Myrna Loy

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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…
  5. 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.
  6. Loretta Young, Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back, 1933. Darryl Zanuck wanted to borrow Myrna Loy from MGM for Lola, opposite Ronald Colman’s Drummond – his first talkie, in fact. Metro and Loy thought Nunally Johnson’s scenario was passable – not the deal. Not now that she was  , one of the few silent stars to make it in talkies.
  7. Movita, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1934..  Head lion LB Mayer  was not happy about the film.    “Where’s the romance?”   Difficult with  an all male crew aboard His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty! Better when they drop anchor at Tahiti.  Even then  LB suggested Myrna Loy for one of the locals. (Why not? Joan Crawford and Marion Davies joined the Tahitian dancers in some scenes and no one objected – or  even  noticed). Director Frank Lloyd preferred the genuine article – Movita and Mamo.  Movita, of course, married the next Fletcher Christian – Marlon Brando – who would also wed his 1960 Tahitian co-star, Tarita.
  8. Luise Rainer, Escapade, 1934. .  MGM paid $100,000 for the rights to the Austrian film Maskerade– as a Helen Hayes vehicle. She was replaced by Loy but two weeks after shooting started, she felt miscast as a  “sobbing and giggling girl.”And that’s how the movie became the Hollywood debut of the Austrian Rainer. Opposite Loy’s later regular co-star, William Powell and…   “The voice of the immortal [Enrico] Caruso recorded on Victor records.”  Powell taught Rainer the  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.
  9. 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.”
  10. 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.  

  11. 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. 
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.   
  15. Virginia Bruce, Arséne Lupin Returns, 1937.      In February, MGM said Loy would join her Thin Manco-star William Powell  – as the titular jewel thief, retired but still suspected by ex-FBI man Spencer Tracy. Finally, Bruce, MelvynDouglas and Warren William became the trio in the sequel to 1931 version when John Barrymore’s Lupin was hunted by brother Lionel as an ex-FBI agent.Loy was already Nora to his Nick Charles in  six MGMovies based on Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, during 1934-1947.   Hammet based Nora on  his longtime lover,  Lillian Hellman. In  all, Powell and Loy made 14 films, so many that when  travelling together, they were invariably given double hotel rooms, until they explained something called reality.
  16. 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.   
  17. 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.
  18. 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. 
  19. Bette Davis, The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941.  Eight guys  were seen for the titular and  acerbic critic, Sheridan Whiteside  (the first time that  Cary Grant and Orson Welles were considered  for the same role!).   But just three ladies for Maggie Cutler (based on Dorothy Parker)  – Jean Arthur, Bette  Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy  and Rosalind  Russell.  It was Bette who wanted  John Barrymore as Whiteside, but he could no longer remember his lines. “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.” In their boom(ing) days, the Burtons were due for a re-make. But who’d  want Richard for dinner?
  20. Joan Crawford, Above Suspicion, `1942.  American honeymooners in Paris ae really spies helping the  Brits. The odd WWII couple went from William Powell and Myrna Loy (The Thin Man Goes to War!) to Fred MacMurray and La Crawford – in her last MGMovie. She quit the studio after 17 years in a snit after losing Random Harvest  and Madame Curie to the  first rising Greer Garson. Loy also quit MGM around the same period. 

