Paul Powell (director)

Paul Mahlon Powell (September 6, 1881 – July 2, 1944) was an American journalist, director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. Powell was most active during the silent film era and is best known for directing Mary Pickford in Pollyanna (1920).

Paul Powell
Paul Powell - Dec 1922 ETR.jpg
Powell in 1922
Paul Mahlon Powell

(1881-09-06)September 6, 1881
DiedJuly 2, 1944(1944-07-02) (aged 62)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other namesPaul M. Powell
Alma materBradley Polytechnic Institute
OccupationJournalist, director, producer, screenwriter and actor
Years active1914–1930
Valerie Smith
(m. 1903⁠–⁠1944)


Born in Peoria, Illinois, Powell was one of six children of Charles Henry and Anna Clara Powell (née von Schoenheider). His father was a publisher who founded the Peoria Evening Star. Powell was educated in Peoria and later attended Bradley Polytechnic Institute. After graduation, he worked at his father's newspaper as a typesetter and editor before becoming a reporter.[1]

In the early 1900s, Powell worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Express. In 1910, he quit his job as a reporter to work in the film industry. The following year, he became the assistant of director and screenwriter Wilbert Melville. In 1914, D. W. Griffith hired Powell to be the director of Mutual Film Corporation films. Two years later, Griffith hired Powell to direct features for Triangle-Fine Arts Film Corporation. While working for Triangle-Fine Arts, Powell directed Mary Pickford in the film adaptation of the 1913 novel Pollyanna. The film was a tremendous success and grossed $1.1 million upon its release.[2][3] Powell also supported a young Rudolph Valentino while working on films such as A Society Sensation and All Night, who later recalled "He was the first to say, 'Stick to it and you'll make a name for yourself.'"[4] Valentino later became one of the silent era's most cherished stars.

Powell's final films in the late 1920s and 1930 were musical comedy shorts for Pathé Exchange.


He died in Pasadena, California, on July 2, 1944.[5] He was survived by his wife Valerie Smith (whom he married in 1903), and their daughter Janice. His remains are interred at the Great Mausoleum, Columbarium of Providence at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Selected filmographyEdit

Powell (right) works with actress Constance Talmadge and writer Mary H. O'Connor on the set of A Girl of the Timber Claims


  1. ^ Derby, George; White, James Terry (1947). The National Cyclopædia of American Biography. 33. J. T. White. p. 348.
  2. ^ Fischer, Lucy, ed. (2009). American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations. Rutgers University Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-813-54485-4.
  3. ^ Forster, Merna (2004). 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. Dundurn Press. p. 206. ISBN 1-459-71431-8.
  4. ^ Valentino, Rudolph (April 1923). "My Life Story". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  5. ^ Slide, Anthony (1980). The Kindergarten Of the Movies: A History Of the Fine Arts Company. Scarecrow Press. p. 157. ISBN 0-810-81358-0.

External linksEdit