Myrna Loy — Working Girl (1934) 🇺🇸

January 06, 2022

Exotic Myrna Loy keeps a sane head on those pretty shoulders.

by Kenneth Baker

Funny isn’t it? That you’ve never heard much about Myrna Loy. That you don’t hear much to this day. That you probably never will, even if she becomes a star of the first magnitude, which is not at all impossible. For she is about to start her starring career for M-G-M, in “Stamboul Quest.”

Check back over the past eight years, the eight years during which Myrna Loy has been a definite screen personality. Remember any time when her name or her fame rocketed skyward, suddenly? Anytime when the word “sensational” could have possibly branded either her professional or her private life? Yet, undoubtedly, she is a great favorite with millions of theater-goers. Undoubtedly she holds a very secure place in the front rank of screen actresses.

Undoubtedly she is a person unique in the annals of Hollywood history.

Myrna Loy is Hollywood’s working girl.

Since she set out at seventeen to earn her own living in a town where it is at the same time the easiest and the hardest thing to do, she has faced and solved the same problems which are faced and solved by a thousand other working girls throughout the country every year.

Not that Myrna is a dull person obsessed with the idea of success via the plugging, plodding route. On the contrary, she is a very lively lady to whom life holds out many diverting and amusing promises. Let us instead call her “canny” by nature. Let us merely brand her a good business girl, who has gone about her Hollywood career from a business standpoint — a standpoint, by the way, which would ordinarily be termed madness, in a town where most rules are reversed.

Certainly Myrna herself would be the last person in the world to point to her procedure as a pattern for success in the most baffling “game” in the world. Yet a glance back into her career might very well disclose a few hints which a girl of similar makeup might very well grasp to guide her in a Hollywood campaign. “I have always looked ahead —”

Inadvertently Myrna Loy sounded the keynote of her career when she said this.

“I am naturally serious,” she further admitted. “I like fun, but I don’t mix it with work. Work, to me, has always been a terribly serious matter, not to be trifled with.”

When she studied dancing as a girl, she studied it seriously, because she realized it must contribute something to her future. She learned it so well, that she started teaching, at one time presiding over a class of thirty pupils

Dancing to her was her job, and she saw nothing frivolous or gayly exciting about it. Neither did she see anything of which to be ashamed. She took jobs dancing in Grauman’s prologues and with Fanchon-Marco revues, while attending the fashionable Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. In the daytime she mingled with society débutantes and frequently in the evenings danced before the footlights.

She could never understand why her snobbish little schoolmates admired her when she danced at school festivals and benefits, but arched their eyebrows when they saw her on the stage doing the same thing professionally. She resented it, because she was doing her job and doing it well. She was glad when she left school and with it the “snobs” who didn’t approve of her stage dancing. Strangely enough, she was later to portray “society types” to achieve her greatest screen triumphs in “Animal Kingdom” and “When Ladies Meet.” Since those two films she played “moll roles” in “Penthouse” and “The Prizefighter and the Lady.”

Possibly these early resentments caused Myrna to cling to a few proved friends; caused her later to shy from Hollywood “sets” where gossip and unfairness run riot.

“I have never felt that parties or social ‘politics’ of any kind have ever helped an actress to success. At least, to lasting success. Just as screen roles are definitely apart from real life, so studio work can be and should be definitely apart from social entanglements.

“After all, the really important thing in this business is to deliver a performance, to make yourself valuable — professionally. Everything else is incidental, and entirely up to one’s idea of a good time. The old rule of ‘Know thyself’ is the most reliable rule a girl could choose to follow in Hollywood. ‘Know thyself and Be thyself.’”

From her very first “bit” role, Myrna Loy has studied her every part thoroughly before facing the camera. She has had to, because even every bit was a character bit, and from the first, a character with which she was entirely unfamiliar.

Imagine a girl of nineteen undertaking the portrayal of a temperamental Russian mistress, or Lucrezia Borgia’s chief poisoner as she did in “Don Juan.”

It was in this picture that John Barrymore taught her the importance of correct costume. She was amazed to see the star go down to the wardrobe every day and carefully inspect all the costumes to be used in the scenes. It impressed her tremendously, as such meticulous interest was rare in those days.

Ever since then she has been extra careful about every costume she has worn, and frequently makes them herself to be sure they’re right. It’s good business.

During the days, or rather, the years in which she was the perennial dark feminine menace of the screen, and was playing everything from Oriental houris to depraved maniacs, she made a point of going deep into the psychology, and even the religion, of her distasteful screen characters.

“I never quite believed in them,” she admits today, “but I had to attribute some sort of phobia to them to make them real. I had to understand how anyone could be like that, in order to make it convincing on the screen.”

All the time, she wanted desperately to get away from the sinister run of parts, because she realized she was being hopelessly relegated to that unsympathetic type, but at the same time, she deliberately set about being adequate, even perfect in them — because it was good business to give a good performance!

She is frank in stating that she intends to “make hay while the sun shines.”

“One’s life in this profession is not long. You have to make your money while you can so you will have enough for the future,” she observes wisely.

Up until recently Myrna has lived with her mother and brother, quite modestly. She still lives modestly, although by herself in a rented house in Santa Monica. It is quiet out there, and remote. She can rest and read, keep physically and mentally fit.

There’s only one thing which will make her stop being essentially a working girl — marriage. She admits it has almost happened several times.

“But I don’t think I would ever give up my screen career entirely for marriage,” Myrna Loy states frankly.

Of course, there’s an obvious answer to that.

She could marry someone who also has a screen career to think about.

But when I mentioned it, there was dead silence.

For Hollywood’s working girl is nothing if not discreet.

And Ramon Novarro is one person she just won’t talk about!

“Work, to me, has always been a terribly serious matter, not to be trifled with”

Source: Photoplay, February 1934