THE SQUALL - or, how did Myrna Loy become a lady?

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Harlett O'Dowd

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THE SQUALL - or, how did Myrna Loy become a lady?

PostWed Mar 14, 2018 10:50 am

Finally watched and cleaned off THE SQUALL from my DVR.

For all its transitional talkie staginess, there was much to enjoy, not the least of which was all the Wagner used for underscoring.

I was most surprised by the scene between Loretta Young and Carroll (Frank Kennedy!) Nye which used multiple shots/camera angles as the dialogue went back and forth between the two characters. Common use today (john candy and macaulay culkin in UNCLE BUCK) but I don't recall seeing this practice this early in a talkie. With sound-on-disc recording, I wonder if this was shot with multiple cameras simultaneously and then edited together in post.

That said, I was disappointed in the sound recording in the second half of the film. Anyone know if this was an issue with TCM and/or the transfer, or if the recording was off during filming?

and of course, I'm always amused to see Myrna Loy in her exotic/foreign/half-blood vamp period.

But I got to wondering how she transitioned to playing the good-girl parts for which she is so fondly remembered today.

It was not simply her signing with MGM, as her early efforts there (THE BARBARIAN, WHEN LADIES MEET) still present her as living somewhat outside of what society considered fully respectable. And it is not simply the coming of the code, as she is pretty much in full lady mode by the time she got to MANHATTAN MELODRAMA and THE THIN MAN - released in the first half of 1934.

SO - was this a question of Myrna purposely re-inventing herself? MGM deciding it should (gradually?) overhaul her image to get her ready for the code? Something else?
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Harold Aherne

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Re: THE SQUALL - or, how did Myrna Loy become a lady?

PostWed Mar 14, 2018 3:34 pm

Myrna Loy's career trajectory is interesting in that by 1932, she had appeared in roughly half of all the films she would ever make, yet her hard work seemingly did not result in large box-office dividends for her, at least not in the eyes of the theatre owners who voted in the "Money Making Stars" poll conducted Martin Quigley's publications. She didn't place at all in 1928, 1929 or 1932 (I haven't seen 1930-31), and in 1933 she made it only onto the lowest rung of the survey -- votes from less than 1% of respondents.

Then in 1934, she leaped up to #34 (tied with Edward G. Robinson), with Powell-Loy also getting votes as a team. She was at #23 in 1935, #18 in 1936 and #10 in 1937, finally peaking at #7 in 1938. Her subsequent ranks were #16 (1939), #15 (1940) and "Group I" (1941; just below the top 25) before falling off the list, as Quigley no longer published rankings below 25.

She did get top billing in The Prizefighter and the Lady, so MGM must've felt she was star material and tried to find a persona for her that worked. And just after Loy found her greatest popularity, Evelyn Prentice challenged the ladylike image just a little, but I don't have figures on how well it did.

--HA

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