Was it MGM’s PENTHOUSE (1933) that led Myrna Loy to her iconic Thin Man role? Penthouse’s director, Woody Van Dyke took on The Thin Man a year later, and in Penthouse, Myrna Loy shows a lot of the characteristics of ‘ Nora Charles’.
It was high time anyway that Myrna got away from the roles she had played for years in the 20s and early 30s – her character names reveal all – Azuri / Yasmani / Narita / Juanita / Lolita Romero.
How Myrna evolved into the sophisticated woman we know is another story. Let’s just say Myrna wasn’t an overnight success. By the time of Penthouse,at the age of 28, she was a very experienced actress looking for that big break.
Even although she is playing a high class call girl,’Gertie Waxted’ (!) in Penthouse, her appearance and manner are already that of the leading lady she quickly became after this film.
Warner Baxter,as Jackson Durant, is the name above the title, as a society lawyer who gets gangster Tony Gazotti (Nat Pendleton) off a murder charge. Gazotti likes Durant who isn’t afraid to tell Gazotti what he thinks of him.
Myrna doesn’t appear till 35 minutes into the film (I know, ridiculous), and soon gets involved in Durant’s latest case when her friend, ‘Mimi Montagne’ (Mae Clarke) is murdered.
There’s some nifty pre-code dialogue as Durant invites Gertie up to his apartment,with the line, “I’ve got some eggs at my place that are just longing to be scrambled by you!”
Gertie is quite relaxed in Durant’s apartment and not at all fazed when he invites her to stay – but she does a double take look at herself in a mirror when he doesn’t join her in the bedroom!
Next morning she remarks, “I didn’t exactly have to fight for my honor.”
He wants her safe as she may be in danger for talking to him. Durant says, “I’m afraid you think I’m taking advantage of you.”
Gertie responds, “I’m afraid you wont.”
Mae Clarke ( a far more convincing good time girl than Myrna), is wasted in only a few scenes.
Warner Baxter wasn’t convincing. At 44, he looked years older and he really is more suited to dramatic parts.
MGM remade the film only 6 years later as Society Lawyer, with Walter Pidgeon who would, I imagine, have been far more suited to the role. (Virginia Bruce was Pidgeon’s co-star).
Myrna is stuck with the same gown throughout most of the film,but her breezy style shines through. It’s as if she knew this was a role that could change the pattern of her career. Manhattan Melodrama was next for her, and then The Thin Man would take her to the top of the MGM tree.