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Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood Hardcover – October 3, 2011

4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A top-notch biography of a great performer. . . . Highly recommended.”
(C. Rollyson Choice 2012-02-01)

“A crisp, smart biography.”
(Dennis Drabelle Washington Post 2011-10-07)

“Loy's gifts are easy to enjoy, hard to describe. She's been lucky in attracting an even-tempered sympathetic biographer like Ms. Leider, whose book, like the best of its genre, sends you back to the films.”
(Alexandra Mullen Wall Street Journal 2011-09-24)

“In addition to thoroughly documenting each of Loy’s films . . .the book describes her activities during the leave she took from filmmaking in the early 1940s.”
(Betsy Butler Cbq Communication Booknotes Qtly 2012-10-05)

“This is a must read for anyone who is a Myrna Loy fan.”
(Leslie Wolfson San Francisco Book Review / Sacramento Book Review 2011-12-07)

“An engaging and heartening portrait of the classic movie star who never let the glamour of her impossibly glamorous profession go to her head.”
(Dennis King The Oklahoman 2012-01-04)

“Reveals the shy, warm, and modest figure behind the image of the cool, chic urbanite. . . . Leider’s books are smart and witty trips through the lives of her subjects, and this work is no exception.”
(Teri Shiel Library Journal 2011-09-01)

“An excellent biography.”
(Scott Eyman Palm Beach Post 2012-01-22)

“Leider’s new book is certainly one of the best film books of the year.”
(Thomas Gladysz San Francisco Chronicle 2011-10-24)

“Kudos to author Emily Leider for a brilliant, riveting portrait. . . . ‘Myrna Loy’ is an encyclopedic, fascinating page-turner for film buffs.”
(Nada Arnold Charleston Post & Courier 2012-01-08)

“I've not wanted to put the book down. It's that good, yes, it is really THAT good. . . . If you're a fan of Myrna Loy and her films, this is a must read.”
(Strictly Vintage Hollywood 2011-10-18)

“A well-researched and comprehensive biography. . . . Leider’s portrait nicely details Myrna Loy as not only a movie star but also an ardent activist.”
(Publishers Weekly 2011-08-29)

“Movie buffs will appreciate the careful research that went into this book, while readers wanting intimacy will delight in hearing Myrna’s own voice come through.”
(Alicea Swett Portland Book Review 2012-04-05)

“Well-researched and shrewdly conceived.”
(Robert Fulford The National Post 2011-09-13)

“Emily W. Leider has managed to give us the biography of an actress that avoids the crass tell-all format of many celebrity biographies—it is well researched, the prose is eminently readable. . . . It is a must read for fans of Myrna Loy, it will interest fans of film in general and classic film in particular, and it is also an interesting read from a purely historical perspective, thanks to the research put into it and its scholarly tone. Pick up the book and revisit these films.”
(Miguel Rodriguez Kpbs.org 2012-03-01)

“Leider . . . has penned a thoroughly researched and stylishly written biography of an accomplished actress who was more than just her screen credits.”
(Thomas Gladysz San Francisco Examiner 2011-12-11)

“Leider . . . has penned a thoroughly researched and stylishly written biography of an accomplished actress who was more than just her screen credits.”
(Thomas Gladysz Huffington Post 2011-12-12)

From the Inside Flap

“Myrna Loy has found an ideal biographer in Emily Leider, a gifted writer who loves film history and knows how to mine the field for the kind of details that help her paint a full and rounded picture of her subject.” —Leonard Maltin, film critic/historian

"A masterful tribute to MGM's subtlest star."—David Stenn, author of Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow

"Finally, a biography worthy of Myrna Loy—a smart, fascinating book about a smart, fascinating woman."—Eve Golden, author of Platinum Girl: The Life and Legends of Jean Harlow

“This first biography of Myrna Loy is so conscientiously researched, so closely written in detail and intelligent style that there will be no need for a second. Emily Leider documents both the woman and the actress: the early years in Montana and the multiple and sometimes foolish marriages of the former, and the development of the latter from exotic silent player to sophisticated lead in the Thin Man series to everyone’s image of a proud, understanding middle-class wife in the 1940s and beyond.”—Anthony Slide, author of Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (October 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520253205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520253209
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donna Hill on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
One wishes they could write as elegantly and as engagingly as Emily Leider does about the subject of her latest biography, Myrna Loy. Leider's impeccable research coupled with her elegant prose make for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Myrna Loy is a much beloved star from Hollywood's golden age. Publicity at the time declared her to be a perfect wife on screen and it was assumed she was as much off screen as well. Leider informs us this was not the case. Leider chronicles Loy's life and film career with just the right touch. There is a nice balance between the biography and the chronicle of the film career. Leider's prose, in so many ways, reflects or mimics the manner, the lightness, the quirkiness of Loy's own voice as she tosses off quips with William Powell. It's a pure delight to read.

