August 2nd is the birth anniversary of one of the greatest screen actresses ever —
Miss Myrna Loy.
you feel like a nut.
Sometimes, you don’t.
Sometimes you wanna
write a snarky post about:
weirdos in the news,
mediocre cultural trends,
the life of ‘comme ci, comme ça’,
or unexceptional days at the gym.
— all you can think about is a picture in your head —
One that won’t go away,
and you wouldn’t want it to if it could.
There have been a few ( really, very few ) remarkable and unforgettable people in the American cinema over the last 100 years….
People who will always be recognized as essential to what film meant to our culture — even far into the future.
Names of male stars that come to mind include:
And of course, I certainly enjoy their work, especially the Duke’s.
He was ,
and continues to be,
a much admired role model for me.
But I have always had a strong fascination with a group of Hollywood divas who project a certain je ne sais quoi —
— a grace, charm, and the ability to make my jaw drop when they appear on screen.
Anna May Wong,
Yvonne DeCarlo —
….. the list starts to get longer,
once I start thinking about it.
But my favorite–
the woman who makes me stand up
and take notice every time
she shows up on screen, is Myrna Loy.
Myrna played every kind of role imaginable in her 50-some years in Hollywood,
— and she could go from the sweet girl-next-door
to sultry, strong and sexy–
in a New York second.
Her love of fun and her sense of humor was legendary in a town that could get pretty wild on it’s own —
She was a natural on and off the camera.
In 1991, she was given an honorary Academy Award for:
“her extraordinary qualities both on screen and off,
… with appreciation for a lifetime’s worth of indelible performances“.
Myrna was born a Montana girl in 1905,
-and she grew up in Helena-
the Queen City of the Rockies and the State Capital.
As a matter of fact, her father, David Williams,
was the youngest person ever to be elected to the Montana State Legislature.
Unfortunately for the family, 1918 brought a pestilence back from the European war, in the form of the Spanish Influenza Epidemic —
which ended up infecting upwards of 500 million people worldwide —
Her father died from it that year,
…. and the family was forced to move to a property they owned near Los Angeles, in Culver City, California.
She described herself later:
“I was a homely kid with freckles that came out every spring and stuck on me till Christmas.”
Once in California, Myrna got involved in amateur drama productions,
–while continuing to study dance —
something she very much enjoyed while living in Montana.
The private school which she was attending, however, objected to her participation in these creative outlets,
… and eventually, she enrolled in Venice Public High School in order to continue them.
One of the things Myrna is still remembered for there–
is that, at age 17, in 1921, she posed for a famous statue —
— called ” Fountain of Education ” by Harry Fielding Winebrenner,
And that statue —
( technically, a bronze duplicate of the original cement figure )
still stands on the Venice campus today.
The piece, described at the time by the Los Angeles Times as a:
“vision of purity, grace, youthful vigor, and aspiration”,
…. couldn’t have been modeled by a more perfect girl —
she, herself would have later argued the point:
…. although she was considered by many to project the very image of a ‘perfect wife’ as Nora Charles in the Thin Man series.
” Some perfect wife I am. I’ve been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can’t boil an egg. “
Well, anyway, perfection can be so….
….. so, boring.
And Myrna was never that.
Honest, funny, gorgeous, vital, self-aware, enthusiastic, sensual — yes.
Rudolph Valentino was instrumental in getting Myrna her first ‘big break’ in moving pictures,
and by 1925, she was working in bit parts for Warner Brothers Studios.
The studio changed her last name to Loy,
and they started casting her as a mysterious femme fatale in films like “The Mask of Fu Manchu” and “Thirteen Women” —
She made over 80 films between 1925 and 1934, including “Manhattan Melodrama”–
— a popular gangster film–
and the film John Dillinger went to see, right before he was shot dead by FBI agents, at the Biograph theatre in Chicago.
Of course, the role that changed her whole acting career came in 1934- the year she was cast as Nora Charles in the “Thin Man”, with William Powell.
This pairing with Powell resulted in what people back then called ‘Pure Chemistry’ —
And they would end up making 5 Thin Man movies,
and a total of 14 films together.
She remembered the role very fondly :
added to her charm, wit, and sense of humor came across wonderfully in those “Thin Man” movies–
….. and Myrna became an important star in high demand.
She obviously enjoyed working with William Powell,
… and they were great friends off screen as well:
” I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell.
He was a brilliant actor, a delightful companion, a great friend and, above all, a true gentleman. “
But, according to both Myrna and Wm. Powell– never lovers.
if that’s the case,
I can’t help but feel sorry for William Powell.
Because when someone puts the words “incredibly” and “sexy” together ,
my mind instantly goes to an image of Myrna Loy.
Myrna Loy created a body of work that very few actresses will ever be able to match,
in terms of comedic and dramatic quality —
Her death at age 88 in 1993,
closed a life that was full of adventure, challenges, and joy.
— She always had lived her life by her motto :
“Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.”
When I think of Myrna,
I remember a quote of hers when she was describing why she loved playing Nora Charles…..
And I’ve always been struck by just how much she might have been describing her self.
” Nora had a gorgeous sense of humor;
She appreciated the distinctive grace of her husband’s wit.
She laughed at him, and with him when he was funny.
What’s more, she laughed at herself.
Besides having tolerance, she was a good guy.
She was courageous and interested in living–
— and she enjoyed doing all the things she did.
You understand, she had a good time, always. “
And may that be said of all of us, my friends.
PS: If you’re enjoyed this post, please drop me a comment and let me know.
If you didn’t ….
well, feel free to keep that to yourself.