Myrna Loy: Her World Beyond Hollywood, Part II 1950-1993

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park

On February 4, 1950,  Howland H. Sargeant, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs wrote George V. Allen, then U. S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, that “Miss Myrna Loy has been here for the past week…doing more things than you can shake a stick at. Myrna appeared before the Executive Committee of the National Commission and I understand made a very eloquent and persuasive presentation which will result in further developing our work with the Hollywood Committee and the Hollywood people. She is certainly a charming person.”[1] The next day, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper wrote about a rumor that Loy may run for Congress.[2]

During the spring of 1950, Loy worked for her friend, Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas’ campaign for the Californian Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, hosting fundraising parties.[3]  But politics would be temporarily put aside for an increased UNESCO role. On April 19, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs wrote Loy that she was being appointed to membership on the National Commission for UNESCO for a term starting April 16, 1950, and ending at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the National Commission in 1953, as one of the fifteen persons chosen at large.  She was informed that the National Commission advised the government and served as a link with national private organizations in matters relating to UNESCO.[4]

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Letter from Edward Barrett to Myrna Loy, 4/19/1950

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Letter from Edward Barrett to Myrna Loy, 4/19/1950

After her appointment, a reporter in Washington, D.C. interviewed her.  The reporter wrote Loy was perfectly willing to be interviewed, televised, broadcast, photographed and lionized if necessary to get the world acquainted with the work of UNESCO. The reporter noted that Loy, with her appointment, would be a more frequent visitor to Washington, D.C., but most of her time would be spent in New York where she often attended the United Nations General Assembly and in California where she would continue to make one or two pictures a year. Loy told the reporter that “It’s hard to sell the people on constructive ideas. It’s the quarrels in the security council that sell newspapers. Conflict is always more interesting than harmony…Our problem is to dramatize the constructive things that are being done, and the responsibility lies with the ones who can tell the story.” She acknowledged to the reporter that sometimes when a constructive story was told through someone who happens to be as well-known to people all over the world as she is, there is a hope of getting it noticed. “I don’t mind being used that way,” she said. “I want to help in whatever way I can help best.” The reporter wrote that one of the ways Loy had helped was in forming a committee in Hollywood to provide material to the producers which would further the cause of UNESCO and still provide exciting theater. “One little incident to help battle international prejudices dropped into the middle of an entertaining film, can be so valuable” she explains.[5]

Being in Washington, some people thought she would be running for Congress.  She responded that she did not know anything about politics. “I think I’m more suited temperamentally to what I’m doing. And besides it’s so very important to get people interested in arts, science and education as international problems,” she stated.[6]

On May 10, The New York Times reported that Loy had been named an adviser to the American delegation to the annual meeting of UNESCO.[7]  Seeing this, or perhaps other newspapers accounts, Congressman Harold Royce Gross of Iowa, a Republican and a very fiscal conservative, wrote the State Department that newspapers had reported Loy being named an advisor to the American delegation to the annual meeting of UNESCO. He asked “Who appointed her, how much will she be paid, including expenses, and how does her background jibe with the job to which she has been appointed?” [8]  The Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations responded regarding Loy as an advisor of the United States delegation to the Fifth Session of the General Conference of UNESCO, which was scheduled to convene at Florence on May 22. He wrote:

The Department looks to the members of the United States National Commission for UNESCO, which was created by Act of Congress, for recommendation of delegation members to advise on the technical aspects of UNESCO program. Miss Loy was recommended by several members of the National Commission and by other recognized experts as an Advisor on films, one of the media of communications to be discussed at the Florence Conference. After review within the Department of delegation requirements, this recommendation was accepted. Miss Loy will receive no salary or other compensation, but is entitled, as are all other members of the official Delegation, to the cost of travel and per diem. It is estimated that expenses incident to her participation will approximate $1,150.00 if she claims full reimbursement for expenses allowed delegation members.

Miss Loy was one of the early workers for UNESCO on the West Coast. She was the first person to interest film studios and workers in the use of this medium of mass communication for the purposes of UNESCO. She attended the regional conference sponsored by the United States National Commission at San Francisco in 1948, having encouraged a group of co-workers from the film industry to participate.

