Myrna Loy: Oscar Winner and Outspoken Activist

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MYRNA LOY, whose acting roles stretched from silent films to TV sitcoms to the Broadway stage and included more than 100 movies, died Tuesday.

Her most famous part was opposite William Powell's sleuth Nick Charles in the six ``Thin Man'' movies. The comedy-mystery film series was made quickly and on a shoestring in 1934 because studio chief Louis B. Mayer opposed the casting of Loy and Powell. But the film was a smash and five sequels followed.

``I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell,'' Loy said after his death in 1984.

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On screen, she came across as smart, charming, affectionate, witty, and unflappable. Off screen, Loy supported a variety of liberal causes. She was one of the first stars to challenge Hollywood discrimination against blacks and spoke out against McCarthy-era efforts to blacklist actors suspected of communist sympathies.

Loy was a longtime friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and often campaigned for the Democratic party's presidential candidates.

``She had an intellect,'' says Tony Randall, who appeared with her in the TV series ``Love, Sidney.'' ``She never cared very much about clothes or anything like that. She cared about causes.''

Her colleagues finally honored the actress known as FDR's favorite with their highest tribute in 1991 - an honorary Oscar.

Myrna Williams was born in ranch country, Raidersburg, Mont. After her father's death in 1918, when she was just a schoolgirl, Loy moved with her mother, Della, and her brother, David Jr., to Los Angeles.

For years, despite her freckles and upturned nose, she found herself cast as an exotic beauty, playing Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Hindu, or Polynesian sirens.

``Loy'' was a name given to her by a poet friend during her early years in show business.

She also played opposite Clark Gable in ``Too Hot to Handle,'' with Gable and Powell in ``Manhattan Melodrama,'' with Gable and Spencer Tracy in ``Test Pilot,'' and opposite Tyrone Power in ``The Rains Came.''

She later joined Cary Grant in ``Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House'' and starred in the postwar classic ``The Best Years of Our Lives.''

Her last screen appearance was in 1980's ``Just Tell Me What You Want,'' with Ali MacGraw. She continued to work in television, appearing in the movie ``Summer Solstice'' opposite Henry Fonda and in the series ``Love, Sidney.''

In 1973, Loy made her Broadway debut in a revival of Clare Boothe Luce's comedy ``The Women.'' ``I felt I had a lot to learn,'' she said when asked about her late theater start.

Married four times, Loy's husbands were producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., advertising executive John Hertz Jr., producer-screenwriter Gene Markey, and producer Howland Sargent.

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