Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Myrna Loy from Vamp to Perfect Wife, She Had Appeal

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Myrna Loy from Vamp to Perfect Wife, She Had Appeal

Article excerpt

MYRNA LOY'S appeal was too much for just one career, and so she had several.

Each one dawned as her colleagues and her public became aware of some newly discovered element of her personality.

The actress, who died Tuesday in New York at the age of 88, started out in silent films. She was all slinky allure then, a sloe-eyed, exotic beauty who kept finding herself cast as Oriental vamps. Her lithe body and simmering gaze were accompanied by that peculiar magic that let audiences pick her out of even the most distinguished crowd.

In 1926's wonderful epic romance "Don Juan," in which she played a spy masquerading as a maid in the House of Borgia, a 21-year-old Loy held her own with no less than John Barrymore.

For a while Loy seemed locked up in seductress parts. She menaced Will Rogers as Morgan la Fey in 1931's "A Connecticut Yankee," and in a famous bit of campiness, embodied perverse sexuality in "The Mask of Fu Manchu," playing the depraved daughter of Boris Karloff's Asian super-criminal in 1932.

But at the same time, film makers had begun to discover Loy's voice. It could coolly dispatch or warmly welcome with just the slightest manipulation of tone. At extremes it could drop into throaty sensuality or rise to sardonic skepticism.

So the phony exoticism could be dropped in favor of a more authentic sophistication. In 1930, John Ford had cast her in the Samuel Goldwyn production of "Arrowsmith." Although she was again seducing a married man - this time Walter Huston's noble doctor - her character was more lively, more intelligent, less the victim of her sexuality than the mistress of it.

The next year, Ernst Lubitsch cast her as a countess in a sparkling musical "Love Me Tonight." In 1932, Loy played a Parisian woman of the world in one of that decade's most sophisticated comedies, "Topaze." This time out, she ended up with Barrymore.

But it was the decision of an MGM contract director, W.S. Van Dyke, to cast her in a comedy mystery that finally allowed Loy to blossom into a star. She was teamed as Nora Charles to William Powell's Nick - along, of course, with their dog Asta - in what was supposed to be a one-shot adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's "The Thin Man. …

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