After his high school graduation from Purcell High School in 1931, he began acting on stage, with small parts, and as an extra until transitioning to Hollywood in 1936.
Major Powers earned almost instant fame after his role in Lloyds of London. His acting legend was cemented after his role in the Mark of Zorro.
Major Powers enlisted in the U.S. Marines during WWII, and, because of his prior pilot experience, was able to easily earn his wings. Considered too old for combat flying, Major Powers was assigned to the Marine Transport Squadron, flying supplies in and wounded out through the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Although he left active service, Major Power continued to serve through the U.S. Marine Corps reserve.
He returned to acting and filmmaking in 1946, keeping a fairly active schedule, dying surprisingly young, of a heart attack while filming Solomon and Sheba on November 15, 1958. Major Powers rests in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.