Myrna Loy (1905-1993)
- Nita Naldi, Cobra, 1925. She was in the Grauman's Chinese Theatre chorus in LA when tested by Valentino. Luckily, she missed this embarrassing boxing number. Valentino's wife, Natasha Rambova, got her into What Price Beauty, 1925.
- May McAvoy, Ben-Hur, 1925. She tested for the Virgin. MGM production chief Irving Thalberg put her back in the chorus among the Roman senators' mistresses. Within seven years, he gave her an Metro contract. And promptly wasted her until The Thin Man, 1934. When Clark Gable was voted Hollywood's King in 1937, Loy was Queen. And Thalberg was dead.
- Olga Baclanova, Freaks, 1931. Director Tod Browning saw Loy as Cleopatra, the who marries a freak show boss show for his money and is ultimately mutilated and disfigured. She found the script offensive. Browning then introduced Olga to his supporting cast of Nature’s mistakes: real bearded ladies, bird girls, hermaphrodites, human skeletons, midgets, pinheads, Siamese twins “Be brave,” said Browning, “and don’t faint like the first time I show you. You have to work with them.” Olga found that extremely difficult. “Every night I felt that I am sick. Because I couldn't look at them. And then I was so sorry for them... it hurt me like a human being.”
- Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night, 1934. Director Frank Capra was under the impression that "stars were dying to get into my pictures." Not Myrna. And "Papa" Mayer unctuously backed her. "You know I never asked one of my little girls to play a part she don't want," said the MGM boss LB Mayer. He offered Clark Gable, instead. "Louie, suppose he don't like the script?" "Herschel, this is Louis Mayer talking. I'm telling you to take Gable!" For the first time, Gable was able to play himself, what Capra called "the fun-loving, boyish, attractive, he-man rogue," And the Oscar goes to...
- Mona Maris, Viva Villa, 1933. Once Jack Conway took over from Howard Hawks after actor Lee Tracy’s allegedly pissed on the Revolution Day parade in Mexico, several Hawksian actors were dropped, including Maris as Teresa. Also tested to replace her were Dorothy Burgess, Lila Lee, Carmel Myers.
- Movita, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1934. In September 1934, Daily Variety reported Loy was first choice for the Tahitian leading lady. Movita’s role was played by Tarita in the 1961 re-make, opposite the Tahiti-loving Marlon Brando. He married both and had a son and daughter with each of them
- Luise Rainer, Escapade, 1934. MGM shelled out $100,000 for the rights to the Austrian film, Maskerade. All forHelen Hayes. Who then became Loy. An unhappy Loy. MGM started arguing over her contractual status. Idem for Loy - about her role. She felt woefully miscast as a “sobbing and giggling girl.” Bad timing! The first example of Joseph L Mankiewicz directing in Hollywood had happened - shooting a test of the distinguished German stage star who had fled Hitler’s Germany for LA. And so, Loy was out and Luise was in her Hollywood debut opposite the “very fine” William Powell. He taught her subtleties of acting for cameras. She learned fast, becoming the first actress to win successive Oscars. “Nothing worse could have happened to me,” she said on thereby becoming the first notable victim of The Oscar Curse.
- Rosalind Russell, Rendevzous, 1935. Resting from Mr Thin Man, William Powell, Myrna walked out - and in walked The Other Woman from their Evelyn Prentiss murder trial, 1934. "I was always a threat, you see, to all the great women stars of Metro and they certainly were legion."
- Jean Harlow, China Seas, 1935. Clark Gable was still the lead when director Jack Conway was in charge three years earlier. Not Harlow. Or not until Gable-Harlow-Red Dust exploded in 1932.
- Joan Crawford, Love on the Run, 1936. MGM bought the short story, Beauty and the Beat, because it was like a new spin on Clark Gable’s It Happened One Night. Loy and Robert Montgomery were set as the runaway bride and undercover reporter. Then, Jean Harlow and Montgomery, or Harlow and Robert Taylor, and finally: Gable and Crawford… on-off lovers during 30 years and several marriages.
- Ann Sothern, Dangerous Number, 1936. First Loy, then Madge Evans, finally Sothern played the sassy dancer caught between two men. Robert Young and Dean Jagger. Well, to be absolutely factual… two husbands.
- Joan Crawford, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, 1936. Crawford quit the “boring, pretentious” Parnell script and advised her on-off lover Clark Gable to do the same. He stayed and Loy joined him (becoming King and Queen of Hollywood in Ed Sullivan’s poll) while Crawford took over Loy’s discarded Mrs Cheyney, which proved a bigger success than the Parnell flop - “dull entertainment, ” said Variety.
- Madeleine Carroll, The Prisoner of Zenda, 1936. The mad notion of a Jeannette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy musical version led to Irving Thalberg's crazy casting of the Thin Man couple Myrna-William Powell - cancelled by the shock, early death of MGM production genius at age 37.
- Joan Crawford, The Women, 1938. The film had 150 roles. All for women. Indeed all for MGM women… except Garbo and Loy. Although Loy had been asked to be Crystal Allen – which Crawford turned into a banquet.
