Myrna Loy

(1905 - 1993)

A photo of Myrna Loy
Myrna Adele Williams
1905 - 1993
Born
August 2, 1905
Raidersburg, Lewis and Clark County, Montana United States
Death
December 14, 1993
Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York USA
Other Names
Minnie, Myrna Loy
Summary
Myrna Loy was born on August 2, 1905 in Raidersburg, Montana. She was born to David Franklin Williams and Della Mae Johnson, with sibling David. She died on December 14, 1993 at Lennox Hill Hospital, Manhattan, New York USA at 88 years of age. We know that Myrna Loy had been residing in New York, New York County, New York United States.
Updated: November 29, 2020
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Myrna Loy
Born August 2, 1905 in Radersburg, Montana, USA
Died December 14, 1993 in New York City, New York, USA (complications from surgery)
Birth Name Myrna Adele Williams
Nicknames Queen of Hollywood and The Perfect Wife and Queen of the Movies
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Myrna Loy was born Myrna Adele Williams on August 2, 1905 in Helena, Montana, to Adelle Mae (Johnson) and David Franklin Williams. Her paternal grandparents were Welsh, and her mother was of Scottish and Swedish descent. Myrna was raised in Helena and nearby Radersburg. Her father, a rancher, was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature.
When she was thirteen, 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 her silent films, Myrna would appear as a Theda Bara-like, 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.
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.
Spouse (4)
Howland Hill Sargeant (1 June 1951 - 31 May 1960) ( divorced)
Gene Markey (3 January 1946 - 21 August 1950) ( divorced)
John Daniel Hertz Jr. (6 June 1942 - 21 August 1944) ( divorced)
Arthur Hornblow Jr. (27 June 1936 - 1 June 1942) ( divorced)
Turned-up nose
Later in her career, often cast as maternal, heroic characters
Early in her career, often played sexy, unpredictable party girls
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Biography
Myrna Loy
Most commonly known name
Myrna Adele Williams
Full name
Minnie, Myrna Loy
Nickname(s) or aliases
New York, New York County, New York United States
Last known residence
Female
Gender
Myrna Williams was born on in Raidersburg, Lewis and Clark County, Montana United States
Birth
Myrna Williams died on at Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York USA
Death
Myrna Williams was born on in Raidersburg, Lewis and Clark County, Montana United States
Myrna Williams died on at Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York USA
Birth
Death
Surgery after unspecified illness
Cause of death
Forestvale Cemetary in Helena, Lewis and Clark County, Montana United States
Burial / Funeral
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

Welsh
Scottish
Swedish

Nationality & Locations

American
Helena, MT
Pasadena, CA
Beverly Hills, CA
Manhattan, NY
Childhood

Education

Westlake School for Girls
Venice High School
Adulthood

Professions

Actor

Myrna Loy brought a sly wit and an easy charm to many films, including the following.

The Jazz Singer 1927

The Mask of Fu Manchu 1932

Penthouse 1933

The Thin Man 1934

Manhattan Melodrama 1934

The Great Ziegfeld 1936

After the Thin Man 1936

Test Pilot 1938

Too Hot to Handle 1938

The Best Years of Our Lives 1946

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House 1948

Cheaper by the Dozen 1950

From the Terrace 1960

Midnight Lace 1960

The End 1978

Just Tell Me What You Want 1980

Personal Life

U. S. Commissioner to UNESCO

Military Service

Director of military and naval welfare for The Red Cross in WWII
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

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New York Times, December 15, 1993
Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1993
problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.
Myrna Loy, the urbane actress who personified a liberated wife of intelligence and wry good humor in some of the best American movie comedies of the 1930's and 40's, died yesterday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She was 88.

She died in surgery after a long illness, said Sherlee Lantz, a longtime friend of Miss Loy.

With a pert face, crinkly smile and velvet voice, the auburn-haired actress was universally called the "perfect wife." Spunky, unflappable and appropriately cool or warm, she was the ideal marital partner of the dapper William Powell in the 1934 hit comedy-mystery "The Thin Man." They followed "The Thin Man" with five popular sequels and seven other films.

Performing with zest and bantering affection, they were the nifty Nick and Nora Charles created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel "The Thin Man." Their breezy films, peppered with outlandish clues and outrageous characters, were among the most enduring of Hollywood's larger-than-life big-studio comedies that won millions of new fans over the decades. Turned Into Ideal Mother

Eventually, the ideal wife became the ideal mother in such successes as "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) and "Cheaper by the Dozen" (1950). Miss Loy then settled into character roles in occasional films and stage and television plays. In 1973 she made her Broadway debut in a revival of Clare Boothe Luce's vitriolic comedy "The Women," again as a shrewd mother.

In 1981, Miss Loy and Henry Fonda were a graying couple perceptively reminiscing about their half-century marriage in a television movie, "Summer Solstice." Their performances prompted John J. O'Connor of The New York Times to write that "Mr. Fonda and Miss Loy demonstrate splendidly why they remain stars."

Of Welsh descent, the actress was born Myrna Williams on Aug. 2, 1905, on her father's cattle ranch near Helena, Mont. Her father, David Williams, called her Myrna, after the name of a railroad water stop that caught his fancy. Her mother, Della, was a singer. Started in a Chorus Line

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From her father, a state legislator who was an advocate of President Woodrow Wilson's crusade to establish the League of Nations, she gained a sense of public service that lasted a lifetime.

The actress interrupted her career for Red Cross volunteer work throughout World War II. Soon after, she joined the United States delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, serving as a peripatetic film adviser for five years.

