Sunny's bookshelf
Sunny's bookshelf photo by Judy Solomon

Online book reviews since 2011, the very best in reviewing – connecting good readers with equally good writers

Myrna Loy The Only Good Girl in Hollywood

Sign up to receive our latest reviews by email

Myrna Loy The Only Good Girl in Hollywood is the first formal biography of the popular star famous for the six Thin Man films made between 1934 and 1947. The subtitle is a quote from director John Ford for whom she worked very early in her career. It was meant as a tribute to her professionalism and scandal-free life.

A major theme of this well researched and thoroughly enjoyable biography is the exploration of a paradox. On one hand is Myrna Loy’s screen image as the perfect wife, a woman able to manage both husband and family with wit and charm; on the other hand is a career woman who lived her life independently. Her four marriages were not successful and early on an abortion rendered her unable to have children. Loy was said to dislike the term “perfect wife.” She insisted no woman could ever live up to it. Far from being a stay-at-home wife, Myrna Loy was a working professional; from the age of 20, she was the sole support of her widowed mother and deadbeat brother.

It’s curious that there has been no biography of the star before this, although author Emily W. Leider does acknowledge an excellent autobiography: Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming, co-written with James Kotsilibas-Davis and published in 1987. Included in Myrna Loy The Only Good Girl in Hollywood are 26 pages of filmography and a photo gallery. Lieder, no stranger to Hollywood, has also written biographies of Mae West and Rudolph Valentino.

The actress made 124 films between 1925 and 1980, making her first mark as a dancer and chorus girl. Early on she was cast as an Eurasian exotic, but Loy, whose real name was Myrna Williams, hit her stride with the screwball comedies of the 1930’s. Frequently cast opposite the distinguished William Powell, Myrna Loy was adored by the movie-going public as “the perfect wife.” She sustained this image clear through the Great Depression and capped it in 1946 with her staring role in the Academy Award winner, The Best Years of Our Lives.

Loy’s career began to slow down in the late 1940’s when good parts for women her age were seldom written. In response, she threw her energy into Democratic politics starting with The Committee for the First Amendment, which she and three others in the film industry founded. The Committee was formed in 1947 to protest the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings into alleged communist influence in Hollywood. These were treacherous waters to wade into. Loy later put her energies into the less controversial presidential campaigns of Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.

Myrna Loy made a significant contribution to the cinema during Hollywood’s golden age. If her life and work seem contradictory, the author reminds us that she was raised on a ranch in Montana. She grew up tough, resilient, smart, and unwilling to remain silent when something needed to be said. The way she played her movie character Nora Charles is perfectly consistent with her background as an independent frontier woman.

In 1990 Loy was recognized with a special Academy Award “for her career achievement.” By then, at age 85, the actress was too ill to travel and addressed the academy briefly from her New York apartment. She died three years later. Author Emily Leider demonstrates in this moving biography that Myrna Loy was truly a woman ahead of her time, and that’s reason enough to want to read about her and watch her films today.


3 Responses

  1. From the first time I saw her in the thin Man. She became my favorite actress from the golden age.

  2. Queen of Hollywood actually left there during the war years to work for the Red Cross, it wasn’t roles slowing down, she worked for the rest of her life, going on stage in the ’60’s when she didn’t like movie roles offered older actresses (Hitchcock wanted her to play Marnie’s broken down old hooker of a mother, she’d have been heartbreaking but refused the role & toured with Barefoot in the Park instead).

  3. Her and William Powell we’re.both class acts. What a great night watching them together in the Thin Man movies. RIP

Add your thoughts and comments...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this Review

Related Reviews

Billy Blaster and the Robot Army from Outer Space

Billy Blaster

BILLY BLASTER AND THE ROBOT ARMY FROM OUTER SPACE – not necessarily a graphic novel only for the younger reader. No matter how old you

Read More »

The God of  Endings

Jacqueline Hollands’s debut novel, The God of  Endings, reveals the loneliness of the life of an unwilling vampire. Jacqueline Holland’s debut novel, The God of Endings, follows

Read More »

About the Reviewer

Sign up for reviews by email

You’ll get email updates from Bookin’ with Sunny when we add a new review or blog post, and we never share your email with anyone else.

Shopping in-store Fun!

Support your local community’s economic growth by shopping for books at your independent bookstore in person, online at their website, or by phone.