- Claudette Colbert, It’s A Wonderful World, 1938. Director Woody Van Dyke’s original idea for Edwina Corday was delayed on another project. One Take Woody next turned to Frances Drake … before Colbert agreed to her first MGMovie. Eight years later, of course, her co-star James Stewart made… It’s A Wonderful Life.
- Claudette Colbert, Boom Town, 1939. Five films of the Hollywood Queen with the King - Clark Gable - seemed to be enough for Loy. She passed and Colbert eagerly made it their second after the multi Oscar winning It Happened One Night. For Spencer Tracy, this was the third and and last with Gable.
- Bette Davis, The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941. Director William Keighley first tested Loy and Jean Arthur for Maggie Maggie Cutler (allegedly based on Dorothy Parker). But it was reserved, FDO. For Davis, only. She had asked head brother Jack Warner to buy the Moss Hart-George Kaufman play for her and John Barrymore. Good thinking! However, tragically, The Profile was unable to remember his lines anymore… The suits ran for safety to the Broadway play’s star, Monty Woolley, which did not delight Davis. “For me it was not a happy film to make… I guess I never got over my disappointment in not working with the great John Barrymore.”
- Lana Turner, Marriage Is A Private Affair, 1943. “WEDLOCK OR PADLOCK?” screamed the ads... What started as a 1941 George Cukor project for Robert Taylor and Myrna Loy at Warners got sold off to MGM where, after numerous re-writes ordered by the Production Code, Fred Zinnemann was set to helm Lana Turner and Gene Kelly. Lana finally made it with John Hodiak but for director Robert Z Leonard. Z is right.
- Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, 1945. Smelling another comeback, Crawford campaigned hard for the killer role touted for Barbara Stanwyck after Bette Davis spurned it. Also considered: Myrna, sisters Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine, plus: Rosalind Russell, Ann Sheridan. Crawford simply complied with Mildred’s line: “I don’t know whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, but that’s the way it’s gotta be.” Oscar voters agreed.
- Irene Dunne, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945. Oh really? Considering that production chief Darryl F Zanuck also favoured William Powell as King Mongkut, casting Loy as Anna would have meant that The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles were ruling Siam..! Loy came back in the running when running when Dunne’s husband had a heart attack and filming was postponed for two months.
- Katharine Hepburn, The Sea of Grass, 1946. A decade earlier, the Conrad Richter novel had been earmarked for Loy and Spencer Tracy - following their Test Pilot winner.But by now, Katharine Hepburn was firmly entrenched in Tracy’s public and private life. Of this fourth of their nine films, directing icon Elia Kazan declared: “It's the only picture .. that I'm ashamed of. Don't see it.”
- Judy Garland, The Pirate, 1947. Over the years, MGM aimed the Broadway drama at (a) Mrs Miniver and hubby, Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon; (b) Garson, Cary Grant, Charles Laughton; (c) Myrna; (d) the Notorious couple, Grant and Ingrid Bergman; (e) Lamarr and William Powell. No one saluted. So, it was churned into a musical - with (f) a prancing Gene Kelly and an imploding Garland. Metro lost $2m. Including for the first time in any Hollywood budget, paying a shrink. For Judy.
- Irene Dunne, Never A Dull Moment, 1950. Oh yeah?!
- Constance Bennett, As Young As You Feel, 1950. Change of Lucille McKinley, the wife who wants to divorce Albert Dekker for old Monty Woolley - in his finest movie hour. The Paddy Chayefsky script also began Marilyn Monroe’s second Fox contract - and by chance during filming, she met a certain Arthur Miller. Watching her, Bennett declared: “Now there's a broad with a future behind her!”
- Elizabeth Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1951. When first planned in the mid-30s, MGM aimed to squeeze too many contract stars into unlikely toles in Sir Walter Scott’s 12th Century, Robin Hoodish tale of chivalrous knights, warring Saxons, Normans, Christians and Jews. Such as Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Luise Rainer. And Loy as Rebecca, the Jewish healer, loved by our hero - and villain.
- Lucille Ball, Forever Darling, 1955. No, no, Loy was not about to replace The #1 TV Wifeof the #1 TV Husband...Lucille and Desi Arnaz simply dusted off the plot manyyears after first, The Thin Man coupleof Loy and William Powell, then Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (like who else?) passed on being the splitting couplesavedby an angel...Didn’t work: the Arnazs were divorced five years later. (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn).
- Flora Robson, 55 Days At Peking, 1962. An early thoughtfor the Dowager Empress Tzu-His.
- Constance Bennett, Madame X, 1966. She had no wish to make a come back as... Lana Turner's mother.
- Maggie Smith, Murder By Death, 1976. Among the cast of comic private eyes, scenarist Neil Simon was sending up the Thin Man couple as Dick and Dora Charleston.Myrna did not buy it. "It would have been ridiculous to have Myrna Loy doing Myrna Loy... and I don't want my ass pinched by David Niven."