Montana's First Lady of Film was born Myrna Williams, on August 2, 1905, in Radersburg, Montana, 40 miles southeast of Helena. Her father, David Williams, served in the Montana state legislature. He was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature. At age seven, Myrna moved with her father, mother, and brother to Helena, where they lived on 5th Avenue, a few blocks from the Lewis and Clark County jail.
Myrna Williams made her stage debut at age twelve at Helena's old Marlow Theater in a dance she choreographed, based on "The Blue Bird" from the Rose Dream Operatta. At the age of 13, Myrna's father died of influenza and the rest of the family moved to Los Angeles. She was educated in L.A. at the Westlake School for Girls, where she caught the acting bug. She started at the age of 15 when she appeared in local stage productions in order to help support her family. Some of the stage plays were held in the now famous Grauman's Theater in Hollywood. Mrs. Rudolph Valentino happened to be in the audience one night. She managed to pull some strings to get Myrna some parts in the motion picture industry. The name Loy, was taken as a professional stage name in 1925.
Myrna Loy's witty portrayal of Nora Charles in The Thin Man films of the 1930's and '40's transformed her into an enduring screen legend. She created one of the most loved and timelessly entertaining characters in film history. In 1936, a poll of 20 million fans voted her "Queen of the Movies" and Clark Gable "King," and the two were subsequently teamed in a number of films. Myrna Loy's candor and warmth graced such film classics as The Best Years of Our Lives, Cheaper by the Dozen, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Myrna Loy, the actress, distilled the essence of feminine "rightness" for millions of viewers. She was sophisticated, intelligent and charming. In 1981, she played in her last film, Summer Solstice. In 1991, Myrna Loy received an honorary Academy Award for her lifetime achievement in film.
Myrna Loy, the citizen, was equally impressive. She worked for the Red Cross, supported the United Nations, and became a spokesperson for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). She also fought the Hollywood blacklisting and witch hunts of the '50's and served on Civil Rights Commissions. Throughout her life she demonstrated a genuine concern for fellow human-beings.
On a personal note, her autobiography, Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming, was published in 1987. Her hobbies included dancing and sculpting. She was married to: Howland H. Sergeant (1951 - 1960) (divorced), Gene Markey (1946 - 1950) (divorced), John Hertz Jr. (1942 - 1944) (divorced) and Arthur Hornblow Jr. (1936 - 1942) (divorced).
On December 14, 1993, Myrna Loy passed away in New York City during surgery. By the time Myrna passed away at the age of 88, she had appeared in a phenomenal 129 motion pictures. She was buried in Helena, Montana.
Myrna Loy Center
15 North Ewing
Helena, Montana 59601
Office: (406) 443-0287 Fax: (406) 443-6620
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