In 1949, while working in Europe, she spent considerable time at UNESCO headquarters at Paris conferring with officials on the use of films to promote international understanding. The United States Delegation to the Fourth General Conference at Paris took advantage of Miss Loy’s presence there to consulter her informally on film aspects of the conference agenda.

As a result of her work in Hollywood and with other groups on the West Cost, Miss Loy was formally requested by the National Commission to organize a permanent Hollywood film committee for UNESCO. Later, she was appointed a Member at Large of the United States National Commission for UNESCO. This appointment was made with the approval and support of motion picture leaders in Hollywood, who were consulted in advance. [9]

Loy would attend the fifth general conference of the International Commission for the UNESCO, held in Florence from May 22 to June 16.  Heading the United States delegation was Holland Sargeant. She was an active participant, as well as developing a romantic relationship with Sargeant. [10]

Ten days after Loy returned from Europe, in June 1950, the Korean War began.  She resumed her military hospital rounds.[11]

Loy spent the first week of August 1950, in Washington, D.C. There she met and socialized with State Department and United Nations officials. According to her biographer, “Washington made her feel welcome, important.”  On August 3, Loy participated in a general radio forum, broadcast courtesy of the Voice of America. The discussion topic was mass communications, with two delegates of the recent UNESCO General Conference, Fifth Session.[12]

During the Douglas-Richard M. Nixon Senate campaign, a reporter asked Loy if she would consider running for Congress if Douglas had to vacate her seat to become a senator. Loy answered that she had been away from California for a while and did not feel qualified to represent its citizens. “I don’t know enough to be in Congress. I’m learning to be a diplomat but I’m no politician. I’m too busy with UNESCO.”  Even still she would be involved in politics. During the campaign, Eleanor Roosevelt called her to help Douglas. She told Loy “I want you to help me. Helen is in trouble. She is up against a man who is unscrupulous.” Loy hosted several fundraisers for Mrs. Douglas, who would be trounced by Nixon in the November election.[13]

President Truman on September 8, 1950, at the White House Rose Garden, met with representatives of the Council of Motion Pictures Organizations, Inc., who had called to pledge their cooperation with the Government. Loy was one the representatives. Truman urged the motion picture industry to counteract Communist “propaganda and fiction” with a hard-hitting “campaign of truth and fact.” Truman recalled the great contribution of their industry to national morale, dissemination of truth and entertainment of servicemen in WWII. “I want to repeat on that” he said. [14]  Loy would have other interactions with Truman. She wrote “When issues were pertinent to UNESCO, he kept me at his side during Blair House conferences or Rose Garden functions, frequently soliciting my opinions and advice.” [15]

At some point in late 1950 or early 1951, she bought a house in Georgetown, and the United Nations Information Office gave her space in their temporary headquarters near the State Department.[16]

In January 1951, Loy was a guest speaker at a Girl Scout luncheon at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. She spoke of her work on the United States Commission for UNESCO.  She explained that her work with Mass Communications concerned the motion picture industry in its work of trying to tell the world “the truth of our purpose-the truth campaign being carried on by the State Department.”[17]  Again at the Shoreham Hotel on February 20, at a meeting sponsored by the Washington Area Woman’s Division of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, in commemoration of World Brotherhood Week, Loy and Attorney General J. Howard McGrath spoke to a thousand-person crowd.  She warned against negative feelings of hopelessness and frustration in the world situation because “out of these grow fears.”[18]

During the early months of 1951, her weeks were filled with speaking engagements on behalf of UNESCO.  During this time she was being swamped with 30 to 40 invitations a week to speak about UNESCO and she attempted to find time to be accommodating. A Washington Post reporter noted in April that whether she remarried or not or whether new Hollywood scripts would come along or not “Myrna Loy and UNESCO will go on together for a long time.” [19]

A marriage did come along. Her fourth. On June 2, 1951, at Fort Myer, Virginia, she wed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Howland H. Sargeant.  Loy had met him at the 1949 UNESCO meeting in Paris and their romance had begun at the UNESCO conference in Florence in 1950. He was a divorcee, just shy of his fortieth birthday when they wed, and eight years her junior.  After the wedding the couple headed almost immediately for Europe on the Queen Elizabeth. They would combine their honeymoon with a UNESCO meeting in Paris.  In Paris, Sargeant served as chairman of the United States delegation at the meeting and be elected as Chairman of the General Conference of UNESCO (6th Session). At the conference, Loy spoke to reporters about the importance of films erasing national stereotypes.[20]  

Representative Charles M. Brownson, Republican of Indiana, during a House debate on UNESCO’s budget, seized the opportunity to lambast UNESCO, as “a mismanaged socialite travel club” and to charge that the Sargeants’ Paris honeymoon had been undertaken at the expense of American taxpayers. Rep. Prince Preston, Democrat of Georgia, told the House on August 2, that her honeymoon was paid for by her new husband, not by the Government.[21]  

Upon returning from Europe, the Sargeants set up housekeeping in Georgetown. But she soon went back to Hollywood to film Belles on Their Toes, a sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen. It would be released May 1952.

In early March 1952, when Sargeant was sworn in at the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who held Loy in high esteem, said “It strikes me that we’re getting two Assistant Secretaries for the price of one.” [22]

In Washington, D.C. May 7, 1952, at a luncheon for 400 members and guests of Independence Chapter B’nai B’rith, Loy was awarded with the chapter’s Americanism Award for her work in the United States National Commission of UNESCO. Loy said that her work was “probably the most gratifying and pleasant assignment a woman could have.” She then told of the inspiration she had received from Jan Masaryk and presented the chapter a book which Masaryk had given to her.[23]

Loy wanted to campaign for Adlai Stevenson in his run for the presidency in 1952, but because of her husband’s position in the State Department, she had to accept being sidelined, and was most upset when he was defeated by Dwight Eisenhower.  She also felt “in the thick of the McCarthy horror, my hands were tied.” [24]

But she still remained active in UNESCO activities. She served as a member at large for UNESCO’s Third National Conference, at Hunter College, and assembled motion-picture representatives for the Venice Conference of Artists.  She and her husband attended a UNESCO conference in Paris.[25]  Once the Eisenhower Administration took over in 1953, Sargeant found a job as the president of the American Committee for Liberation, which meant running Radio Liberation. Since it was based in New York City, the Sargeants moved there.  But they did not forsake Washington, D.C. They bought and restored a small house.

During the 1956 Stevenson presidential campaign, with Sargeant no longer a political appointee, Loy worked for the campaign. In Los Angeles she helped Dore Schary organize a rally, which included Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, and Lauren Bacall.  She also helped the Democratic National Committee in its chain-letter campaign for votes.[26]  

In 1957, she joined with Senator Jacob Javits and others to present a petition to the United Nations Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld and Prince Wan of Thailand, president of the General Assembly, condemning Soviet aggression in Hungary.[27]

As the 1950s ended, Loy was still involved in UNESCO and political matters.  She narrated The Long Road for the United Nations, its first television film on the status of women, including the slave trade in the Middle East.  In November 1957, she consulted on film for the Sixth National UNESCO Conference, in San Francisco.[28]  On March 2, 1958, Loy was a guest for on a radio program, part of a series on the UNESCO and United Nations Radio.[29]  Before the November 1958 mid-term elections, Loy made appearances at Democratic rallies.[30]  In early 1959, a New York Times reporter asked Loy how she got involved with UNESCO.  She responded, “Well, I’d always been interested in the United Nations-I know people like Mrs. Roosevelt, others, and I have quite a few friends in diplomacy. Then, somehow I found my place.”  She added, “It was stimulating-that’s the only word. Also, a sort of new idea that people like us, movie people, could make a real contribution.” [31]

Sargeant and Loy separated in 1958, and were divorced in 1960.  After the divorce, she soon started a new career in television and on the stage.  But she found time for politics, UNESCO, and, civil rights.[32]

On June 16, 1960, a radio program entitled “The United Nations Today” offered news from Geneva, Florence and Los Angeles. Loy spoke as a United States observer to the UNESCO meeting in Los Angeles.[33]

Loy sat on the New York State Democratic Committee and threw herself into the John F. Kennedy campaign in 1960, once Stevenson decided not to run. She immensely disliked Richard Nixon.  She stumped for Kennedy all over New York State and New Jersey, making speeches and attending rallies, luncheons, and dinner.  She wrote “I worked damn hard for Kennedy, traveling, making speeches, supporting him all the way.”  She added “I was with him up until the very last minute.”[34]

During the campaign, Kennedy included Loy in his National Conference on Constitutional Rights and American Freedom, held the second week of October 1960 and chaired by Senator Hubert Humphrey.[35]  This event, she wrote, would lead to her long involvement with the National Committees Against Discrimination in Housing (NCDH).[36]

Loy did not think much of Kennedy as a person. “He was,” she wrote, “a strange man. During all the months we campaigned shoulder to shoulder, I could never get him to respond to me.”  “There was never a word beyond the minimum, never an attempt to be friendly.”[37] Her feelings for Jackie Kennedy were much different. Loy wrote “Jackie, on the other hand, had the ability to communicate with people on a personal level.  She seemed aware of what people were doing in the campaign and had the grace to show her appreciation. She always made time for polite small talk, which her husband seemed unable or unwilling to do. Jackie was most pleasant communicative; in fact, when we meet she still is.” [38]

On October 26, Loy helped the country to get to know the future First Lady, which can be seen in this video from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

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from IFP:135 VT39-5M Jacqueline Kennedy Campaign Interview

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from IFP:135 VT39-5M Jacqueline Kennedy Campaign Interview

In 1960, Loy found another cause, discrimination in housing. That November she served on the planning committee for a fundraising dinner in New York City to aid the program of the State and National Committees Against Discrimination in Housing (NCDH).[39]  The NCDH was created in 1950, as a non-profit, independent research organization to sponsor and conduct research in the field of housing for minorities; and to enlist the cooperation of government, real estate interests, and community leaders in eliminating discrimination in housing. The following May, the NCDH named her and Crane Haussamen, co-chairmen of its advisory council.[40]

Kennedy would be elected.  Loy attended the inaugural ball, where Senator Humphrey spilled champagne on her gown. She really did not care; she wrote “I loved that man and always regret that the right time never came for him to be President.”  She was later invited to a White House reception commemorating the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Regarding that event she wrote “I felt honored to be among some of the nation’s most prominent blacks, and applauded the President for observing the occasion-not a usual gesture then.”[41]

During the first half of 1961, Loy devoted her attention and energies to civil rights. She would write that:

The frustration and despair of people trapped in ghettos lead to anger and violence unless we act to bring about change. One way to achieve it is through open housing, which remains one of the most crucial issues of our time. I always felt that if I had to go to battle for it, I could-and I did, when the Real Estate Boards of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx opposed amending the city’s anti-discrimination laws.” [42] 

During a five-hour public hearing, after haranguing the City Council’s General Welfare Committee on domestic issues, I added that discrimination at home was affecting our foreign relations. From my UNESCO experience, I knew that housing discrimination was felt keenly by U.N. personnel-from delegates to clerks. ‘Just one discriminatory act, just one closed door,’ I explained, ‘can have serious repercussions in all our negotiations.’ The media response was fantastic. Because of this other image of me, the newspapers, which might have buried the hearings, gave them headline coverage. We even made the Daily News! The amendments passed unanimously. All I can say is, thank God for The Thin Man! [43]

Loy and Crane Haussamen (who became permanent United States representative to UNESCO in 1962) on July 12 1961, wrote Martin Luther King, Jr., about housing matters.[44]

Then it was off in July to make her stage debut, in Marriage-Go-Round. After the summer doing the play she conducted a press conference at the National Housing Center, along with Algernon Black and Charles Abrams, NCDH chairman and president, respectively. They released copies of a statement urging President Kennedy to fulfill his campaign pledge to eliminate racial discrimination in federal housing programs. Despite the passing of the Housing Act of 1961, “we had uncovered massive evidence that eighty percent of federally sponsored housing was operated on a segregated basis. Making the benefits of the Housing Act available to all, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, depended on executive action by the man who had involved me in the NCDH in the first place. He never got the chance. It would require seven more years of struggle before his successor signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1968.”[45]

