A Centennial Tribute to Myrna Loy
Although she was once known as “The Perfect Wife” (a phrase she didn’t much care for) after her portrayals of William Powell’s wife in theThin Man series, Fredric March’s wife in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Cary Grant’s wife in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), and Clifton Webb’s wife in Cheaper By the Dozen (1950), Myrna Loy was much more than that.
To my mind, whether playing a wife or not, she was simply a class act, both on and off the screen.
Born Myrna Williams on August 2, 1905 in Radersburg, Montana, her father named her after a train station! The youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature, her father died when she was 13, and her mother moved the family to Los Angeles, where she started acting at the age of 15 in local theatre productions.
After five years spent in chorus lines and plays, she made her screen debut in 1925 (after being “discovered” by Rudolph Valentino’s wife, who saw her in a stage play), appearing in small parts in four films that year. Among them was What Price Beauty, in which she took the type of vampy role for which she became known during the silent era. Her exotic, almost Oriental appearance kept her working regularly throughout the 1920s. She became a contract player for Warner Brothers in 1926, and then later for MGM, who finally gave her the part that put her on the map, as Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934). (Don’t miss the newly released Complete Thin Man Collection on DVD.)
Within two years, she was named Queen of the Movies in a nationwide poll (Clark Gable was King). She gave up acting during World War II in order to devote herself to the war effort through the Red Cross, then after the war appeared in the Oscar-winning The Best Years of Our Lives, opposite Fredric March, in 1946. Other significant films during this period included The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and Cheaper by the Dozen (1950). She also made five Thin Man sequels. She appeared on screen and on TV sparingly after the 1950s, but acted often in stage plays starting in 1963. She was a founding member of the non-profit American Place Theatre, formed to help in the development of new writers.
A staunch Democrat, she served as a film advisor for UNESCO from 1949 to 1954 and an advisor to the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. She co-founded The Committee for The First Amendment in order to battle against HUAC during the 50s witch hunts, and later campaigned for Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy. She was married and divorced four times, the last time from 1951 to 1960.
Though she was never nominated for an acting Oscar, she received an honorary award in 1991, two years before her death (unfortunately she was unable to attend the ceremony personally). She passed away during surgery on December 14, 1993 in New York City.
Myrna Loy was a remarkable lady and a wonderful actress, for whom many very nice Web sites have been created. Many of them are listed in Part II of this article, which has been updated as a celebration of the centennial of her birth.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Myrna Loy Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters