Young, Loretta (1913–2000)

views updated

Young, Loretta (1913–2000)

American actress who won an Academy Award for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter. Born Gretchen Michaela Young on January 6, 1913, in Salt Lake City, Utah; died on August 12, 2000, in Los Angeles, California; one of four children (three girls and a boy) of John Earl Young (a railroad auditor) and Gladys (Royal) Young; sister of Polly Ann Young, Sally Blane (an actress), and Georgiana Young (who married Ricardo Montalban); attended Ramona Convent, Alhambra, California; married Grant Withers (an actor), in 1930 (divorced 1931); married Thomas H.A. Lewis (an advertising executive), on July 31, 1940 (divorced 1969); married Jean Louis (a fashion designer), in August 1993 (died April 1997); children: (second marriage) Christopher Lewis (b. 1944); Peter Lewis (b. 1945); Judy Lewis (probably b. 1935, adopted 1937).

Selected filmography:

The Primrose Ring (uncredited, 1917); Naughty but Nice (1927); The Whip Woman (1928); Laugh Clown Laugh (1928); The Magnificent Flirt (1928); The Head Man (1928); Scarlet Seas (1928); The Squall (1929); The Girl in the Glass Cage (1929); The Fast Life (1929); The Careless Age (1929); The Show of Shows (1929); The Forward Pass (1929); The Man From Blankley's (1930); The Second Floor Mystery (1930); Loose Ankles (1930); Road to Paradise (1930); Kismet (1930); The Truth About Youth (1930); The Devil to Pay (1930); Beau Ideal (1931); The Right of Way (1931); Three Girls Lost (1931); Too Young to Marry (1931); Big Business Girl (1931); I Like Your Nerve (1931); Platinum Blonde (1931); The Ruling Voice (1931); Taxi (1932); The Hatchet Man (1932); Play Girl (1932); Weekend Marriage (1932); Life Begins (1932); They Call It Sin (1932); Employees' Entrance (1933); Grand Slam (1933); Zoo in Budapest (1933); The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933); Midnight Mary (1933); Heroes for Sale (1933); The Devil's in Love (1933); She Had to Say Yes (1933); A Man's Castle (1933); The House of Rothschild (1934); Born to Be Bad (1934); Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934); Caravan (1934); The White Parade (1934); Clive of India (1935); Shanghai (1935); Call of the Wild (1935); The Crusades (1935); The Unguarded Hour (1936); Private Number (1936); Ramona (1936); Ladies in Love (1936); Love Is News (1937); Cafe Metropole (1937); Love Under Fire (1937); Wife Doctor and Nurse (1937); Second Honeymoon (1937); Four Men and a Prayer (1938); Three Blind Mice (1938); Suez (1938); Kentucky (1938); The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939); Wife Husband and Friend (1939); Eternally Yours (1939); The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940); He Stayed for Breakfast (1940); The Lady From Cheyenne (1941); The Man in Her Life (1941); Bedtime Story (1942); A Night to Remember (1942); China (1943); Ladies Courageous (1944); And Now Tomorrow (1944); Along Came Jones (1945); The Stranger (1946); The Perfect Game (1946); The Farmer's Daughter (1947); The Bishop's Wife (1947); Rachel and the Stranger (1948); The Accused (1949); Mother Is a Freshman (1949); Come to the Stable (1949); Key to the City (1950); Cause for Alarm (1951); Half Angel (1951); Paula (1952); Because of You (1952); It Happens Every Thursday (1952); Going Hollywood: The War Years (archival footage, 1988).


"A Letter to Loretta" (later named "The Loretta Young Show," 1953–61); "The New Loretta Young Show" (series, 1962–63); "Christmas Eve" (television film, 1986); "Lady in a Corner" (television film, 1989).

