MYRNA LOY's obituary said she was Franklin D. Roosevelt's...

December 20, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

MYRNA LOY's obituary said she was Franklin D. Roosevelt's favorite actress, and Lauren Bacall was quoted as saying FDR was "tempted to call off the Yalta Conference" in order to meet her.

Concerned Readers want to know: Where do they get this stuff? Could it possibly be true? Have no fear, Old Professor Trivia is here.

Grace Tully was FDR's secretary from 1941 till his death in 1945. The White House staff was small and close in those days. The president's secretary knew everything. She and other staff members gathered at the end of each day for a ritual cocktail party, with the president as bartender. FDR called it "the Children's Hour." He liked to mix martinis from his wheelchair with exaggerated flourishes. They talked business and non-business. Myrna Loy was both.

FDR did like her movies. In her memoirs, "F.D.R.: My Boss," Grace Tully wrote, "Though this may disappoint members of other fan clubs, the President's favorite actress was Myrna Loy. He plied visitors with questions about her, wanted very much to meet her, and to his great regret, when she came at last to the White House for a March of Dimes celebration, he was out of the country at an overseas conference. 'Well,' he asked when he returned, 'what was she like?' "

According to Myrna Loy's autobiography, though she and FDR never met, they enjoyed "a long distance infatuation" by mail. Some contemporaries thought Eleanor Roosevelt must have been jealous, but in fact by the 1940s the president's and first lady's relationship was such that when she learned of FDR's crush on the beautiful movie star, she said only, "Franklin, my dear, I don't give a damn." No, no. Just kidding. That's another story.

Did FDR really consider calling off Yalta to meet Myrna? FDR Library archivists say they're not aware of any evidence of that. Nor can they document that FDR and Churchill watched one of her old movies at the 1941 Atlantic Conference, as Loy, in her autobiography, says they did.

Myrna Loy, a very active, liberal Democrat and supporter of the war effort, missed meeting FDR at least three times. Once was that March of Dimes party in 1945. Once was at a White House meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt to discuss Greek War Relief, a pet project of her then-husband, John Hertz Jr.

The third missed opportunity has a bitter irony, considering Loy's screen persona. She was attractive to FDR and other men then principally because of her role as half of the ultra-sophisticated, wise-cracking, martini-swigging, husband-and-wife team of Nick and Nora Charles in the "Thin Man" series of movies.

Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to come to Hyde Park to play her screen self in a skit for their guest, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. But Myrna's husband came home drunk the night before and gave her a black eye, which caused her to cancel the visit to Hyde Park. The dark side of too many martinis.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.