  21. Lana Turner, Marriage Is A Private Affair, 1942.   “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.. for Clark Gable and Judy Garland…   and to hell with their age difference!  (He was 42 to her 20!. Numerous re-writes weree ordered by the Production Code, as Judith Kelly’s novel included adultery, illicit sex and abortion. (Well, Tennessee Williams had a digit in the script). Metro planned Turner and Gene Kelly or James Craig. Lana finally made it with John Hodiak but for director Robert Z Leonard.  Z is right.
  22. Kay Hammond, Blithe Spirit, 1944.     No, no and no!  Noel Coward refused all Hollywood offers for his play because previous Stateside versions of his work were “vulgarised, distorted, and ruined”. To hit back at him, MGM’s chief, LB Mayer, refused to loan Loy for the UK film. Myrna was furious insisting that Elvira was a role she was born to play.  Except the movie, , like the West End play,  was totally stolen by Margaret Rutherford as  the dotty medium, Madame Arcati.
  23. Joan Crawford, Mildred  Pierce, 1945.  Bette Davis declined “The Kind of Woman that most men want – BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE!” Seeing Mildred as herself, a hard-working, self-sacrificing mother, Crawford swooped, sweet-talking producer Jerry Wald out of Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy, Rosalind  Russell, Anne Sheridan and Barbara Stanwyck.  Director Michael Curtiz did not want :the has-been” and was forever cursing  – mainly in Hungarian – “her and her shoulder  pads.”  But they won her the Oscar while Davis soon had her first flop in 50 films with the aptly named Deception.  Bette always maintained that Crawford (and Miriam  Hopkins) lusted after her body as well as her success. Bette  played Joan, or a script based on her – with plenty of her “Bless you!” lines thrown in by Davis – in The Star, 1952.
  24. 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..!   Also up for Anna: Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Vivien Leigh; Loy and Merle Oberon were back in the running when running when Dunne’s husband had a heart attack and filming was postponed for two months.
  25. Katharine Hepburn, The Sea of Grass, 1946.    MGM first announced a fjlm of the Conrad Richter novel in 1939… !   To star  Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy, – following their Test Pilot winner.  But by now, Katharine Hepburn was firmly entrenched in Tracy’s public and private life.  ”She sat at his  feet and worshipped him and I felt out of place,”  said their (surprise) director, Elia Kazan. And how he regretted the gig.  As he repeated  over the years. “It’s the only picture I’ve ever made that I’m ashamed of. Don’t see it…   was a damn fool to do lt at all.” And yet, and even after being sold as the kind of Western (which it wasn’t, it made more money than any of their other Metro movies.
  26. Judy Garland, The Pirate, 1947.  MGM snapped up SN Behrman’s play for… let’s see now, more stars than in the heavens above…    So how about them Minivers: Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon? Or, Garson or Myrna Loy plus Cary Grant plus Charles Laughton (as Don Pedro Vargas!)…  Or, the Notorious Grant and Ingrid Bergman couple…  or William Powell and Hedy Lamarr?  Hey, we’re MGM!  Why not a musical? With Judy Garland and… er… John Hodiak? They got on real swell in The Harvey Girls. He can’t really sing ‘n’ dance? No prob – Judy and Gene Kelly! And so it came to pass. Uneasily… The Minnellis (an imploding Judy and her director  father Vincente) were at each other’s creative throats. LB Mayer ordered the Judy-Kelly Voodoo number was  too torrid! (Judy-Kelly were torrid?). In fact, LB hated it all, calling it high-brow and extremely pretentious. Which it was. But that’’s Kelly  – and Minnelli – in a nutshell. Metro lost $2m. Including for the first time in any Hollywood budget, paying a shrink. For Judy.   2
  27. Greer Garson, That Forsyte Woman, 1948.   MGM  won  the rights to John Galsworthy’s The Forstye Saga in 1937 – and never knew what to do with it.  Instead of the full trilogy, the studio planned a re-titled version of  the first book, The Man of Property, with Joseph L  Mankiewicz directing Franchot Tone as the stuffy banker, Soames Forsyte, and La Crawford as his  unfaithful wife, Irene.  Two more attempts in 1939 and 1949 never flew, either, despite being aimed at  Cark Gable,  Deborah Kerr, Myrna Loy, Michael Wilding, etc.
  28. Irene Dunne, Never A Dull Moment, 1950.     Oh yeah?!
  29. 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!”
  30. Joan Fontaine, Ivanhoe, 1951.     When first planned in  the mid-30s, MGM aimed to squeeze too many contract stars into unlikely roles in Sir Walter Scott’s 12th Century, Robin Hoodish tale of chivalrous knights, warring Saxons, Normans, Christians and Jews.  Such as  Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Gary Cooper as King Richard II..!!!), Joan Fontaine, Luise Rainer,  Robert Taylor. And Loy as Lady Rowena.

  31. Lucille Ball, Forever Darling, 1955.    The five-year-itch pair was always for one screen couple or another. From William Powell-Myrna Loy to Spencer Tracy-Katharine  Hepburn to America’s biggest TV stars… Lucy and Desi!  Big as they were, Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz couldn’t swing Cary Grant as their marriage-saving angel; a fun part for James Mason. Didn’t work for them. The Arnazs were divorced five years later. (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn). 
  32. Flora Robson, 55 Days At Peking, 1962.      An early thought for the Dowager Empress Tzu-His.
  33. Constance Bennett, Madame X, 1966.    She had no wish to make a come back as… Lana Turner’s mother.
  34. 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.”



 Birth year: 1905Death year: 1993Other name: Casting Calls:  34