One of Hollywood's most glamorous stars of the 1930s and 1940s, and the first to make a successful crossover into the new medium of television, Loretta Young was also the producer and star of "The Loretta Young Show," a halfhour anthology series which is remembered as much for the actress' sweeping entrance onto the set each week as for the uplifting messages of its dramas. Young captivated audiences with a combination of virtuous poise, sensuality, and

vulnerability, traits which characterized the actress both off and on the screen. "My appeal wouldn't have been to the intellectuals or the neurotics," she told Edward J. Funk, co-author of an unpublished autobiography. "Nor to the shop girls and secretaries—that would have been Joan Crawford 's market. But there were an awful lot of women out there who were like me—who were willing to play by the rules, didn't sleep around and were very aggressive. A Loretta Young movie had a happy ending; that's what it was geared to: a nice husband, nice lover, no abuse of any kind—that's what the heroes and heroines were in those days."

Loretta Young was born Gretchen Michaela Young on January 6, 1913, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her parents separated when she was two, and her mother moved with her four children to Hollywood, where she opened a boarding house. As a child, Young appeared as an extra in movies, often with her older sisters, Polly Ann Young and Elizabeth Jane, who later acted under the name Sally Blane . Her career was halted briefly while she attended a convent school, but picked up again in 1926, when she intercepted a call for her sister Polly from First National director Mervyn LeRoy, who subsequently hired her for a role in Naughty But Nice (1927), starring Colleen Moore . (It was Moore who suggested to a 13-year-old Young that she change her name to Loretta.)

Young was able to both pursue her film career and finish her education with the help of a private tutor on the set. Her early films were mostly routine programmers, but she made a quick transition into leading roles, the first of which was opposite Lon Chaney in Laugh Clown Laugh (1928). During the 1930s and 1940s, she made numerous films (10 in 1934 alone), often co-starring with such matinee idols as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power, and Cary Grant. The actress spent seven years with Warner Bros., then switched to Twentieth Century-Fox, becoming one of the first female stars to command a six-figure salary. In 1939, when she rejected Fox's five-year, $2 million contract offer to try and work as a freelance actress, she was blackballed. Following her first freelance film Eternally Yours (1939), with David Niven, offers dried up for two years, although many of her previously completed films were released in the interim.

"For most of her roles she relied on her elegant beauty," writes Ephraim Katz, referring to Young's peachy complexion, high cheekbones, and full lips. (Her friend, designer James Galanos, called her "just totally beautiful.") Katz also points out that when called upon to act, Young did so convincingly. In 1947, she won an Academy Award for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter, in which she played a Swedish maid who ends up being elected to Congress. Also notable were her later performances in Rachel and the Stranger (1948), Come to the Stable (1949), for which she received an Oscar nomination, and Cause for Alarm (1951). Her last feature film was It Happens Every Thursday (1952), with John Forsyth, who recalled the actress as "very strong, very opinionated and right 99.9 percent of the time—so right it was scary. She knew herself exceptionally well."

Blane, Sally (1910–1997)

American actress. Born Elizabeth Jane Young in Salt Lake City in 1910; died in Palm Springs, California, on August 27, 1997; sister of Loretta Young (an actress), Polly Ann Young, and Georgiana Young; married Norman Foster (an actor-director), in 1934 (died 1976).

Sally Blane made her film debut during the silent era, appearing in Casey at the Bat in 1927. Her other films include Shootin' Irons (1927), Wife Savers (1928), The Vanishing Pioneer (1928), Wolves of the City (1929), Eyes of the Underworld (1929), Outlawed (1929), Tanned Legs (1929), Little Accident (1930), Annabelle's Affairs (1931), A Dangerous Affair (1931), Shanghaied Love (1931), Good Sport (1931), The Spirit of Notre Dame (1931), Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Women Men Marry (1931), X Marks the Spot (1931), Disorderly Conduct (1932), Forbidden Company (1932), Escapade (1932), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Law of the Sea (1932), Local Bad Man (1932), The Phantom Express (1932), Pride of the Legion (1932), Probation (1932), The Reckoning (1932), Wild Horse Mesa (1932), Advice to the Lovelorn (1933), The Big Payoff (1933), Crime on the Hill (1933), Hello, Everybody (1933), Heritage of the Desert (1933), Mayfair Girl (1933), Night of Terror (1933), Trick for Trick (1933), Against the Law (1934), Half a Sinner (1934), City Limits (1934), City Park (1934), She Had to Choose (1934), No More Women (1934), Stolen Sweets (1934), The Silver Streak (1935), This Is the Life (1935), The Great Hospital Mystery (1937), One Mile from Heaven (1937), Crashin' Thru Danger (1938), Numbered Woman (1938), Fighting Mad (1939), The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939), Way Down South (1939). Blane retired from the screen following her appearance in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island in 1939, though she did one more film in 1954, A Bullet for Joey, starring Edward G. Robinson and George Raft.