Loy's life was very full and really devoid of scandal like so many other stars of the day. Perhaps this might make people overlook Loy as the subject of a biography. They should not, Leider's excellent detective work uncovers some secrets that Loy kept under wraps or only hinted at in Loy's own excellent autobiography Being and Becoming. Leider also fills us all in on Loy's interesting life as an activist. Myrna Loy was really much more, much deeper than Nora Charles and this book tells you why. I'm beyond grateful she portrayed Nora Charles as delightfully as she did, but I'm more grateful to read about and learn from her life off screen. Not a perfect wife, but quite a life. If you're a fan of Myrna Loy and her films, this is a must read.

I forgot to add a comment on the judicious use of photos in the book, most are shots I'd not seen. Some incredible portraits, like the Ted Allan portrait used on the cover.
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By R.L. on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Myrna Loy is a favorite of mine, so I was excited when this biography was published. Sadly, it's a bit of a let-down. Mainly because it relies heavily -- and I mean very, very heavily -- on Loy's own autobiography, Being and Becoming. I kept looking for other sources than Loy's own book about herself, but Leider doesn't offer them. I suppose because, by now, nearly everyone who knew and worked with Loy is dead -- but then, why write a biography? And really, didn't any of her friends or the directors who worked with her leave any materials of their own? Maybe not, but again, if that's the case, why bother? Unless you just want to make a quick buck.

What the author lacks in primary sources, she tries to make up for in film summaries. It's boring. Further, by relying so heavily on Loy's portrait of herself, Leider ends up accepting all of Loy's statements and interpretations at face value. There's no critical distance from her subject that every biographer should have. For instance, she quotes Loy on how Hollywood actresses were a rather catty lot, not helping each other, but competing against each other. Trouble is, on the preceding pages, Loy herself, with few exceptions, doesn't have anything good to say about her actress peers. Loy tells a rather mean story about Mary Astor, for example, which seemed to have no point other than to make Mary Astor look pathetic. She comes across as jealous of Irene Dunne at one point, for being a bigger star at the time than she was. The biographer hardly seems aware. Given the choice, I'd go with Being and Becoming.
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Format: Hardcover
Emily Leider has written two excellent Hollywood biographies, of Rudolf Valentino and Mae West, and they have provided her the experience necessary to write what will surely be the definitive life of one of the most important and interesting figures in the world of movies. Myrna Loy's brilliant talent, human decency, and good mind permeate this story, which I found hard to put down. The reader is deeply immersed in the world of Hollywood. Every relevant person during the many years of Loy's life is characterized, bespeaking an enormous amount of research in multiple biographies, and yet one never feels the weight of scholarship, but rather good and not infrequently moving story-telling. Leider clearly loves movies, and her summaries of innumerable films are a pleasure to read. And underneath all is a solid understanding of the history of the period during which Loy lived. This book gets my highest recommendation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very comprehensive book detailing the life and career of one of the 1930s film icons, Myrna Loy. Suprisingly, other than her autobiography there has not been a definitive work on Myrna Loy until this book was recently published. Perhaps it was due to her introspective and understated personality which just doesn't capture peoples attention like a Bette Davis or a Katherine Hepburn. Nonetheless, she was one of the most recognizable and memorable stars from the 1930's and had one of those greatest-generation-ever lives that I always find compelling.

Myrna Williams (Loy) career trajectory was anything but a straight path to the top; and that is what makes her life and film stardom both interesting and different than many of the luminaries of the Golden-age. Coming from a Montana ranch to Culver City as a teen in 1919, she originally dreamed of being a modern dancer, but eventually set her sights on the movie-industry as much out of practical considerations as anything else. She toiled for years in bit parts and then feature roles before she struck gold with the first Thin Man film in 1934. The Nora Charles character from the Thin Man became a cultural icon almost overnight which created the screen persona for Ms. Loy that ensured her movie screen legend and success. Although her star-power diminshed in the 1940s, she worked regularly into the 1950s and beyond with some notable hits, and was well regarded professionally for taking her craft seriously, and working hard( never the diva). She moved in the highest social circles of hollywood and married prominently, although all 4 marriages would end in divorce. She became an ardent Democrat and devoted much of her later years to political/humanitarian causes. An interesting and full life by any measure and worth reading about.
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