Today is the 107th birthday of the actress Loretta Young. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has gone.
NAME: Loretta Young
AKA: Gretchen Michaela Young
DATE OF BIRTH: 6-Jan-1913
PLACE OF BIRTH: Salt Lake City, UT
DATE OF DEATH: 12-Aug-2000
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer – Ovarian
REMAINS: Buried, Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA
SPOUSE: Jean Louis (m. 1993–1997), Tom Lewis (m. 1940–1969), Grant Withers (m. 1930–1931)
CHILDREN: Judy Lewis, Christopher Lewis, Peter Lewis
OSCAR for Best Actress 1948 for The Farmer’s Daughter
GOLDEN GLOBE 1959 for Letter to Loretta
GOLDEN GLOBE 1987 for Christmas Eve
EMMMY 1955 for Letter to Loretta
EMMY 1957 for Letter to Loretta
EMMY 1959 for Letter to Loretta
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 6141 Hollywood Blvd. (television)
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 6104 Hollywood Blvd. (motion pictures)
She was born Gretchen Young in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of Gladys (née Royal) and John Earle Young. At confirmation, she took the name Michaela. When she was two years old, her parents separated, and when she was three, her mother moved the family to Hollywood. She and her sisters Polly Ann and Elizabeth Jane (better known as Sally Blane) all worked as child actresses, but of the three, Gretchen was the most successful.
Young’s first role was at the age of two or three in the silent film Sweet Kitty Bellairs. During her high-school years she was educated at Ramona Convent Secondary School. She was signed to a contract by John McCormick, husband and manager of actress Colleen Moore, who saw the young girl’s potential. Moore gave her the name Loretta, explaining that it was the name of her favorite doll.
Young was billed as Gretchen Young in the silent film Sirens of the Sea (1917). She was first billed as Loretta Young in 1928, in The Whip Woman. That same year, she co-starred with Lon Chaney in the MGM film Laugh, Clown, Laugh. The next year, she was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars.
In 1930, when she was 17, she eloped with 26-year-old actor Grant Withers; they were married in Yuma, Arizona. The marriage was annulled the next year, just as their second movie together (ironically entitled Too Young to Marry) was released. In 1934 she co-starred with Cary Grant in Born to be Bad, and in 1935 was billed with Clark Gable and Jack Oakie in the film version of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, directed by William Wellman.
During World War II, Young made Ladies Courageous (1944; re-issued as Fury in the Sky), the fictionalized story of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. It depicted a unit of female pilots who flew bomber planes from the factories to their final destinations. Young made as many as eight movies a year. In 1947, she won an Oscar for her performance in The Farmer’s Daughter. That same year, she co-starred with Cary Grant and David Niven in The Bishop’s Wife, a perennial favorite. In 1949, she received another Academy Award nomination for Come to the Stable. In 1953, she appeared in her last theatrical film, It Happens Every Thursday, a Universal comedy about a New York couple who move to California to take over a struggling weekly newspaper; her co-star was John Forsythe.
Young hosted and starred in the well-received half-hour anthology television series Letter to Loretta (soon retitled The Loretta Young Show), which was originally broadcast from 1953 to 1961. She earned three Emmy awards for the program. Her trademark was a dramatic entrance through a living room door in various high-fashion evening gowns. She returned at the program’s conclusion to offer a brief passage from the Bible or a famous quote that reflected upon the evening’s story. (Young’s introductions and concluding remarks were not re-run on television because she legally stipulated that they not be, as she did not want the dresses she wore in those segments to make the program seem dated.) The program ran in prime time on NBC for eight years, the longest-running primetime network program hosted by a woman up to that time.
The program was based on the premise that each drama was in answer to a question asked in her fan mail. The title was changed to The Loretta Young Show during the first season (as of the episode of February 14, 1954), and the “letter” concept was dropped at the end of the second season. Towards the end of the second season, Young was hospitalized as a result of overwork, which required a number of guest hosts and guest stars; her first appearance in the 1955–1956 season was for the Christmas show. From then on, Young appeared in only about half of each season’s shows as an actress, and served as the program’s host for the remainder.
Minus Young’s introductions and conclusions, the series was re-run as the Loretta Young Theatre in daytime by NBC from 1960 to 1964. It also appeared in syndication into the early 1970s before being withdrawn.
In the 1962–1963 television season, Young appeared as Christine Massey, a freelance magazine writer and the mother of seven children, in The New Loretta Young Show, on CBS. It fared poorly in the ratings on Monday evenings against ABC’s Ben Casey. It was dropped after one season of 26 episodes.