Young's personal life included three marriage, the first to actor Grant Withers, with whom she eloped at age 17. They divorced a year later. In 1940, the actress wed Thomas H.A. Lewis, an advertising executive who later became the producer of her television series. The couple, who divorced in 1969, had three children: two sons, Christopher and Peter; and an adopted daughter Judy Lewis . In 1994, Judy wrote an autobiography, Uncommon Knowledge, in which she claimed that Young was her biological mother and that she was conceived during the filming of Call of the Wild (1935), when Young was between marriages. Her father, she said, was the movie's co-star, Clark Gable. To avoid a scandal (Gable was married at the time to Rhea Langham ), Lewis contends that Young gave birth to her in secret, and then later arranged to publicly "adopt" her. Although the dates coincide with Young's sudden disappearance from Hollywood for a year to recover from an undisclosed illness, the actress never confirmed or denied her daughter's claims. After Young died, her agent and longtime friend Norman Brokaw, chair of the William Morris Agency, remarked, "She didn't want to ever publicly acknowledge it."

In 1953, when Young left Hollywood to produce and star in her own television series, she was the first actress of such magnitude to do so. The Hollywood movie community, deeply suspicious of the new medium, predicted failure, but they could not have been more mistaken. "The Loretta Young Show" (originally titled "A Letter to Loretta"), endured for eight years, becoming one of the most popular shows on television and garnering Young three leading actress Emmy Awards and seven nominations. (Her initial Emmy, in 1953, made her the first actress to win both an Oscar and an Emmy.) Young had control over the content, casting, and final editing of the show, an anthology of spiritually uplifting dramas extolling "respect for law and order and for disciplined deportment and character building standards." She appeared in half of the show's 300 episodes, playing everything from a nun to a torch singer. "She worked so hard on the show, supervising the scripts, the casting, the sets, the whole production, that she spent many a night sleeping at the studio even though she lived only a few blocks away," said Brokaw. Actress Pat Crowley , who appeared on many episodes of the show, remembers Young as "an amazing pioneer who could stand up to any man as a producer, yet she had the incredible facility of being the most feminine human being there ever was."

The trademark of the show, Young's pirouetting entrance through double doors on the set, was done "to mollify the show's designer, Marusha," Young said in a 1995 interview. "I initially just walked through the doors, and Marusha was upset because no one would see the wonderful back of the dress." Each week, viewers waited to see what glorious outfit the star would be wearing and, in a mass-marketing venture unprecedented in its time, each outfit was made available in 95 stores nationwide the week following its television debut.

When the show ended in 1961, Young quickly attempted another series, "The New Loretta Young Show," in which she played a widow with seven children. It lasted less than a full season, after which Young retired from show business. Although offers poured in, she acted only twice more—in the television movies "Christmas Eve" (1986) and "Lady in a Corner" (1989). The actress settled quietly in Palm Springs, California, devoting time to her family and a number of charities. In 1993, at age 80, she surprised her friends by marrying fashion designer Jean Louis, then 85. "We've known each other for so long. And when something is right, it just slips into place," she told a reporter. Louis died in April 1997. Loretta Young died of ovarian cancer in 2000, age 87.


Current Biography 1948. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1948.

"Forever Young," in People Weekly. August 28, 2000.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Lewis, Judy. Uncommon Knowledge. NY: Pocket, 1994.

Logan, Michael. "First Class," in TV Guide. September 16, 2000.

"Obituary," in Boston Sunday Globe. August 13, 2000.

Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein. Loretta Young: An Extraordinary Life. NY: Delacorte, 1986.

Thomas, Bob. "Loretta Young, epitome of Hollywood glamor," in The Day [New London, CT]. August 13, 2000.

Williams, Lena. "Loretta Young, Glamorous Leading Lady of Film and Television, Dies at 87," in The New York Times. August 13, 2000.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

More From