MYRNA LOY Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Myrna Loy                                                                         
Birth name: Myrna Adele Williams                                                         
Born: 2 August 1905 Radersburg, Montana, United States                                   
Died: 14 December 1993 New York City, New York, United States                           
Myrna Loy (August 2, 1905 - December 14, 1993) was an American motion picture           
actress. Her most famous role was as Nora Charles, wife of detective Nick               
Charles (William Powell), in The Thin Man series. In 1938 she was voted the "Queen       
of Hollywood" in a contest which also voted Clark Gable the "King".                     
She was born Myrna Adele Williams in Radersburg, Montana (near Helena), the             
daughter of Welsh rancher David Franklin Williams and his wife, Della Mae. Loy's         
first name came from a train station whose name her father liked. Her father was         
also a banker and real estate developer and the youngest man ever elected to the         
Montana state legislature. Her mother studied music at the American Conservatory         
of Music in Chicago.                                                                     
Myrna Williams made her stage debut at age 12 in Helena's Marlow Theater in a           
dance she choreographed based on "The Blue Bird" from the Rose Dream Operetta.           
She moved to the Palms district of Los Angeles, California when she was 13,             
after her father's death. She attended the Westlake School for Girls in Los             
Angeles's Holmby Hills neighborhood. At 15 she began appearing in local stage           
productions. She went to Venice High School in Venice, California.                       
In 1921 she posed for Harry Winebrenner's statue titled "Spiritual", which               
remained in front of Venice High School throughout the 20th century and can be           
seen in the opening scenes of the film Grease (1978). The statue was vandalized         
in recent years, but a restoration is planned.                                           
Myrna Loy in one of her early film roles, in the 1926 film Across the Pacific           
Natacha Rambova, the second wife of Rudolph Valentino, arranged a screen test           
for Loy which she failed. She kept auditioning and in 1925 appeared in the               
Rambova-penned movie What Price Beauty? opposite Rambova and Nita Naldi. Her             
silent film roles were mainly those of vampish exotic women. For a few years she         
struggled to overcome this stereotype with many producers and directors                 
believing that while she was perfect as femmes fatales she was capable of little         
Her breakthrough occurred with the advent of talkies: in fact she actually               
appeared in the very first talking picture, 1927's The Jazz Singer, albeit as an         
uncredited chorus girl. In 1929 she improvised a "foreign" accent, sang and             
danced in Warner Brothers' first musical The Desert Song (1929). Loy later               
commented on the film's success and noted " kind of solidified my exotic           
non-American image". She was quickly cast in a number of early lavish                   
Technicolor musicals including The Show of Shows (1929), The Bride of the               
Regiment (1930) and Under A Texas Moon (1930). Loy became associated with               
musicals and when they went out of favor with the public, late in 1930, her             
career went into a slump.                                                               
In 1934 she appeared in Manhattan Melodrama with Clark Gable and William Powell.         
When the gangster John Dillinger was shot to death after leaving a screening of         
the film it received widespread publicity with some newspapers reporting that           
Loy had been Dillinger's favorite actress. Loy later expressed distaste for the         
manner in which the film studio had exploited Dillinger's death.                         
After appearing with Ramón Novarro in The Barbarian (1933), Loy landed the part         
that established her as a major actress, Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934).           
The director W. S. Van Dyke chose Loy after he realized that she possessed a wit         
and sense of humor that had not been displayed in her previous films. At a               
Hollywood party, he pushed her into a swimming pool to test her reaction, and           
felt that her aplomb in handling the situation was exactly what he envisioned           
for Nora. Louis B. Mayer at first refused to allow Loy to play the part, saying         
that she was a dramatic actress only, but Van Dyke insisted. Mayer relented on           
the condition that filming be completed within three weeks as Loy was committed         
to start filming Stamboul Quest (1934). The Thin Man became one of the year's           
biggest hits, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Loy               
received excellent reviews and was acclaimed for her comedic skills. She and her         
costar William Powell proved to be a popular screen couple and appeared in 14           
films together, the most prolific pairing in Hollywood history. Loy later               
referred to The Thin Man as the film "that finally made me... after more than 80         
Her success in Manhattan Melodrama and The Thin Man marked a turning point in           
her career and she was cast in more important pictures, and was given the               
opportunity to develop her comedic skills in films such as Wife vs. Secretary (1936)     
with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow and Petticoat Fever (1936) with Robert                 
Montgomery. She made four films in close succession with William Powell: Libeled         
Lady (1936), which also starred Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow, The Great                 
Ziegfeld (1936), in which she played Billie Burke opposite Powell's Florenz             
Ziegfeld, the second "Thin Man" film, After the Thin Man, and the romantic               
comedy Double Wedding (1937). She also made three more films with Clark Gable.           
Parnell was an historical drama and one of the most poorly received films of             
either Loy's or Gable's career, but their other pairings in Test Pilot and Too           
Hot to Handle (both 1938) were successes.                                               
During this period, Loy was one of Hollywood's busiest and highest paid                 
actresses, and in 1937 and 1938 she was listed in the annual "Quigley Poll of           
the Top Ten Money Making Stars", which was compiled from the votes of movie             
exhibitors throughout the U.S. for the stars that had generated the most revenue         
in their theaters over the previous year.                                               
By this time Loy was highly regarded for her performances in romantic comedies           
and she was anxious to demonstrate her dramatic ability, and was cast in the             
lead female role in The Rains Came (1939) opposite Tyrone Power. She filmed             
Third Finger, Left Hand (1940) with Melvyn Douglas and appeared in I Love You           
Again (1940), Love Crazy (1941) and Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), all with             
William Powell.                                                                         
With the outbreak of World War II, she all but abandoned her acting career to           
focus on the war effort and worked closely with the Red Cross. She was so               
fiercely outspoken against Adolf Hitler that her name appeared on his blacklist.         
She helped run a Naval Auxiliary Canteen and toured frequently to raise funds.           
She returned to films with The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946, playing the wife         
of returning serviceman Fredric March. In later years, Loy considered this film         
her proudest acting achievement. Throughout her career, she had championed the           
rights of black actors and characters to be depicted with dignity on film.               
Loy was paired with Cary Grant in David O. Selznick's comedy film The Bachelor           
and the Bobby-Soxer (1947). The film co-starred a teenage Shirley Temple.               
Following its success she appeared again with Grant in Mr. Blandings Builds His         
Dream House (1948), and with Clifton Webb in Cheaper by the Dozen (1950).               
Her film career continued sporadically afterwards. In 1960, she appeared in             
Midnight Lace and From the Terrace, but was not in another until 1969 in The             
April Fools. She also returned to the stage, making her Broadway debut in a             
short-lived 1973 revival of Clare Boothe Luce's The Women. Loy had two                   
mastectomies in 1975 and 1979, but survived breast cancer.