanley Kramer signed Powers to star opposite Jose Ferrer in what may be her most-remembered role, as Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her part in this movie.

While on a USO entertainment tour in Korea in 1951, she contracted a blood disease and nearly died. She was treated with chloromycetin, but a severe allergic reaction resulted in the loss of much of her bone marrow. Powers barely survived, and her recovery took nearly nine months.

She began working again in 1952, including the lead in Rose of Cimarron (1952) and co-starring roles in City Beneath the Sea (1953) and City That Never Sleeps (1953), although she was still taking medication.

Following her recovery, she appeared in Bengazi (1955) and B-movie westerns, such as Rage at Dawn (1955), The Storm Rider (1957), and Sierra Baron (1958), and science fiction films, among them The Unknown Terror (1957), The Colossus of New York (1958), Flight of the Lost Balloon (1961), and Doomsday Machine (1972). She also had large roles in Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) and Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969).

In 1957, she was cast in Man on the Prowl with James Best, Ted deCorsia, and Vivi Janiss.


She appeared in more than one hundred television series episodes, including Appointment with Adventure, Crossroads, The Restless Gun, Bourbon Street Beat, The Rebel, Maverick (in an episode called "Dutchman's Gold" with Roger Moore), The Everglades, Bonanza, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (The Virtue Affair), Mission: Impossible, Bewitched as Adrienne Sebastian, The Wild Wild West, The Silent Force, Cheyenne episodes "Alibi for the Scalped Man" (1960) and "Trouble Street" (1961), and in the Wanted: Dead or Alive episode "Till Death do us Part", with Steve McQueen.

In 1962, she portrayed the part of Loretta Opel, a woman with leprosy, in the episode "A Woman's Place" on CBS's Rawhide.

On CBS's Perry Mason courtroom drama, Powers made five appearances in the 1950s and 60s. She was cast as defendant Clair Allison in the 1959 episode "The Case of the Deadly Toy". She also played defendant June Sinclair in the 1960 episode, "The Case of the Crying Cherub". Her most memorable role was as defendant Susan Brent, friend of Perry's secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale), in the 1962 episode "The Case of the Weary Watchdog". In 1964 she portrayed murderer Helen Bradshaw in "The Case of the Frightened Fisherman", and in 1966 she played murder victim Elaine Bayler in "The Case of the Scarlet Scandal".

Powers played the recurring character of Mona during the final season of Hazel (1965–66).

In 1971, Powers was cast, along with Mike Farrell and June Lockhart, opposite Anthony Quinn in the first of the fifteen episodes of the NBC television series The Man and the City.


Powers narrated Follow the Star, a Christmas album from RCA Victor.


Powers was a successful children's author of Follow the Star and Follow the Year and Dial a Story. She also revised and edited two books by Enid Blyton after the author's death.

Personal life

She was married to Monte Vanton in 1954, they divorced in 1962; they had a son, Toren Vanton. Powers remarried in 1970 to M. Hughes Miller, a book publisher who died in 1989.

Powers was a Democrat who was supportive of Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.

Michael Chekhov Acting Technique

Powers trained directly under Michael Chekhov for many years during her time in Hollywood in both group and private sessions. Over this period of time, Powers and Chekhov grew very close, and after his death she was named executrix of the Chekhov estate. She took it upon herself to continue the development and proliferation of the Chekhov Technique throughout the United States and the world. Powers was instrumental in publishing Chekhov's books On the Technique of Acting, To the Actor, and The Path of the Actor. She also published Chekhov's audio series "On Theatre and the Art of Acting", to which she added a 60-page study guide. She co-narrated with Gregory Peck a documentary on Chekhov entitled "From Russia To Hollywood" which was co-produced by her colleague Lisa Loving.

National Michael Chekhov Association (NMCA)

From 1993 to 2006 Powers taught the Chekhov Technique during the summer acting program at the University of Southern Maine for the Michael Chekhov Theatre Institute, training actors and teachers of acting. It was during this time that Powers co-founded the National Michael Chekhov Association (NMCA) with teaching colleagues Wil Kilroy and Lisa Dalton, who continue to teach the curriculum developed by the trio in Maine.


Powers died from complications of leukemia on June 11, 2007, at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California. She was survived by her son, Toren Vanton. Shortly before her death, she had been on a lecture tour at universities.

She was patron of the Michael Chekhov Studio in London. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6360 Hollywood Boulevard. She was cremated at the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Memorial Park and her ashes returned to family.

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Stars over Hollywood Command Performance

Partial filmography

  • Tough As They Come (1942) as Esther Clark (uncredited)
  • Edge of Doom (1950) as Julie
  • Outrage (1950) as Ann Walton
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) as Roxane
  • Rose of Cimarron (1952) as Rose of Cimarron
  • City Beneath the Sea (1953) as Terry McBride
  • City That Never Sleeps (1953) as Sally 'Angel Face' Connors
  • Geraldine (1953) as Janey Edwards
  • The Yellow Mountain (1954) as Nevada Wray
  • Rage at Dawn (1955) as Laura Reno
  • Bengazi (1955) as Aileen Donovan
  • The Storm Rider (1957) as Tay Rorick
  • Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) as Barbara Bissle
  • The Unknown Terror (1957) as Gina Matthews
  • Death in Small Doses (1957) as Val Owens
  • Man on the Prowl (1957) as Marian Wood
  • The Colossus of New York (1958) as Anne Spensser
  • Sierra Baron (1958) as Sue Russell
  • Fear No More (1961) as Sharon Carlin
  • Flight of the Lost Balloon (1961) as Sharon Carlin
  • Rogue's Gallery (1968) as Maggie
  • Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969) as Meg Stone
  • Doomsday Machine aka Escape from Planet Earth (1972) as Major Georgianna Bronski
  • Where the Wind Dies (1976)
  • Six Tickets to Hell (1981)
  • Hitters (2002) as Mama Theresa
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 27 Jul 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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