In New York City in May 1962, Loy attended a dinner sponsored by the NCDH. Joining Loy among the distinguished guests were Adlai E. Stevenson and Ralph Bunche.  Seven months later President Kennedy issued Executive Order 11063, which banned discrimination in federally supported housing.  Kennedy credited the NCDH for its role in the development of the order.[46]

After Eleanor Roosevelt passed away on November 7, 1962, Adlai Stevenson, as chairman of the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation, asked Loy to join the National Council. “I would be honored if in such a way I can help you carry on the work of that dear and remarkable lady,” she replied. [47]

During the early 1960s, Loy would continue her political and United Nations involvements.  In the fall of 1963, at an AAUN anniversary dinner, Loy joined John Roosevelt, U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and several others on the dais. Her speech that evening, recalled working with the AAUN in California and meeting Jan Masaryk.  Also that fall, she helped launch a successful campaign for a stronger Fair Housing Law in New York State.[48]

 When Wynn Handman, who had coached her for her stage debut, shared with her the idea of establishing a theater where American writers’ works would be played, she encouraged him. She used income from the Marriage-Go-Round tour to get the project started. This resulted in November 1963, in the creation of The American Place Theatre in New York City, which was founded and incorporated as a not-for-profit theater. Loy and Tennessee Williams were two of the original Board members. Loy continued her relations with the theater for years, and witnessed the theater launching the careers of, among others, Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Roscoe Lee Browne, Frank Langella, and Michael Douglas.[49]

Loy increasingly became more involved in stage acting. From 1964 to 1966, she starred in the national tour of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, for which she won a Sarah Siddons award in 1965.[50]  While the play was running in Washington, D.C., the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, had Loy to the White House for tea.  A year later, President Lyndon B. Johnson invited Loy back to the White House for the unveiling of Elizabeth Shoumatoff’s portrait of President Roosevelt. “That moving event,” she wrote, “held particular significance for me; clasped in F.D.R.’s hand, symbolizing his ideals, was the Atlantic Charter, which he had been off signing one of the days I breathlessly reached the White House to meet him.”[51]

In June 1966, in Washington, D.C., as the tour was nearing its end, a Washington Post reporter wrote that during the tour, she “has continued to beat the drums for UNESCO, the United Nations and Civil Rights everywhere she goes.”[52]

She was dismayed when Congress tabled the Civil Rights Bill in 1966. With the play ended, she hit the road to campaign for the legislation, speaking before the National Conference on Educational Radio and the opening session of the NCDH Regional Conference in Los Angeles. She also testified before a California Governor’s Commission.  Loy was quite pleased when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in April 1968.  Popularly known as the Fair Housing Act, it prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin and sex. After President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he sent Loy one of his signing pens.[53]

During the 1968 presidential primaries, Loy supported Senator Eugene J. McCarthy campaign, getting Paul Newman involved in the process.[54]  In the Oregon primary, she wrote: “I flew into every nook and cranny of Oregon…I shared so many meals with so many civic groups and political organizations that Eleanor Roosevelt’s wistful complaint haunted me: ‘I get so tired of all those chicken dinners.’”  McCarthy’s Oregon victory made him a serious contender for the nomination. “We faced California,” she wrote, “with optimism and boundless energy. I spoke everywhere, from picnics in Long Beach to evangelical temples in Watts.”[55]  On election night, June 6, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and McCarthy lost interest and energy to continue on.

In September she was back in Hollywood to make April Fools.  Her only regret over accepting that role was that it kept her from attending the Democratic National Convention where she had hoped to work for McCarthy.  When Vice President Hubert Humphrey got the nomination Loy told a reporter that she suspected that she would be campaigning for Humphrey “because I’m so concerned with the attack by Nixon and the Republicans on the judiciary.”[56]

In November 1968, in New York City, UNESCO launched a project to sell bookplates to raise funds to combat world illiteracy. Loy, who was active in that cause since the 1950s and served on the National Commission for Adult Literacy, made the first purchase. It was also at this time, UNESCO presented her with its Silver Medallion for her years of service.[57]

In 1969, Loy’s work was recognized and honored by the National Women’s Division of the American Jewish Congress.[58]

Loy backed the Presidential campaign of George McGovern in 1972.[59]  Nixon beat him easily. Later Loy [whose favorite candidates often lost] would say, “I grew up with the impression that I owed it to my country to give something of myself whether I got whipped or not.” “I believe if I can lend my shoulder to something, I should; it’s my duty.” [60]

The following year Loy was part of the cast of the Broadway revival of The Women.[61]  By this time her acting career was coming to an end, though she had very minor roles in movies such as Airport 75 (1974) and Just Tell Me What You Want (1990).

