Myrna Loy biography: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood
Many believe that Myrna Loy is the best American actress never to have been nominated for an Academy Award. Despite having played leads and supporting roles in more than 100 movies (in addition to a few dozen bit parts during the silent era), Loy was invariably bypassed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But that’s the Oscar and the Academy’s loss.
For starters, Loy was a delightful light comedienne in movies such as W.S. Van Dyke’s The Thin Man and Jack Conway’s Libeled Lady. One of the greatest — and most beautifully politically incorrect — dialogue exchanges in movies can be heard in Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 musical Love Me Tonight:
Jeanette MacDonald: "Don’t you think of anything but men, dear?"
Myrna Loy: "Oh yes, schoolboys."
Loy could be a remarkable dramatic actress as well, as can be attested by her quite moving performance as war veteran Fredric March’s wife in William Wyler’s 1946 Best Picture Oscar winner The Best Years of Our Lives. If that weren’t all, she all but stole Mark Robson’s otherwise dreary From the Terrace from young lovers Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. And, as Ramon Novarro’s lust/love interest, she’s phenomenal in both the comedy and dramatic segments of Sam Wood’s outrageous The Barbarian, which features rape, beatings, and singing. Personally, I think Loy would have been great in film noirs, but Hollywood studios clearly disagreed.
In addition to the aforementioned titles, Loy’s movies — covering a wide range of topics — include Penthouse, Manhattan Melodrama, The Great Ziegfeld, The Rains Came, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, and Cheaper by the Dozen. Among her leading men were William Powell (mostly in the Thin Man movies), Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Melvyn Douglas, Clifton Webb, John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, and Tyrone Power.
Off screen, Loy was devoted to liberal causes, including the Civil Rights movement, in addition to being an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and a vehement opponent of the right-wingers in the House Un-American Activities Committee. A strong supporter of the United Nations, for a time she was also a UNESCO spokesperson.
Author Emily Leider, who previously wrote books on Mae West (Becoming Mae West) and Rudolph Valentino (Dark Lover), has tackled Myrna Loy’s life and career in Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood (University of California Press, 2011). Clara Bow and Jean Harlow biographer David Stenn called The Only Good Girl in Hollywood "a masterful tribute to MGM’s subtlest star," while film historian Anthony Slide wrote that "this first biography of Myrna Loy is so conscientiously researched, so closely written in detail and intelligent style that there will be no need for a second."
Emily, whom I met several years ago while I was working on my Ramon Novarro biography, kindly agreed to answer a few questions about Myrna Loy and The Only Good Girl in Hollywood. Please see link below.