Friday, August 2, 2013

Spotlight On: Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy was born Myrna Adele Williams on August 2, 1905, in Radersburg, Montana. Her father was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature. Later on her family moved to Helena where she spent her youth.

When Myrna was 13, her father died of influenza and the family moved to Los Angeles. She attended school in L.A. at the Westlake School for Girls. This is where she caught the acting bug and began acting at the age of 15 when she appeared in local stage productions in order to help support her family. Some of the stage plays were held in the now famous Grauman's Theater in Hollywood.

Myrna Loy

Myrna started her film career at the end of the silent film era playing parts of exotic,Theda Bara like, femme fatales. With the invention of "talkies" Myrna was one of the few stars that successfully made the transition and she was recast into roles of witty, professional women, although she most always had small roles.  Her big break came in 1934 when she was cast as Nora Charles in the highly successful Thin Man series, costarring William Powell, which I reviewed for you last year.

Myrna Loy and William Powell

With the success of the Thin Man series, 6 films in all, Myrna was a big box-office draw. She was popular enough that, in 1936 she was voted number one box-office star by theater owners and in 1938, she was named Queen of the Movies with Clark Gable the king in a nationwide poll of movie goers. She continued to make films through the 40s and 50s but the roles became fewer and fewer throughout the 60s and 70s. One of her last performances was in 1981 on a tv drama called Summer Solstice costarring Henry Fonda.  (Just as a side-note, this was also Henry's last film.)  

Myrna Loy

During WWII, she put her film career on hold to work for the New York Red Cross as assistant head of welfare activities and also arranged entertainment for over 50 military hospitals and worked at stage door canteens. After the war, she was increasingly active in politics. She was a highly respected spokesperson for international social issues. She was the first Hollywood celebrity to work for the UN and was a prominent figure in UNESCO, she also served on the Civil Rights Commission. In the 1950s, she was vocal and influential in her condemnation of Hollywood's 'witch-hunt' blacklisting.

Myrna Loy

During her film retirement, she acted as co-chairman of the Advisory Council of the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing and penned her autobiography 'Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming', which was released in 1987.

Myrna was also a breast cancer survivor as she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer in 1975 and then had to have a second mastectomy in 1979.

(A video of Myrna receiving her honorary Oscar)

During her career, Myrna appeared in 129 motion pictures, but she was one of a handful of great movie stars who was never nominated for an Oscar, although, she did receive an honorary Academy Award in 1990 and a lifetime achievement award by the Kennedy Center in 1988.

She was one of Hollywood's most popular actresses of the 1930s and maintained that stardom for decades. She came to embody the perfect wife, sympathetic, wise and sexy, opposite William Powell, Clark Gable and others. Myrna's characters were the ultimate proof that marriage and companionship could be something fun and exciting.

Myrna Loy

She found being touted as the perfect wife rather amusing given the fact that she had been married four times, all ending in divorce, with no children. She died in surgery after a long illness on December 14, 1993 in New York City, at the age of 88.  She was cremated and her ashes were interred in Forestvale Cemetery in Helena, Montana.


  1. When I was in high school, we were assigned a creative writing project. We were to pick someone who was no longer living as the subject of our poem. Most of us picked celebrities, though most picked extremely famous ones such as Marilyn Monroe. I picked Myrna Loy. Nobody in my class even knew who she was. I read parts of her biography to write the poem (pre-internet days).

    1. Ah, the pre-internet days, whatever did we do. =)

      How lovely that you chose Myrna for your subject. I would love to read your poem some day.

  2. what a beautiful lady. i had never heard of her before ... thanks for sharing.

  3. Fantastic spotlight post! Myrna had the most incredibly piercing, beautiful eyes. Everytime I see her, they standout for me every bit as much as her excellent acting skills do.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. Myrna Loy is one of my favorite actresses. Stunning, sophisticated, and oh so witty! I love her. The Thin Man series is just fabulous! Nick and Nora-- so perfect together!
    ~xoxo, CoriLynn

  5. I saw your comment on the chronically vintage blog and came over to see your blog and Im certainly not disappointed I lover Myrna!

    the old fashioned way

  6. This was a wonderful post! I love these informative pieces as I don't know many of the starlets from the 30s. She was quite hauntingly beautiful too. Wow. That first picture especially!

  7. Dear,
    This was a great story about an astonishing lady.
    It is not only her graceful appearance that makes the spotlight; I'm more interested in her gentle nature, her doing the Civil-duty in WWII, her generosity.. that's what made her the Star.

    She's adorable in every photo you've posted; but the one with fox and pearls AND beautiful hat. :D

    Have a great day

  8. One of the prettiest woman to grace the face of God's green Earth.


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