Each year, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) fills their programming calendar with days, and nights, devoted to a single classic film star. I know, I usually write about books but I have a passion for all things related to storytelling. (I also have a master’s in cinema studies but my devotion to old movies goes back to being a very small child watching Cary Grant run through a cornfield.
During August, I’m going to highlight some of the stars, and their work, that I think shouldn’t be missed. Don’t worry – there will be plenty of bookishness too.
Born in Montana, her family moved to Culver City, California, after Loy’s father died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Myrna studied dance from an early age and got a job dancing in elaborate routines at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. From there she landed small parts in silent films, eventually becoming cast as the evil, catty “Oriental” in early sound pictures.
Her career took off when she was cast as Nora Charles in The Thin Man. The story goes that she and William Powell met on the first day of an only 14-day shoot. They hit it off. Their chemistry is undeniable and Loy’s snarky charm is able to shine through in the enormously popular series of films (When I guest hosted a film on TCM, I was asked what classic heroine I’d like to be and I immediately said Nora Charles).
After this, the floodgates opened. Loy appeared three to five movies a year for more than a decade. She continued making whipsmart comedies as well as taking on some dramatic roles. She is even darkly sinister in Midnight Lace (1960), a swanky, nonmusical Doris Day thriller (you can catch this one during Day’s programming August 12).
If you haven’t seen a Myrna Loy film, TCM has chosen some great ones to screen on August 2. In addition to The Thin Man, which is canon Loy, make sure you catch Libeled Lady (1936) and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948).
Libeled Lady teams up Loy and Powell again for a smart, stylish romantic comedy — and there is an awesome patio that floats in the middle of the lake. Trust me. Just watch it. Mr. Blandings pairs her with Cary Grant and hilarity ensues. The two of them play off one another very well. If you’d like something more dramatic, Evelyn Prentice (1934) is a solid drama.
Off the screen, she was enormously busy as well. During World War II, she made very few films, choosing instead to devote her celebrity to relief efforts, including an unpaid stint as the assistant to the director of the Military and Naval Welfare Service for the North Atlantic Area at the American Red Cross. She, along with dozens of other Hollywood stars, spent countless hours, organizing benefits, visiting hospitals, raising money for war bonds and more. After the war, she became involved with UNESCO and fighting back against HUAC. Read about her work.
Loy’s career extended into the 1970s with the popcorn hit Airport 1975 and guest spots on popular television programs like Ironside and Colombo. She received a Kennedy Center honor in 1988 and an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1991. She died in 1993, aged 88.
View the entire Summer Under the Stars schedule.
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