Edit
Myrna Loy Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (3) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (57) | Personal Quotes (28) | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 2 August 1905Radersburg, Montana, USA
Date of Death 14 December 1993New York City, New York, USA  (complications during surgery)
Birth NameMyrna Adele Williams
Nicknames Queen of Hollywood
The Perfect Wife
Queen of the Movies
Minnie
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (3)

At the end of the silent era, Myrna Loy started her career as an exotic, Theda Bara-like femme fatale. Fortunately, she was rescued by the advent of the sound picture, where she was recast in the role of the witty, urbane, professional woman. She is best remembered for her role of Nora Charles opposite William Powell in six "Thin Man" movies (The Thin Man (1934)).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ray Hamel

Born in Helena, Mont. Myrna was educated in Los Angeles and Westlake School for Girls. She had some stage experience in stage prologues at Grauman's Theatre in Hollywood. She was discovered by Mrs. Rudolph Valentino: Natacha Rambova' and given a part in pictures. Her first film was What Price Beauty? (1925).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dave Curbow <Curbow@apple.com>

Myrna Williams, later to become Myrna Loy, was born 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. At the age of 13, Myrna's father died of influenza and the rest of the family moved to Los Angeles. She was educated in L.A. and the Westlake School for Girls where she caught the acting bug. She started 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. Mrs. Rudolph Valentino happened to be in the audience one night who managed to pull some strings to get Myrna some parts in the motion picture industry. Her first film was a small part in the production of What Price Beauty? (1925). Later she appeared the same year in Pretty Ladies (1925) along with Joan Crawford. She was one of the few stars that would start in the silent movies and make a successful transition into the sound era. In the silent films, Myrna would appear as an exotic femme fatale. Later in the sound era, she would become a refined, wholesome character. Unable to land a contract with MGM, she continued to appear in small, bit roles, nothing that one could really call acting. In 1926, Myrna appeared in the Warner Brothers film called Satan in Sables (1925) which, at long last, landed her a contract. Her first appearance as a contract player was The Caveman (1926) where she played a maid. Although she was typecast over and over again as a vamp, Myrna continued to stay busy with small parts. Finally, in 1927, she received star billing in Bitter Apples (1927). The excitement was short lived as she returned to the usual smaller roles afterward. Myrna would take any role that would give her exposure and showcase the talent she felt was being wasted. It seemed that she would play one vamp after another. She wanted something better. Finally her contract ran out with warner and she signed with MGM where she got two meaty roles. One was in the The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933), and the other as Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934) with William Powell. Most agreed that the Thin Man series would never have been successful without Myrna. Her witty perception of situations gave her the image that one could not pull a fast one over on the no-nonsense Mrs. Charles. After The Thin Man (1934), Myrna would appear in five more in the series. Myrna was a big box-office draw. She was popular enough that, in 1936, she was named Queen of the Movies and Clark Gable the king in a nationwide poll of movie goers. Her popularity was at its zenith. She continued to make films through the 40s and 50s but the roles were fewer and fewer. By the 1960's the parts had all but dried up as producers and directors looked elsewhere for talent. In 1960 she appeared in Midnight Lace (1960) and was not in another until 1969 in The April Fools (1969). The 1970s found her in TV movies, not theatrical productions. Her last film was in 1981 called Summer Solstice (1981). By the time Myrna passed away, on December 14, 1993, at the age of 88, she had appeared in a phenomenal 129 motion pictures. She was buried in Helena, Montana.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (4)

Howland H. Sargeant (1 June 1951 - 31 May 1960) (divorced)
Gene Markey (3 January 1946 - 21 August 1950) (divorced)
John Hertz Jr. (6 June 1942 - 21 August 1944) (divorced)
Arthur Hornblow Jr. (27 June 1936 - 1 June 1942) (divorced)

Trade Mark (3)

Turned-up nose
Later in her career, often cast as maternal, heroic characters
Early in her career, often played sexy, unpredictable party girls

Trivia (57)

