Myrna Loy's film career languished when she portrayed exotic vamps but blossomed in the elegant glow she cast as Nora, Nick Charles' loving but acerbic wife in "The Thin Man" and its sequels.
She once was one of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses — a sloe-eyed, copper-haired beauty ideal whose first film role came about when the legendary Rudolph Valentino saw her at Grauman's Chinese Theatre when that film mecca also featured live entertainment. But for the last five decades of her life she had comfortably adapted to the world of character acting.
Offered a small part in "What Price Beauty," the film was a failure, but Myrna Williams — cast for the first time as a femme fatale — was not. Her slinky mannerisms in the film were the genesis of a succession of Chinese, Japanese, Hindu and Indonesian roles in a series of inconsequential silent and sound films.
Her career as a pseudo-Asian continued for the next few years, and it was not until "Renegades" with Warner Baxter and "The Devil to Pay" with Ronald Colman — both in the early 1930s — that she was able to doff her ever-present black wig and appear as herself.
What finally brought her from supporting roles in melancholy adventures and silly comedies to stardom in her own right was a low-budget adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's tale of the bibulous detective Nick Charles. William Powell was to be Nick and she was Nora, his sardonic but dutiful wife.
In 1960 she was Paul Newman's alcoholic mother in "From the Terrace" and Doris Day's wacky aunt in "Midnight Lace." And she overcame an initial shyness to launch a stage career with "Marriage Go Round" in a 1961 tour. She starred in three other plays: "There Must Be a Pony," "Good Housekeeping" and "Barefoot in the Park."