Her father died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, and Mrs. Williams moved her daughter and son, David, to Los Angeles, where Myrna attended Venice High School and occasionally taught dancing. At the age of 18, she joined the chorus line in the stage show at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

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She began getting bit parts in movies. A poet friend suggested the catchy name Loy, and it stuck. The teen-ager was quickly typecast as an exotic temptress, invariably Oriental and often villainous. Slinking and gyrating, she was trapped for nearly a decade in the stereotype in such films as "The Desert Song," "The Squall" and "The Black Watch," all released in 1929. 'The Thin Man,' a 'Quickie'

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The most bizarre of these 60 or so oddities were two 1932 melodramas -- "The Mask of Fu Manchu," in which Miss Loy reluctantly portrayed the sadistic daughter of the archvillain Boris Karloff, and "Thirteen Women" in which, as a skulking Javanese half-caste, she plotted to do in 12 sorority sisters.

Occasionally, Miss Loy escaped the cliche. She gained notice for her acting as a predatory countess in the 1932 musical fantasy "Love Me Tonight," which starred Maurice Chevalier; as the materialistic wife of Leslie Howard in "The Animal Kingdom" in 1932, and as the love interest in a 1934 gangster thriller, "Manhattan Melodrama," starring Clark Gable and Mr. Powell.

A few months later, Myrna Loy became a household name and a full- fledged star. W. S. Van Dyke, one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's most versatile directors, persuaded studio executives to let him feature Miss Loy with Mr. Powell in a low-budget "B" movie, to be called "The Thin Man." The director shot the film in 21 days, and the "quickie" was a hit. In Well-Known Comedies

Later, when she was billed as "Queen of the Movies" and Gable was called the "King," the two were teamed in such madcap adventures as "Wife Versus Secretary," "Test Pilot" and "Too Hot to Handle."

At the start of World War II, Miss Loy left Hollywood and did full-time volunteer work, serving for four years as an assistant head of Red Cross welfare activities in New York. She also arranged for entertainment in 50 military hospitals and put in long stints at stage-door canteens.

After the war, she portrayed the compassionate, loving wife of Fredric March in "The Best Years of Our Lives," the much-honored 1946 film about servicemen returning from combat. The performance won her the Brussels World Film Festival prize for the best performance by an actress.

A political liberal, Miss Loy joined with other Hollywood figures in the late 40's in challenging what they deplored as the witch-hunting proceedings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Of her postwar film work for Unesco, the actress said, "One little incident to battle prejudice, dropped into the middle of an entertaining film, is worth all the documentaries ever made."

Miss Loy was a longtime friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and other leading Democrats and regularly campaigned for the party's Presidential candidates. She was also an adviser and former officer of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. Started on Stage in 1960

She did not appear on the stage until 1960, at first in summer stock, because, she said, "I felt I had a lot to learn." She starred with Claude Dauphin in the comedy "The Marriage Go-Round" and played the mother in a national tour of Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park."

In 1980, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures presented her with its first David Wark Griffith award "in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to the art of screen acting."

Miss Loy was married four times, to Arthur Hornblow Jr., a movie producer; John D. Hertz Jr., an auto-rental and advertising executive; Gene Markey, a producer-screenwriter, and Howland H. Sargeant, a producer and, at the time, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. The marriages ended in divorce. Miss Loy had no children.

In later decades, Miss Loy lived in a book-lined terrace apartment in upper Manhattan overlooking the East River. She aided many civic causes, selecting her public-service committees as judiciously as her roles. Tribute at Carnegie Hall

In 1985, Hollywood movie stars and fans packed Carnegie Hall for a tribute to Miss Loy, who appeared in the audience looking frail but glamorous in a spangled gown. Lauren Bacall, the master of ceremonies, said she admired Miss Loy "as a person, an actress and a face, but also as a woman aware of what went on in the country and the world."

"She's not a frivolous human being," Miss Bacall added. "And she's a great wit, which I'm a sucker for."

Miss Loy won her only Oscar, an honorary one, in 1991, more than six decades after she began her film career. Speaking via satellite hookup from her Manhattan apartment the night of the Academy Awards ceremony, she offered the audience only nine words to describe her feelings. "You've made me very happy," she said. "Thank you very much." Some of the Best Years of Her Life

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Myrna's lifetime.

In 1905, in the year that Myrna Loy was born, acclaimed dancer Isadora Duncan established the first school of modern dance in Berlin Germany. Isadora Duncan, born in San Francisco California, dedicated herself to the creation of beauty - through dance. Her focus on the movement of the human body rather than formal kinds of dance helped to give rise to the modern dance movement.

In 1912, Myrna was only 7 years old when the RMS Titanic sank in April. The RMS Titanic was a British built and run passenger liner that was billed as "unsinkable." On its maiden voyage from Southampton England to New York City, carrying about 2,224 passengers and crew - from the wealthiest people in the world to poor emigrants from Europe, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Five of her watertight compartments failed but she was designed to survive only 4 being flooded. She began to sink. There were only enough lifeboats for about half of the passengers so over 1,000 remained behind while "women and children first" were loaded. Over 1500 died, making it the largest maritime disaster in modern history.

In 1928, she was 23 years old when aviatrix Amelia Earhart, age 31, became the first woman to fly solo across North America and back in August. In June, she had been part of a 3 man crew that flew the Atlantic Ocean but since she had no instrument training, she couldn't fly the plane - she kept the flight log. The North American flight became one of her many "firsts" as a female pilot.

In 1968, she was 63 years old when on January 31st, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam War. 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces swarmed into South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese and US troops held off the offensive but it was such fierce fighting that the U.S. public began to turn against the war.

In 1993, in the year of Myrna Loy's passing, on February 26th, a truck bomb exploded in the garage under the North Tower of the World Trade Center. While the bomb didn't do what was planned (collapse the North Tower into the South Tower), it did kill six people and injured thousands of people.

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