For five years (1949-1954) she served as a film advisor for UNESCO.
She served as an advisor to the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.
She made her Broadway debut in the 1973 revival of "The Women".
Hobbies: Sculpting and dancing.
One of a handful of great movie stars never nominated for an acting Oscar, she received an honorary Academy Award in 1991.
Loy's last film was also the last for Henry Fonda.
She became a founder member of the American Place Theatre, a non-profit theatre set up to help new writers develop.
'Caterina Williams' is sometimes quoted as her real name.
In 1937, Myrna had a narrow escape when her horse bolted during the filming of The Rains Came (1939) with Tyrone Power; she was nearly killed.
Loy donned a uniform during the War when she joined the Hollywood Chapter of 'Bundles for Bluejackets' -- helping to run a Naval Auxiliary Canteen and going on fund raising tours.
Men-Must-Marry-Myrna Clubs were formed due to her portrayal as The Perfect Wife (The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)).
A devout Democrat and feminist, she later dismissed her work in the pre-Civil Rights-era movie Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927) as "shameful".
Myrna enrolled at Venice High School -- a school which later named its annual speech and drama awards 'Myrnas'.
Spent her early years on a ranch and in the town of Helena, Montana, which was also the home of Gary Cooper.
When her father was travelling by train in early 1905, he went through a small station called 'Myrna' - he eventually named her after that station.
After graduating from high school in 1923, Myrna got a job dancing in the chorus during the prologue for The Ten Commandments at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
In 1936 Myrna was named Queen of the Movies and Clark Gable King in a national poll, winning a crown of tin and purple velvet. in her autobiography, she says that she did not get on with Gable in her earlier films with him. However, in her later films he developed a respect for Loy and they became good friends.
In 1918, her father died in the Spanish Flu epidemic, and Myrna, her mom, and brother moved to LA.
Recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center in 1988.
She organized an opposition to the House Unamerican Activities Committee in Hollywood.
In 1923, she was photographed by Henry Waxman, who showed the pictures to Rudolph Valentino. Impressed with Myrna, Valentino arranged for a screen test for his upcoming film, Cobra (1925). She failed it.
Some of her biggest fans included Jimmy Stewart, Winston Churchill, and the Roosevelts. FDR invited to the White House early on in his administration, and she became very friendly with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Her father, at age 21, the youngest man ever elected to the Montana State Legislature, owned a small cattle ranch.
At Venice High school, in the middle of a small rose garden, is a larger-than-life-size statue of actress Myrna Loy. And it was made years before Myrna appeared in a single movie. Actually, it isn't a particularly good likeness of Miss Loy. Standing atop a stone pedestal, back arched, the short-haired figure is semi-nude (wearing only a thin gown which leaves little to the imagination), with one arm raised in a dramatic pose. All three statues were modeled by Venice High students, and the trio are meant to depict the "Mental," "Physical" and "Spiritual." According to the bronze plaque on the east side of the pedestal, the statues were erected in 1921, which means that Myrna Loy (then named Myrna Williams) was only 16 years old when she posed for the "Spiritual" statue - long before she became a celebrity.
Received a Honorary Academy Award in the same year as Sophia Loren.
Her final public appearance was in 1991 when she received her lifetime achievement award during The 63rd Annual Academy Awards (1991). She was unable to travel to Hollywood to accept the award in person, so the Academy arranged a live satellite link to her Manhattan apartment. Anjelica Huston introduced the film tribute presentation to her, which started with clips from The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and ended with a clip from After the Thin Man (1936) When the tribute finished, there was instantaneous rapturous applause and Huston then said, "Here from her apartment in New York is Miss Loy. Congratulations Myrna." Loy appeared live on a large screen from her beautiful New York apartment smiling, with her Honorary Oscar on a side table next to her. She was seated wearing sparkling purple evening wear and watched intently on her own television. She viewed and smiled at close up shots of fellow same-year Honorary Award recipient Sophia Loren and other audience members applauding. There was unusually no standing ovation, instead audience members remained seated during the applause, this was by no means a snub. There was a short silence after the applause, while the camera closed in on Miss Loy. She then looked directly at the camera and simply and said, "You've made me very happy, thank you very much," to yet further loud applause and then she disappeared from the screen once more.