In the 1990s, selected episodes from Young’s personal collection, with the opening and closing segments (and original title) intact, were released on home video and frequently shown on cable television.
In 1988, Young received the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who through their endurance and the excellence of their work helped expand the role of women in the entertainment industry.
In 1988, Young received the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who through their endurance and the excellence of their work helped expand the role of women in the entertainment industry. In 2011, a Golden Palm Star on the Walk of Stars, in Palm Springs, California, was dedicated to her.
Young was married three times and had three children. Her first marriage was to actor Grant Withers in 1930. The marriage was annulled the following year. From September 1933 to June 1934, she had a well publicized affair with actor Spencer Tracy (who was married to Louise Tracy), her co-star in Man’s Castle. In 1940, Young married producer Tom Lewis. They had two sons: Peter Lewis (of the San Francisco rock band Moby Grape); and Christopher Lewis, a film director. Young and Lewis divorced bitterly in the mid-1960s.
Young had an affair with actor Glenn Ford in the early 1970s.
In 1993, Young married for the third and final time, to the fashion designer Jean Louis. Their marriage lasted until his death in April 1997. Young was godmother to Marlo Thomas (daughter of TV star Danny Thomas).
A smoker since the age of eight, a then underweight Young quit the habit in the mid-1980s, successfully gaining 10 pounds.
Young and Clark Gable were the romantic leads of the 1935 Twentieth Century Pictures film The Call of the Wild. Young was then 22 years old; Gable was 34 and married to Maria “Ria” Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham. During filming, Young became pregnant by Gable.
Young did not want to damage her career or Gable’s. She knew that if Twentieth Century Pictures found out about the pregnancy, they would pressure her to have an abortion; Young, a devout Catholic, considered abortion a mortal sin. Young, her sisters, and her mother came up with a plan to hide the pregnancy and then pass off the child as adopted. When Young’s pregnancy began to advance, she went on a “vacation” to England. After returning to California, she gave an interview from her bed, covered in blankets; at that time, she stated that her long movie absence was due to a condition she had had since childhood. Young gave birth to a daughter, Judith, on November 6, 1935, in Venice, California. Young named Judith after St. Jude because he was the patron saint of (among other things) difficult situations. Weeks after her birth, Judith was placed in an orphanage. Judith would spend the next 19 months in various “hideaways and orphanages” before being re-united with her mother; Young then claimed that she had adopted Judith. After Young married Tom Lewis, Judith took Lewis’s last name.
Few in Hollywood were fooled by the ruse. Judith (Judy) Lewis bore a strong resemblance to Gable, and her true parentage was widely rumored in entertainment circles. When Lewis was 31 years old, she confronted Young about her parentage; Young privately admitted that she was Lewis’s birth mother, stating that Lewis was “a walking mortal sin”. Young refused to confirm or comment publicly on the rumors until 1999, when Joan Wester Anderson wrote Young’s authorized biography. In interviews with Anderson for the book, Young stated that Lewis was her biological child and the product of a brief affair with Gable. Young would not allow the book to be published until after her death.
In 2015, Linda Lewis, the wife of Young’s son, Christopher, stated publicly that in 1998, a then-85-year-old Young had told Lewis that Gable had raped her. According to Linda Lewis, Young added that no consensual intimate contact had occurred between Gable and herself. Young had never disclosed the rape to anyone. According to Lewis, Young shared this information only after learning of the concept of date rape from watching Larry King Live; she had previously believed it was a woman’s job to fend off men’s amorous advances and had perceived her inability to thwart Gable’s attack as a moral failing on her part. Linda Lewis said that the family remained silent about Young’s rape claim until after both Young and Judy Lewis had died.
Young was a life-long Republican. In 1952, she appeared in radio, print, and magazine ads in support of Dwight D. Eisenhower in his campaign for US president. She attended his inauguration in 1953 along with Anita Louise, Louella Parsons, Jane Russell, Dick Powell, June Allyson, and Lou Costello, among others. She was a vocal supporter of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in their presidential campaigns in 1968 and 1980, respectively. Young was also an active member of the Hollywood Republican Committee, with her close friends Irene Dunne, Ginger Rogers, William Holden, George Murphy, Fred Astaire, and John Wayne.
From the time of Young’s retirement in the 1960s until not long before her death, she devoted herself to volunteer work for charities and churches with her friends of many years: Jane Wyman, Irene Dunne, and Rosalind Russell. She was a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California. Young, a devout Catholic, also worked with various Catholic charities after her acting career. Young briefly came out of retirement to star in two television films: Christmas Eve (1986) and Lady in a Corner (1989). She won a Golden Globe Award for the former and was nominated for the latter.