In February 1980, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures presented her with its first David Wark Griffith award “in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to the art of screen acting.”[62]  A reporter around this time asked her about politics.  She responded “Politics is part of my life…It’s everybody’s privilege to choose party, to be a part of government…and I’m seriously interested in solving our problems.  Also, I believe in the U.N. It has seen some rough times, but it’s still surviving.” [63]

 In 1981, when the magazine W printed an interview expressing Loy’s political views, Senator Howard Metzenbaum, a Democrat from Ohio, took note. He read the article into the Congressional Record, describing Loy as “woman who has the courage to stand up for her convictions.” In her autobiography, referring to this, Loy wrote: “Well, I was raised to do that by pioneers who valued such attributes. I could ask for no greater tribute.”[64]

At a gala sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at Carnegie Hall on January 15, 1985, honored Loy. Her colleagues praised her for her “cool professionalism, kindness and early involvement in the fight against racial discrimination.” At the gala Lauren Bacall, who served as master of ceremonies, said she admired Loy “as a person, an actress and a face, but also as a woman aware of what went on in the country and the world. She’s not a frivolous human being. And she’s a great wit, which I’m a sucker for.” Lena Horne, in her remarks, also cited Loy’s interest in public affairs, particularly when she served as a United States delegate to UNESCO.  Horne hailed Loy for living “a useful, purposeful life,” for being “aware of the problems of others and ready to do something about them.” Among those who joined the ovation for her were Lillian Gish, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Sidney Lumet, Robert Mitchum, Maureen O’Sullivan, Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, and, Sylvia Sidney.[65]

In her 1987 autobiography, Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming, the eighty-two year old Loy wrote:

In the pursuit of justice, my NCDH duties still include raising funds and making speeches in the ongoing battle to open the suburbs to minority workers who get the jobs but not housing in adjacent areas. Enlightened as we are, we will condone exploitation, unemployment, and discrimination.  We even get tired of having them pointed out to us. The example of men like Frank S. Horne, Lena’s uncle, who was dean of the open-housing movement, reminds us that such inequities do not vanish without effort.[66]

The American Place Theater, of which Loy served as a trustee, On November 5, 1987, celebrated both the 15th years of its American Humorists’ Series and the publication of Loy’s autobiography with a tribute called “When in Doubt, Act Like Myrna Loy.” Harry Belafonte, Joanne Woodward, Betty Comden, and, Adolph Green, were among the performers. Showed were film clips illustrating her solutions to different problems. Wynn Handman, a co-founder of the theater, said “Myrna’s legacy is her total honesty, her irresistible charm, her great sense of humor, a delicate touch, and her dignity as a woman.” “Woman still model themselves on Myrna because she had such dignity while maintaining her appeal.” Harry Belafonte said “long before it was fashionable or even acceptable for entertainers to take stands on social issues, Myrna Loy was tweaking the establishment.”[67]

In December 1988, Loy received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center.  At the event, Kathleen Turner opened the tribute to Loy by saying “There’s never been a woman like her in American film.” Turner quoted Jimmy Stewart, who once said, “There ought to be a law against anyone who doesn’t want to marry Myrna Loy.” The 83-year old Loy returned the compliment by throwing out kisses with her hands as the crowd rose to its feet, turned to her and gave her sustained applause.  Cabaret singer Bobby Short performed a selection of songs from the ’30s and ’40s, including “Isn’t It Romantic,” and the national touring company of Anything Goes performed the title song, written by Loy’s close friend, Cole Porter.  President Reagan said, “The lovely and mysterious Myrna Loy has always conveyed a sense of great ease and comfort — as if she were possessed of answers to questions you hadn’t thought of asking in the first place.”[68]

kennedy center honors gif

Although Loy was never nominated for an Academy Award for any single performance, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented her in March 1991 with an Academy Honorary Award “In recognition of her extraordinary qualities both on screen and off, with appreciation for a lifetime’s worth of indelible performances.”  After she died on December 14, 1993, the New York Times reported Loy, “the urbane actress who personified a liberated wife of intelligence and wry good humor in some of the best American movie comedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s, died on Tuesday…She was 88.”  Her biographer wrote in 2011, that Loy “remains an embodiment of buoyancy, companionability, engagement with the world, elegant urbanity, cool affection, and wry humor.”[69]  

