August 2, 1905– Myrna Loy, a woman who was the very essence of sophistication, was born Myrna Adele Williams was born in rural Montana. She moved to Southern California in 1912 because of her mother’s bad health. In those days it was believed that the sunny warm weather could be good for your health. Loy found work in the chorus that performed live between the features at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. She was first noticed by gay silent screen star Rudolph Valentino who hired her as an extra for his film Pretty Ladies (1925) in which she & a yet to be discovered Joan Crawford were among a bevy of chorus girls dangling from an elaborate chandelier. Based on a still from makeup tests, Warner Bros. changed her name to the more exotic Loy.
Loy’s high pitched voice made her transition to the talkies tough. She was often cast as “Oriental” or Mexican in her first sound films. But, her strong performance in Penthouse (1933) convinced the MGM brass to cast her opposite William Powell in the first of 6 Thin Man films beginning with The Thin Man (1934) playing Martini swilling Nora Charles. The film was a huge success & Loy found well-deserved Hollywood stardom.
Although she appeared pale & raven-haired in her films, Loy was a red-haired & freckle-faced. MGM producer David O. Selznick was concerned with her prominent ears, forcing the studio’s make-up artists to glue them to her head. One can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have your ears glued to your head every day.
She became Hollywood’s go-to perfect wife for any film. Loy was bright, witty & charming in MGM films: Wife vs. Secretary (1936) with Clark Gable & Jean Harlow, & Petticoat Fever (1936) with Robert Montgomery. She made 4 films in a row with William Powell: the delightful Libeled Lady (1936), along with Harlow & Spencer Tracy, The Great Ziegfeld (1936), playing Billie Burke opposite Powell’s Florenz Ziegfeld, & the next Thin Man film, After The Thin Man (1937). Loy was one of Hollywood’s busiest, most popular & highest paid actresses in the 1930s.
She took a break from making films during WW2, except to play Nora Charles again, devoting herself to the war effort, doing Red Cross work & selling those war bonds. Loy was so outspoken in her distaste of the Nazis that her name made Hitler’s special enemies blacklist.
She returned to the movies in 1946 making such terrific, entertaining films as The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946), Song Of The Thin Man (1947) the last of the series, 2 comedies with Cary Grant: The Bachelor & The Bobby-Soxer (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), The Red Pony (1949) a western with Robert Mitchum, Cheaper By The Dozen (1950) & its sequel Belles On Their Toes (1952) with gay actor Clifton Webb.
Always a proud liberal, Loy became more involved with leftist politics & only acted occasionally for the rest of her life. She was a good close personal friend of Franklin Roosevelt & traveled on speaking engagements with his wife Eleanor. From 1949-1954 she served as the film advisor for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization) & as a consultant to the National Committee Against Discrimination In Housing. Loy spoke out openly & fiercely in favor Civil Rights for all Americans.
Loy aged gracefully, retaining her beauty, & occasionally found work in films as a refined older lady. She gave great supporting performances in Midnight Lace (1960) with Doris Day, From The Terrace (1960) with Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, The April Fools (1969) with Jack Lemmon & Catherine Deneuve, & played a delightful Jim Beam & Olympia Beer swilling drunk in the campy Airport ’75. Her final film was Sidney Lumet’s Just Tell Me What You Want (1980). That’s correct; Loy worked in show biz for 55 years, acting in more than 130 films of every genre. She made her Broadway debut in 1973, at 68 years old, in a revival of Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women.
Like her good friend, Cary Grant, she never received an Oscar for acting. In an effort spearheaded by gay actor Roddy McDowall, Loy received a special honorary Academy Award in 1991.
Loy married 4 times, plus she had affairs with Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard & most possibly with Joan Crawford.
Myrna Loy lost a battle with cancer in December 1993, at 88 years old. A class act, deserving of being The Husband’s favorite movie star. He has the best of taste.