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Myrna Loy

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Her films with William Powell:

The same year as her break-out role opposite him in MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934), Loy co-starred with William Powell in two other films, the mystery drama EVELYN PRENTICE (1934) and a quirky comedy mystery based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, THE THIN MAN (1934).  Starring Powell as Nick Charles, an upper-class amateur detective who solves murders for fun, and Loy as his devoted, dry-witted wife Nora who doesn't mind being his Girl Friday as long as there's no real danger involved, THE THIN MAN proved so popular with audiences that it spawned a series of five more fun-filled mystery capers centered around the Charleses and their beloved dog Asta.

In addition to promoting the careers of its leading stars, THE THIN MAN series also helped launch the careers of everyone from Asta (played by a terrier named Skippy who went on to make several other notable film appearances during the 1930s) to up-and-coming MGM players like Jimmy Stewart, Cesar Romero, Penny Singleton (later of BLONDIE fame), Ruth Hussey and Donna Reed.

In the most prestigious production of her career to date, Loy plays Billie Burke, the second wife of famed Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, in MGM's lavish, star-studded biopic THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936).  Starring William Powell in the title role and Oscar-winner Luise Rainer as Ziegfeld's first wife, stage star Anna Held, the film won the Academy Award as the Best Picture of 1936, and also features such legendary Follies personalities of the 1910s and '20s as Fannie Brice, Harriet Hoctor and Ray Bolger.  Despite the billing order, Loy's role is definitely secondary to those of Powell and Rainer.  Nevertheless, it illustrates the ever-increasing regard in which her home studio now held her.

In addition to her six THIN MAN movies with William Powell, Loy also played opposite him in eight other films between 1934 and 1947, ranging from the aforementioned mystery/crime dramas MANHATTAN MELODRAMA and EVELYN PRENTICE (both 1934) to their most popular films together, romantic comedies.

In LIBELED LADY (1936), Loy plays a rich, no-nonsense society girl who sues a newspaper for libel when it prints a story impugning her reputation.  After the paper's editor (Spencer Tracy) sets out to dig up some real dirt on her and can't find any, he hires Powell to infiltrate her social circle and create a compromising situation.  But Loy isn't easily compromised.  Although Powell wins most of the laughs in this Best Picture-nominated romantic comedy, Loy creates the most credible character in the film.  Under her guidance, Connie Allenbury evolves from a wary, standoffish ice princess into a charming, playful and even touchingly vulnerable woman.

By the 1940s, after having played opposite each other so often in films, audiences came to expect Powell and Loy to get together before the final reel.  As a result, their more typical boy-meets-girl romantic comedy plotlines evolved into comedies of remarriage -- similar to such classics as THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) and MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) -- in which the leads begin the film as a married or recently-divorced couple whose often-sexually-charged relationship goes humorously on the rocks before those whom God hath joined together are reunited.

I LOVE YOU AGAIN (1940) features Powell as an amnesia victim who finds himself reunited with a wife (Loy) and life as a small-town civic leader, all of which he has completely forgotten.  In LOVE CRAZY (1941), Loy and Powell play a married couple who come to suspect each other of infidelity on their otherwise blissful fourth anniversary.  As in most of their films, Powell's zany antics (even to the point of cross-dressing) are the fun-loving heart of these comedies of remarriage, but Loy's ability to play the straight-man -- reacting both humorously and straight-faced -- keep Powell's clowning credible and contribute an essential element to the fine balance these otherwise over-the-top films achieve.

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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