Myrna Williams made her stage debut at age twelve at Helena's old Marlow Theater in a dance she choreographed, based on "The Blue Bird" from the Rose Dream Operatta.
In honor of Myrna Loy, a poem was created called, Montana Women, which was read at the celebration of her 86th birthday.
Underwent two mastectomies after being diagnosed with breast cancer twice.
Changing last name from Williams to Loy was suggested by legendary pulp writer Paul Cain (AKA Peter Ruric).
Attended Venice High School in Los Angeles, where a statue of her stands (on the front lawn). The same school was featured in the original Grease (1978), American History X (1998) and in The Chemical Brothers' and Britney Spears' music videos ("Elektrobank" and "Baby one more time", respectively).
Moved to Manhattan in 1960, where she lived until her death in 1993.
Myrna was Co-Chairman of the Advisory Council of the National Committee against discrimination in housing - exposing segregation in federal funded projects.
Made her stage debut in 1916.
Outspoken against Adolf Hitler in the War, Myrna appeared on his blacklist.
Born on a cattle ranch.
Her mother, Della Williams, was a talented pianist who encouraged Myrna's interest in the arts.
First Actress to work for the UN (UNESCO).
Her profile was the most requested in the 1930s by women to their plastic surgeons.
Appeared in staged prologues at Grauman's Egyptian theater in Los Angeles, before getting her first role in films. The prologues, staged by Fanchon and Marco, were live shows put on before the feature had begun. Myrna appeared in prologues for The Ten Commandments (1923) and The Thief of Bagdad (1924), among others.
The statue outside Venice High School that bares her likeness is titled 'Inspiration', and has been the target of vandalism and school pranks for decades (Loy mentions in her book that the statue was even decapetated at one point). It is now surrounded by a fence.
Was supposedly the favorite star of famed outlaw John Dillinger. He came out of hiding to see Manhattan Melodrama (1934), in which she starred, and was gunned down by police upon leaving the theater.
William Powell's nickname for her was 'Minnie'.
Subject of the song "Myrna Loy" by The Minus 5.
Her Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) co-star, Jeanne Crain, died exactly ten years to the day after Myrna.
In Italy, she was dubbed at the beginning of the (talking) career either by Tina Lattanzi or Rosina Galli. Later in her career, Lidia Simoneschi was her official Italian voice. She was once dubbed by the talented Giovanna Scotto in So Goes My Love (1946).
Good friend of Princess Marina.
Appeared in the first feature film with synchronized sound (Don Juan (1926)) and first feature film with audible dialog (The Jazz Singer (1927)).
Turned down the role of Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night (1934). Claudette Colbert was given the part and went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
In 1960 she campaigned for John F. Kennedy. Later she did battle with Californian Governor Ronald Reagan over open-housing legislation and for years afterward was a vigorous member of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.
Is the subject of the song "Myrna Loy" by Steel Pole Bathtub (this song is different from and predates the song by The Minus 5).
Profiled in book "Funny Ladies" by Stephen Silverman.
Was a member of New York's St. Paul's Methodist Church (later known as the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew).
A building at Sony Pictures Studios, formerly MGM Studios, in Culver City, California, is named in her honor.
A cast of her hand-print and her signature are in the sidewalk in front of Theater 80, on St. Mark's Place in New York City.
Was considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Was considered for the title role in Mildred Pierce (1945).

