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carole lombard 04

Photoplay, April 1933: Loy's aim is Occidental

Posted by vp19 on 2008.06.19 at 01:30
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

While doing Carole Lombard-related research recently in the microfilm files of Photoplay on hand at the Library of Congress, I came across this article in the April 1933 issue on another one of my favorites, Myrna Loy. I decided to copy and present this to you for a few reasons:

* Many Lombard fans like Loy as well (although their approaches to comedy were wholly different);

* Since it deals largely with Loy and her many Asian roles, this is a good time to run it, as Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. continues its month-long series on Asian images in film (including four movies tonight);

* It's a nice snapshot of Loy at a time when she was perceived somewhat differently than she was at her career peak. William Powell and MGM glory were still way off in the future.

The article's title -- "No More Chinese, Myrna?" -- is a bit clumsy, as if Loy were dropping moo goo gai pan from her diet. And sadly, direct quotes from Myrna, even then known as a woman who rarely played the Hollywood game, are nil. Get beyond that, however, and it shows a talented, intelligent actress trying to break away from an image she'd been locked into for a few years -- "Asian" parts, such as in "The Mask Of Fu Manchu" and other movies:


Since this entry first appeared, this particular issue of Photoplay has been placed online, enabling me to show it to you as it initially ran:

myrna loy photoplay april 1933 no more chinese, myrna 00a
myrna loy photoplay april 1933 no more chinese, myrna 01a
myrna loy photoplay april 1933 no more chinese, myrna 02a


Some thoughts:

* Not many people are aware that Myrna Loy and Gary Cooper, two Golden Age legends to be sure, both hailed from Helena, Mont., and knew each other in their youth. The irony? Cooper and Loy never made a film together.

* Another irony: the story notes Loy "has never been to New York." Loy would eventually move to New York, and spent her final years in a Manhattan residence before her death in late 1993. (She also resided in Washington, D.C. for part of the 1950s.)

* One notable angle that escapes this story was why non-Asian actors were cast in Asian roles; as noted in an earlier entry, why hire Myrna Loy to portray an Asian when you have an actual Asian beauty, Anna May Wong, available? To be fair, at the time not that many Asian actors were in the Hollywood talent pool.

Speaking of ethnic perceptions, note the cartoon that ran beneath the end of the Loy story. It shows a film company, evidently between takes, on location in Africa. A blonde actress, hands on hips in jodhpurs, is standing near a few natives, and one bare-breasted female asks her with a smile, "Tell us about Clark Gable." No "native dialect" or anything derogatorily stereotypical (imagine a similar cartoon at the time featuring U.S. blacks). Simply a comparatively tasteful panel reflecting on the worldwide popularity of American film...and of its sudden big star.

Finally, although Lombard (understandably) never played an Asian role, that didn't mean she couldn't occasionally dress up in a pseudo-Asian style:

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