Should’ve Been a Contender: Myrna Loy for “Best Years of Our Lives”

 For this Awards Season we’re looking back at the films, the actors and the directors who should have been a contender for the Oscars. Here’s Joan Amenn’s piece on why Myrna Loy should have been nominated for “Best Years of Our Lives”.

By Joan Amenn

 The recent Oscar buzz around Sam Mendes’1917” prompted a reviewing of one of the more famous war films of the 1940’s, “Best Years of Our Lives” (1946). Myrna Loy deserved a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this male dominated film as a much-needed representative of the women who welcomed their men home from WWII. To a lesser extent, Teresa Wright also deserved recognition, but it is Loy who helps tie the stories of three servicemen just returning home together into one powerfully moving story.

Loy was able to say so much with just her eyes and her smile.  Her stunned joy at her husband’s unexpected return home is conveyed by standing mutely staring at him with her eyes saying more than any spoken word ever could. To his credit, Fredric March is equally heartbreaking as her husband Al taking in the sight of her for the first time in years. Their chemistry as a long-time couple is deliberately compared to the unhappy reunion of Dana Andrews to his war bride, Virginia Mayo.

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“The Best Years of Our Lives” Myrna Loy, Fredric March 1946 Samuel Goldwyn Company **I.V.

“Best Years of Our Lives” has so many outstanding performances and a great script but without Myrna Loy it would have been a sermon with no heart. She keeps the film from sliding into the maudlin with her bright smile and the way she could be comedic without being too broad.

Loy is everything a homecoming soldier would hope to find waiting for him. She is not only a real trooper in following her husband around bar hopping, she even takes in one of his inebriated buddies for the night. Loy plays Millie as a woman who knew her husband’s weakness and strengths before the war and isn’t afraid to discover he has developed more of both while he was away. She is loyal, strong, funny and gorgeous in a little black dress.

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Myrna Loy, Fredric March, and Teresa Wright in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

When the disabled ex-G.I. Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) is confronted by his fiancé about their future together, we can’t help but compare Wilma’s (Cathy O’Donnell) devotion and commitment to Loy’s Millie. Director William Wyler makes it clear that the best chance a veteran had of successfully returning to society was having family willing to help them.

“Best Years of Our Lives” has so many outstanding performances and a great script but without Myrna Loy it would have been a sermon with no heart. She keeps the film from sliding into the maudlin with her bright smile and the way she could be comedic without being too broad. She never won an Oscar for any of her film roles, but “Best Years of Our Lives” was really the best of Loy.

 

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