Loretta Young

Beautiful star of Old Hollywood and Trailblazer on TV

Hi, I'm Kate!
What I am most passionate about is to inspire you to see that your life is your own and biggest masterpiece.

Loretta Young was not only one of the most beautiful Hollywood stars, she also was a trailblazer on TV.

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Beginnings

Loretta Young was actually born Gretchen Young on January 6, 1913 in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she was only two years old, her parents separated and subsequently, a short while later, her mother moved the family of five to Hollywood. The family that was mother Gladys,Gretchen, her two younger sisters Polly Ann and Elizabeth Jane, who would later be known by her stage name Sally Blane, as well as her brother John. 

A curious thing about Young’s brother John: Mother Gladys met wealthy widow Ida Bottler Lindley by 1925. As Ida had no children of her own, she wanted to adopt to carry on the family name. She would adopt John, legally change his name to John R. Lindley and provide him education to become a lawyer. 

Start in the Movies

The three Young sisters started out in the movie business with small parts in silent films. Gretchen alias Loretta would make her movie debut at the age of two or three in the movie Sweet Kitty Bellairs and would be billed for the first time at age four in the Sirens of the Sea in 1917. She would be signed by John McCormick, who was the husband an manager of actress Colleen Moore. And it was Moore that changed Gretchen’s name to Loretta. Apparently, this was the name of her favorite doll.  

It was in 1928, at age 15, that Loretta Young was billed as such for the first time in The Whip Woman. She followed this movie up with Laugh, Clown, Laugh opposite Lon Chaney and built upon its success consistently throughout the years. In 1934, at age 21, the quality, success and publicity of her movies took up speed. She starred in the pre-code drama Born to be Bad opposite Cary Grant, The Call of the Wild opposite Clark Gable, the Cecil B. DeMille epic The Crusades as well as The Unguarded Hour opposite Franchot Tone. It was also in the year 1936, that Loretta Young was paired for the first time with Tyrone Power. Tyrone Power’s second movie at all was Ladies in Love, in which he co-starred with 23 year-old Loretta Young. These two together were such a success that, of course, Daryl F. Zanuck, the head of the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, paired them several times to maximize box office results – they would become the „box-office starlings of the USA“. Although they only made five movies together (way less than other famous on-screen pairings like Myrna Loy & William Powell or Clark Gable & Jean Harlow), they had a significant impact on the movies and their audiences. It was amidst the Great Depression that these young, beautiful, lighthearted and positive characters stepped on the screen and made life seem a little bit better for their audiences. 

Rise to Stardom

Young was a busy contract actresses and releases up to eight movies a year for the studio. It was I in the 1940s that she made more outstanding movies like Ladies Courageous in 1944 about women pilots and The Stranger opposite Orson Welles in 1946, in which she played a small town girl falling for and marrying a Nazi fugitive. Her performance in 1947’s The Farmer’s Daughter gained her an Academy Award for Best Actress. For this role she was taught to speak with a Swedish accent by the very teacher that had helped Ingrid Bergman to lose hers. Young would receive nother Academy Award nomination for 1948’s Come to the Stable. 

She would film many other notable movies in the late 1940s and early 1950’s including the perennial comedy The Bishop’s Wife opposite Cary Grant and David Niven, It Happens Every Thursday co-starring John Forsythe, Key to the City opposite Clark Gable, Cause for Alarm, Half Angel, Paul and Because of You. In 1952 she retired from acting and focused on television. She would only film two more movies, 34 years later, in 1986 Christmas Eve and in 1989 Lady in a Corner – both NBC television movies. 

Television

From 1953 through to 1961, Young hosted and starred in Letter to Loretta, which would later be renamed into The Loretta Young Show. At that time, it was unheard of to have a woman at the helm and host of a show. The successful show was the longest running primetime network program hosted by a woman and earned Young three Primetime Emmy Awards as well as a Golden Globe. The show was re-run between 1960 and 1964 by NBC and appeared in syndication in the early 1970s. One of the trademarks of the show was Young’s theatrical entrance in high-fashion gowns as well as an ending in which Young would reflect on the episode drawing upon famous quotes or Bible passages. Her entrance would usually be accompanied by a twirl to show all sides of the great costumes she donned. She had wanted to get the glamour of her movies onto the small screen as well and hired the most praised designers like William Travilla and Jean Louis. When one of them had complained that people wound’t see the back of the costumes, Loretta Young invented the twirl and her very own way of opening and hosting the show. 

Young had made it part of her contract that the openings and endings have to be cut when re-running the program in order to keep the content up to modern times and not seem dated because of the fashions. She would actually later sue NBC as NBS had allowed foreign television outlets to re-run the episodes and they had not cut the opening segment. Young sought $1.9 in damages but only received $500,000. Young actually would suffer from exhaustion during the filming of the second season as she was hosting and acting in all segments. Guest hosts and guest actors stepped in and from then onwards, Young would only appear in about half of the episodes. 

Charity, Religion & Politics

Loretta Young was a Republican and supported Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. She was also a member of the Hollywood Republican Committee with some of her friends like Irene Dunne, Ginger Rogers, William Holden, Fred Astaire and John Wayne. 

After her de facto retirement from entertainment in the 1960s until her death, Loretta Young was very active in charity work. 

