Myrna Loy, born as Myrna Adele Williams (August 2nd 1905 — December 14th 1993) was one of the greatest film actresses of The Pre-Code Era and The Golden Age of Hollywood. Over her 50-year career, she started out playing sexual temptresses, then moved on to wisecracking Screwball Comedy heroines, then played nurturing wives and mothers.
Loy was born in Helena, Montana, the daughter of ranchers. As a child, she took dancing lessons. When her father died in the influenza pandemic of 1918 her mother took the family to Southern California. By 1925 Loy started getting parts in silent films. Her exotic good looks got her cast sometimes as The Vamp, and sometimes in Yellowface roles due to Hollywood's reluctance to do anything as silly as cast an Asian actress in an Asian part. She had a small part in part-talkie The Jazz Singer.
A career slump in the early '30s was turned around when Loy got the female lead in Manhattan Melodrama. This film is remembered for two reasons. First, it was the film that John Dillinger went to see right before he was murdered by the FBI outside a Chicago theater (Loy was displeased by the macabre publicity later associated with the film). Second, it was the first film she ever made with co-star William Powell. Powell and Loy would become one of the most famous Those Two Actors pairs of all time, starring together in fourteen films in the 1930s and 1940s.
Another Powell-and-Loy film released that same year became the movie that both of them are best remembered for. The Thin Man, with Powell and Loy as a wisecracking married couple who have to solve a murder, was thought by the studio to be a low-budget B-Movie. It became a colossal hit, getting a nomination for Best Picture, and establishing both Powell and Loy as stars of the first magnitude. Five more sequels in the Thin Man franchise would follow, to diminishing returns in later installments.
The Great Ziegfeld, in which Loy starred as Billie Burke opposite Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld, won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1936. More hit films followed until Loy mostly left acting behind to work in support of the American war effort in World War II. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), one of the first films Loy made after the war, became the second film she appeared in to win Best Picture. She managed to find sporadic work as she aged, mostly in television; her last film role was in 1980.
Her memoir was entitled Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming. She was never even nominated for an Academy Award — not even for The Best Years of Our Lives, which got nominations for almost everyone else involved — but she did receive an honorary Oscar two years before her death in 1993.
- The Jazz Singer (1927)
- Arrowsmith (1931)
- The Animal Kingdom (1932)
- Love Me Tonight (1932)
- The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
- Thirteen Women (1932)
- Topaze (1933)
- When Ladies Meet (1933)
- Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
- Men in White (1934)
- The Thin Man (1934)
- The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
- Libeled Lady (1936)
- Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
- Double Wedding (1937)
- Test Pilot (1938)
- I Love You Again (1940)
- Third Finger, Left Hand (1940)
- The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
- The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
- Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)
- Columbo, episode "Etude in Black" (1972)
- Airport '75 (1975)
Tropes that apply to her career:
- Housewife: Many of her characters.
- Irony as She Is Cast: She was often typecast as mothers and housewives, while in real life, in her own words:"Some perfect wife I am. I've been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can't boil an egg."
- Yellowface: Apparently looked "exotic" enough to be pushed into this role before she became famous. It later became Old Shame for her.