Trained as a dancer, Loy devoted herself fully to an acting career following a few minor roles in silent film s. She was originally typecast in exotic roles, often as a vamp or a woman of Asian descent, but her career prospects improved greatly following her portrayal of Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934).
Loy was born in Helena, Montana, the daughter of Adelle Mae (née Johnson) and rancher David Franklin Williams, and raised in Radersburg. She had a younger brother, David Williams (died 1982). Loy’s paternal grandparents were Welsh, and her maternal grandparents were Scottish and Swedish. Her first name was derived from a whistle stop near Broken Bow, Nebraska, whose name her father liked. Her father was also a banker and real estate developer and the youngest man ever elected to the Montana state legislature. Her mother studied music at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.
After the November 1918 death of Loy’s father from the 1918 flu pandemic, Loy’s mother permanently relocated the family to California, where they settled in Culver City. Loy attended the exclusive Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles while continuing to study dance in downtown L.A.. When her teachers objected to her extracurricular participation in theatrical arts, her mother enrolled her in Venice High School, and at 15, she began appearing in local stage productions.
Loy died on December 14, 1993, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan during unspecified surgery after a long illness. She was 88 years old. She had been frail and in failing health. She was cremated in New York and her ashes interred at Forestvale Cemetery in her native Helena, Montana.
Myrna Loy on The Dick Cavett Show (1980)