Most people today remember Myrna Loy only for the Thin Man movies. Hopefully this blog post will show she was most active and very productive in the world outside of Hollywood.


Related Blogs:


[1] Scott Lucas, Freedom’s War: The US Crusade Against the Soviet Union, 1945-56 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), p. 126, n.88.

[2] Hedda Hopper, “Does Myrna Loy want Seat in Congress?: Kelly Doing Special work,” The Washington Post, February 5, 1950, p. L1.

[3] Denton, The Pink Lady, p. 150.

[4] Letter, Edward W. Barrett, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs to Miss Myrna Loy, Pacific Palisades, California, April 19, 1950, Decimal 398.43 UNESCO/4-1950, Central Decimal File, 1950-1954, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.

[5] Sonia Stein, “Myrna Loy Gleans New Fan Mail,” The Washington Post, April 23, 1950, p. S7.

[6] Sonia Stein, “Myrna Loy Gleans New Fan Mail,” The Washington Post, April 23, 1950, p. S7.

[7] “Off for UNESCO Conference in Florence, Italy,” The New York Times, May 10, 1950, p. 4.

[8] Letter, H. R. Gross, House of Representatives, Congress of the United State to Division of United Nations Economic and Social Affairs, Department of State, May 15, 1950, Decimal 398.43 UNESCO/5-1550, Central Decimal File, 1950-1954, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.

[9] Letter, Jack E. McFall, Assistant Secretary for Congressional relations to H. R. Gross, House of Representatives, May 22, 1950, Decimal 398.43 UNESCO/5-1550, Central Decimal File, 1950-1954, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.

[10] Outgoing Telegram, No. 375, Acheson to American Embassy Belgrade, May 12, 1950, Decimal 398.43 UNESCO/5-1250, Central Decimal File, 1950-1954, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; Outgoing Telegram, No. 7702, Webb, Acting to American Embassy Rome, May 12, 1950, Decimal 398.43 UNESCO/5-1250, Central Decimal File, 1950-1954, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; “Off for UNESCO Conference in Florence, Italy,” The New York Times, May 10, 1950, p. 4; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 248-252; Tex McCrary and Jinx Falkenburg, “Loy Was Williams, But Myrna’s Jake,” The Washington Post, August 27, 1950, p. L5; Dorothy McCardle, “Has Both Home and Career and makes Everybody Happy, Too,” The Washington Post, April 4, 1951, p. B3.

[11] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 255.

[12] Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 276; http://martingrams.blogspot.com/2011/07/myrna-loys-radio-credits.html.

[13] Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, pp. 277-278; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 247; Denton, The Pink Lady, p. 167.

[14] “Film Stars See Truman,” The New York Times, September 9, 1950, p. 11; Edward T. Folliard, “Truman Cites Voteless D.C. As He Gets Absentee Ballot,” The Washington Post, September 9, 1950, p. 1.

[15] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 263.

[16] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 256.

[17] Flora Gill, “Dr. Gilbreth, Myrna Loy Speak,” The Washington Post, January 27, 1951, p. B3.

[18] “1000 Attend ‘Brotherhood’ Observance,” The Washington Post, February 21, 1951, p. B3.

[19] Dorothy McCardle, “Has Both Home and career and makes Everybody Happy, Too,” The Washington Post, April 4, 1951, p. B3.

[20] “Myrna Loy Wed to State Dept. Official Here,” The Washington Post, June 3, 1951, p. M5; Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, pp. 278, 279; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 257-258.

[21] “Myrna Loy Defended,” The New York Times, August 3, 1951, p. 13; Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 279; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 258-259.

[22] Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 280; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 263.

