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Cleaning out my father Sam’s house has churned up some interesting surprises. I had never seen this letter before; it was in some papers of my mother’s that he had kept undisturbed for years.
Richard Burton, of course, was one of the 20th century’s most respected theater and film actors. He starred in John Huston’s film of Night of the Iguana, the movie for which my mother, Grayson Hall, was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1964. Myrna Loy was…well, a movie star. A movie star of the old school—she began her career when movies were silent; she thrived when sound arrived, became a star when movies were still black and white, and made very good, very glamorous movies at precisely the moment when Hollywood glamour was at its height.
The Thin Man movies? Loy and William Powell in perfect formal eveningwear, solving crimes with their dog Asta between quips and cocktails? Those movies were a revelation the first time I saw them, and they’re just as good now. And Myrna Loy was the luminous beauty whose sharp-eyed hyperintelligent wit epitomized everything to be hoped of American adulthood.
Richard Burton knew Myrna Loy. He wrote her a letter from the set of Iguana in Mexico, extolling the virtues and acting ability of my mother. After Iguana, back in New York, my parents were swept for a period into Myrna Loy’s social circle. She gave them Burton’s letter.
Here it is.