Introducing…Myrna Loy

Since most of my friends and family are not classic film fans, I thought I would start a new series in which I introduce actors and actresses from this era, in the hope that it will familiarize you with famous names and perhaps whet your appetite for their films.

Personal Bio:Myrna Williams was born in Helena, Montana in 1905. Her father was a successful businessman and state congressman. After his death in 1918 her mother permanently moved the family to southern California where Myrna attended high school in Venice. She was the model for a sculpture which was displayed outside of the high school for many decades. Her portrait caught the eye of famous silent film star Rudolph Valentino which eventually led to her gaining work in silent films, changing her last name to Loy.

Myrna was not only an actress but was a lifelong Democrat who was actively involved in political issues through out her life. She put her career on hold in WWII to work with the Red Cross and was so vehemently outspoken against Hitler that she was placed on his blacklist. She was an early supporter of civil rights not only fighting for their rights to be depicted with dignity on film but also serving as a co-chairman on a committee which fought against housing discrimination. She was one of the first celebrities to work with the U.N.

Contrary to her film image as the perfect wife, Myrna was married and divorced four times and joked about how her screen image was very different than her personal life. Due to an abortion early in her life she was never able to have children of her own. Loy identified as a Methodist throughout her life.

Film Bio: Myrna Loy appeared in over 130 films in various genres over the course of six decades. She began in silent films and is one of a few actresses who successfully transitioned into talking pictures. At the beginning of her career she was typecast as an exotic femme fatale, usually playing women of Asian or Eurasian descent as well as questionable morals. In the mid 1930’s, she transitioned into more respectable roles as the “perfect” wife, society woman or glamorous career gal. At one point in the thirties she was voted along with Clark Gable as the king and queen of Hollywood. She was one of the most popular and well-liked actresses prior to WWII.

After the war, Myrna returned to films while also continuing with her political work. Although she was a prolific and well-respected actress, sadly she was never nominated for an Academy Award.  This egregious oversight was corrected in 1991 when she was awarded an honorary Oscar for “career achievement.”

Famous Co-stars

  • William Powell -Without question Powell is Loy’s most well-known co-star. They appeared in fourteen films together and their pairing in the The Thin Man series catapulted both their names and careers into Hollywood history.

 

  • Clark Gable – Another actor with numerous co-star credits. They appeared in seven films together, some good, some not so good. Initially, they did not get on well together, but eventually became good friends. Despite the quality of some of their films, they have wonderful chemistry.
  • Cary Grant -Loy appeared in three films with Grant. Although Cary Grant is my favorite actor and I am also a fan of Loy, I feel that they were ultimately better matched with other co-stars. Still, you can’t take your eyes off either one of them.

 

Famous Films:

  • The Thin Man (1934) – Arguably, this is the film that made Myrna Loy. It was her second pairing with William Powell and not only was the first of six Thin Man films, but also helped launch many similarly styled mystery films.

 

  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) -One of the best post-war dramas made about the impact of the war on returning service men and their families. This stars Loy as the wife of one of those men and many believe she should have been nominated for her role in this film.

 

My Favorite Films:

  • Penthouse (1933) -I love this film which allows Loy to play somewhere in between a femme fatale and the upstanding lady she would play later in her career. She is a classy call-girl who helps an attorney bring down a gangster.

 

 

 

 

  • Test Pilot (1938) -My favorite of her pairings with Clark Gable (and Spencer Tracy). She is the devoted wife to Gable’s fearless aviation test pilot.

 

 

  • The Rains Came (1939) -A bit of an unusual role for Loy, she plays a married English aristocrat in love with a forbidden Indian doctor (played by the gorgeous, yet very Caucasian Tyrone Power).

 

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  • So Goes My Love (1946) -A rarely seen semi-biographical film about American inventor Hiram Maxim. Loy again plays the wife to Don Ameche‘s Maxim. They are so charming together I can overlook the film’s few flaws.

 

 

Quotes:

Why does every black person in the movies have to play a servant? How about a black person walking up the steps of a courthouse carrying a briefcase?

Some perfect wife I am. I’ve been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can’t boil an egg.

Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.

 

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