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Myrna Loy Statue Returns to Venice High:

An excited crowd of 1,800 alumni, students, faculty, and locals assembled on the front lawn at Venice High School (VHS) on April 10, as a new incarnation of the school’s legendary statue of Myrna Loy was unveiled.

The original statue, entitled “Inspiration,” was created in 1922 by sculptor Harry Weinbrenner who headed the VHS art department. His model was a 16-year-old dance student named Myrna Williams. She would go on to become Myrna Loy, movie star and “Queen of Hollywood.”

Over the years, “Myrna” withstood the perils of weather and corrosion, but eventually succumbed to vandalism and age. The statue underwent a 1980 “makeover” by William Van Orden and was enclosed in a cage for protection. By 2002, it became necessary for VHS to remove the statue, which was now in very poor condition.

But Hollywood miracles can happen in Venice too.

“This is a day that many of us thought would never come,” said Laura Ferre, president of the Venice Alumni Association. She explained that it was through the efforts of the Alumni Association and many other volunteers and donors that “Myrna” has made her comeback on the front lawn of VHS.

Peter Schwab, chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo Capital Finance, and VHS Class of 1961, was the major donor to the restoration project. Speaking to the audience, he noted, “Myrna Loy posed for that statue before she became successful. She was inspiration.”

Schwab mentioned some facts that even movie buffs might not have known about Loy. Discovered for the movies in the mid-1920s by Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natascha Rambova, this star of over 100 movies took a break from films during World War II to work full-time for the American Red Cross. She was an avid supporter of civil rights and of low-cost housing and an opponent of the McCarthy-era blacklist.

Another VHS alumnus, Beau Bridges (class of 1959) recalled meeting Myrna Loy at the age of six, when he worked with her in The Red Pony.

 “I applaud all the people who put such an effort into restoring the statue,” said Bridges. “Our journey begins with our history. We need to honor our history.”

After Ferre had introduced Ernest Shelton the artist who did the restoration, and some of the other volunteers, the great unveiling tool place. A blue cloth that covered the statue was gradually drawn away to reveal the curved form of the slender young girl in an almost transparent garment, her arm outstretched, reaching for the stars.

Then there was musical entertainment, refreshments, and screenings in the auditorium of a classic Myrna Loy movie, The Thin Man.

But what do current VHS students think about all this?

Nora Villafana, a senior and member of the cheerleading squad, said that she had never seen a Myrna Loy movie. As for the statue: “I saw it first in Grease.” The 1978 musical film was shot on the VHS campus.

 “The statue had been taken down when I was a freshman here,” Villafana continued. “But I knew that she had come here.” Since that time, she has had a chance to learn more about Myrna Loy and says “I think she’s was a really amazing person.”


Mirror Contributing

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