Personal Quotes (28)

[on her work with William Powell] 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.
Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.
I was a homely kid with freckles that came out every spring and stuck on me till Christmas.
[on her "Perfect Wife" label, based on her work in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)] It was a role no one could live up to, really. No telling where my career would have gone if they hadn't hung that title on me. Labels limit you, because they limit your possibilities. But that's how they think in Hollywood.
[Speaking in the late 1960s] I admire some of the people on the screen today, but most of them look like everybody else. In our day we had individuality. Pictures were more sophisticated. All this nudity is too excessive and it is getting very boring. It will be a shame if it upsets people so much that it brings on the need for censorship. I hate censorship. In the cinema there's no mystery. No privacy. And no sex, either. Most of the sex I've seen on the screen looks like an expression of hostility towards sex.
[on her screen test for Cobra (1925)] I rushed out of the projection room, ran home and cried for hours. I was really ashamed of myself. It was so awful . . .
[Challenging MGM bosses in the 1930s] Why does every black person in the movies have to play a servant? How about a black person walking up the steps of a courthouse carrying a briefcase?
[Referring to her "perfect wife" typecasting] Some perfect wife I am. I've been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can't boil an egg.
[on Clark Gable] He happened to be an actor, a damned good one, and nobody knew it--least of all Clark. Oh, he wanted to be an actor, but he always deprecated his ability, pretended it didn't matter. He was a really shy man with a terrible inferiority in there somewhere. Something was missing that kept him from doing the things he could have done.
I was glamorous because of magicians like George J. Folsey, James Wong Howe, Oliver Marsh, Ray June, and all those other great cinematographers. I trusted those men and the other experts who made us beautiful. The rest of it I didn't give a damn about. I didn't fuss about my clothes, my lighting, or anything else, but, believe me, some of them did.
[on Barbra Streisand] I think Barbra Streisand is a genius, the creativity she has! And I am very impressed with her as a person. Some years ago I was on the Academy Awards broadcast, she came up to me. I was standing in the wings and Barbra walked across the stage to greet me. Very polite, very nice. You don't find many young women who extend that kind of gracious courtesy to an older woman. Audrey Hepburn does. And Barbra. I've not forgotten how charming she was.
[on William Powell] The later ones [the "Thin Man" pictures] were very bad indeed, but it was always a joy to work with Bill Powell. He was and is a dear friend and, in the early Thin Man films with [director W.S. Van Dyke], we managed to achieve what for those days was an almost pioneering sense of spontaneity.
[on Burt Reynolds] It's the man's tremendous wit that just keeps coming across. Listen, there is no acting style. Most people just play themselves. Spencer Tracy used to say to me after a scene, "Did I ham that one up?" If I said yes, he'd say, "Okay, let's do it again". There's that same honesty in Burt Reynolds. He's a throwback to the old school.
[on Liza Minnelli] I love Liza. She is so original. People speak of her in terms of her mother, but she is herself, very definitely. A good, strong, unique person.
[on Rex Harrison] Rex Harrison was in a strange kind of mood in Midnight Lace (1960), no doubt because his wife Kay Kendall had died. He had very little time for me or anybody else, as far as I could tell; he did his job and that was it.
[on Doris Day] I have nothing but the best to say about Doris Day. She was wonderful to me, really lovely. She sent flowers when I started and remained friendly and attentive. As I've said, it's difficult when you start stepping down. You fight so hard to get to the top and then you realize it's time to gracefully give in a little. Doris, who was riding high then, never played the prima dona. I appreciated her attitude enormously.
[on Montgomery Clift] Monty was a great talent, whose acting I always admired. He had extraordinary instincts. His observations about the script were always astute and correct. He would have made a great director, which eventually he wanted to be. "Would you ever direct yourself?", I once asked him. "Are you kidding", he replied. "As a director, I simply wouldn't put up with all that crap from me". Monty was having problems then. He was full of all kinds of problems, many of them imaginary.
[on Tyrone Power] A lovely gentleman with a great quality of imagination.
[on Natacha Rambova] She was absolutely beautiful, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She always wore turbans and long, very stark dresses, usually velvet or brocade of the same golden brown as her eyes. She was breathtaking and I was scared. "I know they call me everything from Messalina to a dope fiend", she disclosed to calm me, "but I really don't eat little dancers for breakfast".
[In 1974] When I was touring in "Don Juan in Hell," we played a college town near New Orleans. Paul [Paul Newman] happened to be there shooting The Drowning Pool (1975), so I went to see him that afternoon. I remember walking down a country road past every kid in town waiting to glimpse Paul Newman. When he saw me he rushed over, threw his arms around me, and kissed me, eliciting a collective swoon from those kids, who were probably wondering, "Who's that lucky old lady?" We went off and talked until they called him back to work.
[In 1981, on her friend Joan Crawford] Joan and I approached being movie stars in a different way. She liked to take limos everywhere; she was much "grander", for lack of a better word, and maybe I was much more down to earth, but so what? Joan certainly wasn't the only movie star who liked the champagne and limousine treatment. I can tell you that when you made a friend in Joan you had a friend for life. She never forgot your birthday, and you'd get a congratulatory note from her when good things happened in your life. She cared about people and her friends, no matter what anybody says. I liked her, and I miss her, and I think her daughter's stories are pure bunk. Even if they were true, if ever there was a girl who needed a good whack it was spoiled, horrible Christina [Christina Crawford]. Believe me, there were many times I wanted to smack her myself.
[on working with Joan Crawford's adopted daughter Christina Crawford in a Chicago production of "Barefoot in the Park"] We didn't have any problems in "Barefoot until" Christina Crawford appeared. I've never known anybody else like her--ever. Her stubbornness was really unbelievable. She would not do a single thing that anybody told her to do. You'd go out there on the stage and you couldn't find her. One thing an actor needs to know is exactly where people are on the stage. Christina completely disregarded her blocking, throwing the rest of us off.
[on Christina Crawford when things got so bad with the Chicago production of "Barefoot in the Park" that Loy had to call the director of the London production to intervene] He couldn't do anything with her. Absolutely nothing. She was going to do it her way. It was self-defeating and sad, because the girl had potential.
[on Christina Crawford and her book "Mommie Dearest"] She wanted to be Joan Crawford. I think that's the basis of the book she wrote afterward and everything else. I saw what her mind created, the fantasy world she lived in. She envied her mother, grew to hate her, and wanted to destroy her.
[on her character "Nora Charles" from the "Thin Man" films] Nora of "The Thin Man" was different . . . 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.
[on Joan Crawford, and the book, "Mommie Dearest"] What bothers me is that there were book buyers who bought that book and read it and people who believed it. What perplexes me and makes me profoundly sad was that people wanted to spend their money that way, on such trash, and, worse yet, believed it. The readers who believed it were the ones who did the damage.
[on Ronald Reagan] I never worked with Ronald Reagan. I'm not happy that he's President. I was willing to give him a chance. But he's destroying everything now I've lived my life for.
[on Joan Crawford] Joan never complained about her difficult children. Christina and Christopher made me glad I didn't have children.

Salary (3)

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) $3 .50
A Connecticut Yankee (1931) $1,500 /week
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) $100,000

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page