You may recall that when I made Myrna Loy the Star of the Week a few weeks ago, I discovered mid-week that there was to be a new biography, in fact the only biography ever written about Myrna Loy (aside from her own autobiography, Being and Becoming). This was a monumental coincidence, and I found myself tickled to death that 1) we were finally going to be able to read a biography of Myrna Loy, and 2) I had something important to report regarding the Star of the Week. Suffice it to say, I was really excited about this bio.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I discover from one of Backlots’ awesome and informative followers on Twitter that Emily W. Leider, the author of aforementioned biography, would be giving a reading on October 27….at the BookShop West Portal in San Francisco.
I’m from San Francisco.
So this evening at 6:30 (half a hour before the lecture was supposed to begin), I found myself perched in a folding chair in that tiny, picturesque bookstore, clutching my newly purchased copy of Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood. I was rapturously reading the first few pages when the author, a very intelligent-looking woman in gigantic black glasses, came through the door with a huge entourage. It seems that she brought all her family and friends to the lecture! The people were all lovely, and I enjoyed listening to them talk about books (many of them seemed to be authors themselves) and Ms. Leider’s previous works before the lecture began.
(By the way, as a side note, I was literally the only person there under the age of 65. I’m not even exaggerating.)
After an introduction by the host of the evening, Neil of BookShop West Portal (which is a really lovely bookstore, make sure to check out their website, they do great things for the community), Emily W. Leider took the stage to talk about Myrna. She noted the makeup of the crowd, mostly friends or friends of the shop, saying “We filled the house!” She began by discussing Myrna’s early life and career up through The Thin Man, enriching the story with slides and video clips corresponding to the eras she was discussing. The technology was all handled by family members of hers and there were a few technical slip-ups that she seemed to barely notice. Her ease about the whole thing made me take note that this is a very down-to-earth, casual woman–to me, the perfect person to write about Myrna Loy!
After her presentation, Ms. Leider took some questions from the crowd. One attendee asked what Myrna’s favorite role was, and Ms. Leider very astutely responded that Myrna would have said The Best Years of Our Lives. I wholly agree. Everything I’ve read indicates that Myrna held that film far above anything else she ever did.
Another attendee asked what Myrna’s later career was like. Ms. Leider responded with a brief summary of Myrna’s post-war films, noting that Myrna found “Baby Jane” type roles degrading and refused to play them in her later years. She continued working into her 70’s, but always playing respectable roles in films that held women in high regard.
I wanted to ask her about Myrna’s transition from silent actress to sound actress, and how she was one of only a few stars who made that transition seamlessly, but after the second question she said very enthusiastically “Thank you!” and everyone started clapping. Oh well.
I went up to her after the lecture and asked her to sign my book, which she very kindly did. We started a small conversation when she asked me if I was a longtime fan, and I told her about Backlots and the Star of the Week coincidence. She seemed amused and wrote in my book: “To Lara, Viva Myrna Loy! Emily W. Leider.”
(Photo coming soon, my camera is broken!)
Thank you to Ms. Leider for writing this book, and to BookShop West Portal for hosting this event!