William Powell and Michael Arlen: A Meeting of Creative Minds in Hollywood

William Powell

In the bustling, star-studded landscape of Hollywood, memorable encounters between creative giants are not uncommon. One such intriguing meeting took place between British movie director-producer William Powell and the renowned Armenian writer Michael Arlen. This encounter, set against the backdrop of the famed Romanoff’s restaurant, is vividly recounted in Powell’s autobiography, “A Life in Movies”.

The Underappreciated Gem

William Powell, known for his keen eye for literary excellence, struck up a conversation with Arlen about one of his works, “Man’s Mortality”. Powell regarded this novel as a significantly underappreciated piece in the literary world. Interestingly, Arlen, who had achieved considerable fame for his other works, shared Powell’s opinion but didn’t exhibit any visible distress over this lack of recognition.

A Snapshot of the Era

The scene described by Powell in his autobiography paints a vivid picture of the era’s glamour. He recalls both Arlen and his dining companion as the epitome of sophistication, “both of them carefully dressed”, embodying the quintessential Hollywood elegance. This brief description not only highlights the fashion of the time but also subtly reflects the societal norms and expectations of the era’s elite.

Unspoken Admiration

Powell, in his narrative, expresses a quiet admiration for Arlen’s earlier works, including “Venture”, “Piracy”, “These Charming People”, and “Young Men in Love”. However, he confesses that he refrained from voicing this admiration directly to Arlen. Powell’s respect for Arlen’s literary prowess is evident, yet he chose to keep his commendation to himself, a decision that adds a layer of intrigue and modesty to their interaction.

Reflections on Creativity and Legacy

This encounter between Powell and Arlen is more than just a meeting between two individuals. It symbolizes the coming together of different forms of creativity – cinema and literature. Powell’s recognition of Arlen’s less celebrated work speaks to the subjective nature of success and the sometimes ephemeral nature of public acclaim in creative fields.

Furthermore, this meeting is a reminder of the rich cultural and artistic interactions that have always been a hallmark of Hollywood. It serves as a testament to the enduring nature of creative works, regardless of immediate recognition or popularity.


The meeting of William Powell and Michael Arlen at Romanoff’s is a captivating snapshot of Hollywood’s golden era, marked by its elegance, sophistication, and the confluence of creative talents. Powell’s reflections in his autobiography offer a unique glimpse into the world of arts and entertainment, reminding us of the lasting impact of creative endeavors, celebrated or otherwise.


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