[23] “Myrna Loy Speaks Up at Donor Party,” The Washington Post, May 8, 1952, p. C1.

[24] Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 280; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 265, 266-267.

[25] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 265, 267.

[26] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 277-281; Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 280; No title, The Washington Post and Times Herald, April 23, 1956, p. 23; “Letter Drive Is Set,” The New York Times, October 1, 1956, p. 31; “Claim H-Bomb Issue Means Adlai Votes,” The Washington Post and Times Herald, November 2, 1956, p. D4; Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[27] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 281.

[28] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 281, 284.

[29] http://martingrams.blogspot.com/2011/07/myrna-loys-radio-credits.html..

[30] Roscoe Drummond, “Star Are Cautious…Politics Still dormant in Hollywood,” The Washington Post and Times Herald, October 27, 1958, p. A11.

[31] Howard Thompson, “A Lady Known as Loy,” The New York Times, February 1, 1959, p. X7.

[32] “Myrna Loy Gets Divorce from Ex-State Official,” The Washington Post, June 2, 1960, p. A3; Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[33] http://martingrams.blogspot.com/2011/07/myrna-loys-radio-credits.html.

[34] Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 293; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 296-297, 299.

[35] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 298. Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at National Conference on Constitutional Rights and American Freedom, New York, New York, October 12, 1960. https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/Constitutional-Rights-Conference-NYC_19601012.aspx

[36] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 298.

[37] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 297, 298.

[38] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 298.

[39] “Discrimination Unit Plans Supper Party,” The New York Times, November 28, 1960, p. 38.

[40] “Anti-Bias Unit Gets Officers,” The New York Times, May 14, 1961, p. 73.

[41] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 300.

[42] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 310.

[43] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 311.

[44] Martin Luther King, Jr. Archive, Boston University, National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, Box 63, Folder 4.

[45] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 313.

[46] “Dinner to Honor Marietta Tree,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1962, p. D23; National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, Inc. (1945-1974), http://amistadresearchcenter.tulane.edu/archon/index.php?p=creators/creator&id=246.

[47] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 314-315.

[48] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 310, 315; “111 Nations Plan U.N. Week Rites: Observance includes Talks, Concerts and Ceremonies,” The New York Times, October 20, 1963, p. 2.

[49] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 315-317.

[50] Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[51] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 329.

[52] Richard L. Coe, “A Loy of the Golden West,” The Washington Post, June 7, 1966, p. B4.

[53] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 329-330.

[54] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, pp. 330-332; Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 291; Louis Calta, “Entertainers Join cast of Political Hopefuls: They Get Into Act to back 3 Candidates for the Presidency,” The New York Times, April 6, 1968, p. 42; Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[55] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 333.

[56] Bob Thomas, “Politics Still Beckons to Myrna Loy,” The Washington Post, September 21, 1968, p. C6.

[57] “Sale of Bookplates to Aid UNESCO,” The New York Times, November 5, 1968, p. 24; Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 357.

[58] “Jewish Women to Honor Four at a Luncheon,” The New York Times, April 25, 1969, p. 43.

[59] Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[60] Leslie Bennetts, “Myrna Loy Receives A Tribute,” The New York Times, November 7, 1987, p. 9.

[61] Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[62] Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[63] Rob Edelman, “Myrna Loy’s Star Still Burns Bright,” The New York Times, February 3, 1980, p. D23.

[64] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 358.

[65] “Film Academy Honors Myrna Loy,” The New York Times, January 16, 1985, p. D8; Janet Maslin, “Tribute to Myrna Loy,” The New York Times, January 16, 1985, p. C17; Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 309.

[66] Kotsilibas-Davis and Loy, Myra Loy: Being and Becoming, p. 358.

[67] Leslie Bennetts, “Myrna Loy Receives A Tribute,” The New York Times, November 7, 1987, p. 9.

[68] Carla Hall and Kara Swisher, “Artistry, Honor and a Starry Night: Kennedy Center’s Nostalgic Salute to Five of the Foremost,” The Washington Post, December 5, 1988, p. C6.

[69] Peter B. Flint, “Myrna Loy, Model of Urbanity in ‘Thin Man’ Films, Is Dead at 88,” The New York Times, December 16, 1993, p. B17; Leider, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, p. 311.

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