Relationships

Grant Withers – In 1930, 17 year-old Loretta Young eloped with 30 year-old Grant Withers to Yuma, Arizona. The marriage was annulled one year later. 

Spencer Tracy – In 1933, 20 year-old Young had an affair with her Man’s Castle co-star Spencer Tracy despite him being married to Louise Tracy. 

Tyrone Power – Loretta Young met Tyrone Power in 1936, when she was 23 years old and Tyrone 22, when they co-starred in Ladies in Love. Their on-screen chemistry was so magnetic that they were paired in four more movies. But, they matched in real life as well. These two were seen around town and Young would be at Power’s side when he placed his handprints in cement in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. For about two years Young and Power were an item, but than apparently studio head Zanuck was concerned that an engaged lest married Tyrone Power would be less attractive to the movie-going audience and broke them off. When Power unexpectedly died on the set of Salomon and Sheba, Young attended the funeral despite being on a tight filming schedule. She came in full costume to pay her respects and was really devastated by her friend’s death. Her daughter Judy Lewis would later say: „She had a habit of falling in love with all her leading men, but I think she really fell in love with Tyrone“

Tom Lewis – In 1940, 27 year-old Young married producer Tom Lewis, with him she had two sons – Peter Lewis and Christopher Lewis. They stayed together for 29 years and divorced in 1969.

Jean Louis – In 1993, 80 year-old Loretta Young married 86 year-old famed costume designer Jean Louis. They met on the set of The Loretta Young Show, for which Jean Louis designed Young’s stunning wardrobe for her opening and closing scenes. During this time Young was known as the best-dressed actress in America – thanks to Jean Louis. They stayed married until is death four short years later in 1997.

Clark Gable – And then there is Clark Gable. As I already outlined in the episode on this famous King of Hollywood, Loretta Young and Clark Gable had a child together – Judy Lewis. They had met on the set of The Call of the Wild and 34 year-old Gable date-raped 22 year-old Young. As Young was a devout Catholic abortion was a mortal sin to her. She also did not want to damage either her career or Gable’s, who was actually married to wife Ria Langham at that time. So, Young came up with a plan. When she started showing, she went on vacation, had the baby, recovered postpartum whilst telling the press that she was suffering from an infliction she had had since child put and put the baby in foster families and orphanages – only to adopt her about one and a half years later and have her back in her life. When Young married Tom Lewis, Judith took Lewis’s last name. Nobody actually bought that as little Judy looked very much like her biological father. Gable would actually only see and talk to his daughter once in her lifetime; it was when he and Young starred together again and he came by the house. 

Judy herself would not know about her biological father until she was 31 years old and Young never publicly shared the information until Joan Wester Anderson’s authorized biography. In an interview for it, Young admitted that Gable indeed was Judy’s father – but Young did not allow the book to be published before her death. 

The fact that there had been no consensual intimate contact between Gable and Young but that Gable actually had raped Young, was only publicly shared once both Loretta Young and Judy Lewis had died, in 2015. Apparently, Young had been under the impression that it had been her fault that she had been unable to fend off Gable’s advances and only learnt about date rape by watching Larry King Live.

Friendships

Irene Dunne – Irene Dunne and Loretta Young were very close friends and attended many social functions together. One of their bonds was their devout catholic practice and they attended the same Catholic Church together. Two other friends of Loretta’s would also attend the same church: Jane Wyman and Rosalind Russell. 

Rosalind Russell – Rosalind Russell and Loretta Young were very good friends, shared the same faith and were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in the same year. Young up for The Farmer’s Daughter and Rosalind Russell for Mourning Becomes Electra. Everybody believed that Russell would win – Mourning Becomes Electra was a heavyweight of theatrical performance and Russell had even engaged PR guru XXXX to up her chances. The surprise win of Loretta Young though was no reason for Russell to get in a foul mood and she would be the first to give her friend a standing ovation, hugging her and saying „Congratulations honey!“. 

James Stewart – Loretta Young’s best male friend was James Stewart, with whom she regularly had lunch. In 1987, he gave Young the Louella O. Parson’s Award for being the best „image of Hollywood“. 

Danny Thomas and Marlo Thomas – Loretta Young and Danny Thomas were close friends for many years and the photo most commonly found of them is the one of their winning night at the Emmys – Young winning for The Loretta Young Show and Danny for The Danny Thomas Show. She is the godmother to his daughter Marlo Thomas, star of the iconic television series That Girl and well-known for playing Rachel’s mother in Friends. Marlo and Loretta would be close friends as well until Loretta’s death.

Style

Apart from fashion, Loretta Young had perfect bone structure, a perfect petite (yet hourglass) figure, and a reserved elegance about her that made her stand out. She was very fashion-conscious and always wanted to be on trend. The contractual clause that her openings needed to be cut from reruns of The Loretta Young Show is testament to that dedication to fashion and modern style. 

The style Loretta Young is most associated with is the silhouette if Dior’s New Look – fitted bodice, nipped in waist and a full flared skirts until beyond the knees. One of her favorite accessories were gloves. But, as fashion evolved and changed, Loretta Young did htis as well. So, the other silhouette associated with her during her high-profile days is a sleek and modern pencil silhouette.

With all my love!

xx

Kate

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