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Performers Pay Overdue Tribute To Myrna Loy

January 16, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ In 120 movies, actress Myrna Loy developed from a luscious vamp to the perfect wife, sensible and warm-hearted but sexy and sophisticated, all without a single Academy Award nomination.

But in Tuesday night’s ″A Tribute to Myrna Loy,″ the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored the ruby-haired star with the languid eyes whose career has spanned nearly six decades, from silent films to the talkies to television.

Two seven-foot Oscars, seen annually during the Academy Awards broadcast, joined several stars on the stage at Carnegie Hall to honor Miss Loy, 79, who sat in a center box, looking frail but radiant in a spangled gown.

″How I wish I’d been born earlier,″ said Burt Reynolds, who chose Miss Loy to play his mother in ″The End″ in 1978. ″I don’t know if I was a good enough actor, but I would love to have played some of those parts opposite Miss Loy.″

″Myrna Loy, what a joy you are,″ said Lillian Gish. ″And how we love you as a result.″

Robert Mitchum, who made ″The Red Pony″ with Miss Loy in 1949, said, ″She just knew what makes a heroine, and what keeps a queen a queen.″

Tributes from some of the 2,800 people at Carnegie Hall alternated with clips from some of Miss Loy’s 120 movies. All who spoke finally marched on stage together and waved at Miss Loy, who returned the salute.

Miss Loy, who teamed with John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power, Cary Grant and Clifton Webb, found her ″perfect pairing″ with William Powell, who died last year at 91.

They made 13 movies together, most notably the series of six urbane comedy- mystery ″Thin Man″ films of the 1930s and ’40s.

He played suave, retired sleuth Nick Charles. Miss Loy was his peppery, witty socialite wife, Nora, always ready to exchange quips with a safecracker or give a dinner party for murder suspects.

″Of all the leading men, the one I’d like most to have been is William Powell. Nick and Nora Charles. I wish we could be them,″ said Reynolds. ″I’ve always worshipped Myrna.″

″She was the perfect vamp, sultry and savage, and then became America’s ideal as the perfect wife,″ said actress Lauren Bacall, mistress of ceremonies.

Miss Loy ″has always represented class and the highest standards of acting, through one of the longest and most unusual careers in film history,″ Gene Allen, Academy president, said at the tribute, a benefit for the Academy’s educational and film preservation programs.

During the evening, the ″The Animal Kingdom,″ a movie Miss Loy made with the late Leslie Howard in 1932, was shown for the first time in 50 years.

All prints were believed destroyed, but one discovered in a Warner Brothers vault was restored by the University of Southern California’s film archives.

It was Miss Loy’s first leading role as a white woman. She had played a long succession of Oriental femme fatales in her early black-and-white films, despite her red hair and a rash of freckles.

Born near Helena, Mont., on Aug. 1, 1905, she started in show business as a dancing teacher, and was chosen to appear in a stage show with ″The Thief of Baghdad″ at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Myrna Williams ″temporarily″ substituted the last name Loy for its exotic sound. Rudolph Valentino, looking for an Oriental siren for the 1925 ″What Price Beauty,″ saw her at Grauman’s and the Third World femme fatale saga was on. Her first Occidental role, a small one, was in 1930 in ″Renegades.″

In her later years, she has been playing character parts, and was most recently seen as Alan King’s secretary in the 1980 movie, ″Just Tell Me What You Want.″

She appeared once in a television situation comedy, ″Love, Sidney.″

″Very cleverly we cast her as a movie star and me as president of her fan club,″ said Tony Randall, the series’ star.

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