Saturday, February 22, 2014

Howland H. Sargeant and Myrna Loy

Howland H. Sargeant is the only American ever to have served as President of the UNESCO General Conference. He did so in 1951 at the GC meeting in Paris. At the time he was serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

He was also on his honeymoon at the time, having recently married actress Mryna Loy, who he met through the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. It is fun to consider the impact the she would have had on the people attending the General Conference. Here is how Lauren Bacall described Loy:
How many women do we know who were continually kissed by Clark Gable, William Powell, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March? Only one: Myrna Loy... And to meet whom did Franklin D. Roosevelt find himself tempted to call off the Yalta Conference? Myrna Loy. And to see what lady in what picture did John Dillinger risk coming out of hiding to meet his bullet-ridden death in an alley in Chicago? Myrna Loy, in Manhattan Melodrama.
According to the International Movie Data Base:
Some of her biggest fans included Jimmy Stewart, Winston Churchill, and the Roosevelts. FDR invited to the White House early on in his administration, and she became very friendly with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Sargeant, a Rhodes Scholar, was a career diplomat. In 1947, he had became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs In this capacity, he was a member of the United States delegation to UNESCO and in 1950 was Vice-President of the UNESCO General Conference that met in Florence. In 1952 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, serving in that position for nearly a year.

The American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia founded Radio Liberty in 1954, and Sargeant became Radio Liberty's first president. He held this position until 1975. (Radio Liberty merged with Radio Free Europe in 1976.) He died in 1984.

Myrna Loy was herself very active in supporting UNESCO. She became the first Hollywood star to be appointed a member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in 1948 and in the 1950s served as Chair of the Hollywood Committee for UNESCO. Between 1949 and 1954 she served as a film advisor for UNESCO. She also made radio broadcasts supporting UNESCO.

Loy is today best known for her role as Nora Charles in six "Thin Man" movies made between 1934 and 1947. (My childhood neighbor and friend, Dean Stockwell, played her son in the last of these, Song of the Thin Man.) Ultimately, she made 129 movies, and acted in television, radio and the stage as well.

According to Wikipedia:
With the outbreak of World War II, Loy all but abandoned her acting career to focus on the war effort and work closely with the Red Cross. She was so fiercely outspoken against Adolf Hitler that her name appeared on his blacklist. She helped run a Naval Auxiliary Canteen and toured frequently to raise funds.
Late in her life she received an honorary Academy Award and a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award. She was named Queen of the Movies in a nation-wide poll of moviegoers in 1936

She and Howland Sargeant were divorced in 1960. She continued acting until well into her 70s, and died in 1993.