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?

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Wed 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?

Unread post by Harold Aherne » Wed 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

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

Unread post by MDJimenez » Fri Oct 12, 2018 3:20 pm

Harlett O'Dowd wrote:
Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:50 am
....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?
She was able to escape from the dragon lady/femme fatale/other woman roles with the help of a number of directors and casting agents. Rouben Mamoulian built up her part in Love Me Tonight which was not in the original screenplay apparently. He gave her bits of dialogue on set for her to learn the day of shooting. She was at Fox before her MGM days; Minna Wallis showed Irving Thalberg either Transatlantic or Skyline (both 1931) which convinced him she should come to MGM. Edward H. Griffith fought for casting her in Rebound (1931) as Ina Claire's rival even though RKO had cast Fredric March's wife Florence Eldridge in the part; somehow he was able to do it inspite Claire saying it was unbelievable that Loy could steal a man from her. That led to his casting her as Leslie Howard's moneygrubbing wife in his film of The Animal Kingdom (1932). David O. Selznick wanted Karen Morley for the part. What clinched the part for her in this case was a screen test Griffith filmed with Loy and Leslie Howard which convinced the powers that be the wisdom of his choice. Since the film flopped, her stardom was delayed a year or two. She said in a Dick Cavett interview W.S. Van Dyke being impressed with her before casting her in Penthouse (1933) eventually lead to her casting in his adaptation of The Thin Man (1934).

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

Unread post by Harlowgold » Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:53 pm

I taped THE SQUALL a good fifteen years ago and only watched it once. It is loooooonnnnggggg as I recall and not very good although Myrna is indeed enjoyable as the floozy.

I've always been a little surprised at how apparently much more popular Myrna was in the 1930's than William Powell. After all, he really carried those Thin Man films despite her invaluable contribution. Myrna admitted in her autobiography she usually played "secondary" roles to the male stars even in her glory years and I kind of wonder if this wasn't comforting to the general public with her main peers being so flamboyantly independent and more than a little feminist.

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