In 1972, a jury in Los Angeles awarded Young $550,000 in a lawsuit against NBC for breach of contract. Filed in 1966, the suit contended that NBC had allowed foreign television outlets to re-run old episodes of The Loretta Young Show without excluding, as agreed by the parties, the opening segment in which Young made her entrance. Young testified that her image had been damaged by portraying her in “outdated gowns”. She had sought damages of $1.9 million.
Young died of ovarian cancer on August 12, 2000, at the home of her maternal half-sister, Georgiana Montalbán (the wife of actor Ricardo Montalban) in Santa Monica, California. She was interred in the family plot in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Her ashes were buried in the grave of her mother, Gladys Belzer.
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Christmas Eve (22-Dec-1986)
It Happens Every Thursday (22-Apr-1953)
Because of You (4-Dec-1952)
Half Angel (5-May-1951)
Cause for Alarm! (30-Mar-1951) · Ellen Jones
You Can Change the World (1951) · Herself
Key to the City (2-Feb-1950) · Clarissa Standish
Come to the Stable (27-Jul-1949) · Sister Margaret
Mother Is a Freshman (12-Mar-1949)
The Accused (14-Jan-1949)
Rachel and the Stranger (20-Sep-1948) · Rachel
The Bishop’s Wife (9-Dec-1947) · Julia Brougham
The Farmer’s Daughter (25-Mar-1947) · Katrin Holstrom
The Perfect Marriage (24-Jan-1947)
The Stranger (25-May-1946) · Mary Longstreet
Along Came Jones (19-Jul-1945) · Cherry De Longpre
And Now Tomorrow (22-Nov-1944) · Emily Blair
A Night to Remember (1-Jan-1943) · Nancy Troy
Bedtime Story (25-Dec-1941) · Jane Drake
The Men in Her Life (30-Oct-1941)
He Stayed for Breakfast (31-Aug-1940)
The Doctor Takes a Wife (15-Jun-1940) · June Cameron
Eternally Yours (7-Oct-1939) · Anita
The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1-Apr-1939)
Wife, Husband and Friend (25-Feb-1939) · Doris Borland
Kentucky (24-Dec-1938) · Sally Goodwin
Suez (15-Oct-1938) · Countess Eugenie De Montijo
Three Blind Mice (18-Jun-1938) · Pamela Charters
Four Men and a Prayer (29-Apr-1938)
Second Honeymoon (13-Nov-1937) · Vicky
Wife, Doctor and Nurse (11-Oct-1937)
Love Under Fire (20-Aug-1937)
Café Metropole (28-Apr-1937)
Love Is News (26-Feb-1937)
Ladies in Love (9-Oct-1936)
Ramona (25-Sep-1936) · Ramona
Private Number (5-Jun-1936)
The Unguarded Hour (4-Apr-1936) · Lady Helen Dearden
The Crusades (22-Aug-1935)
The Call of the Wild (9-Aug-1935) · Claire Blake
Clive of India (7-Jan-1935)
The White Parade (16-Nov-1934)
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (15-Aug-1934)
Born to Be Bad (18-May-1934) · Letty Strong
The House of Rothschild (15-Mar-1934)
Man’s Castle (27-Oct-1933) · Trina
The Devil’s in Love (21-Jul-1933)
She Had to Say Yes (15-Jul-1933) · Florence
Midnight Mary (30-Jun-1933) · Mary
Heroes for Sale (17-Jun-1933) · Ruth
The Life of Jimmy Dolan (3-Jun-1933) · Peggy
Zoo in Budapest (28-Apr-1933) · Eve
Grand Slam (22-Feb-1933) · Marcia
Employees’ Entrance (20-Jan-1933) · Madeleine
They Call It Sin (20-Oct-1932) · Marion Cullen
Life Begins (4-Sep-1932) · Grace Sutton
Week-End Marriage (4-Jun-1932) · Lola Davis
Play-Girl (12-Mar-1932) · Buster Green
The Hatchet Man (4-Feb-1932) · Toya San
Taxi! (23-Jan-1932) · Sue Riley
The Ruling Voice (31-Oct-1931) · Gloria Bannister
Platinum Blonde (31-Oct-1931) · Gallagher
I Like Your Nerve (12-Sep-1931) · Diane Forsythe
Big Business Girl (12-Jun-1931) · Claire McIntyre
Three Girls Lost (19-Apr-1931)
The Right of Way (7-Feb-1931)
Beau Ideal (19-Jan-1931) · Isobel Brandon
The Devil to Pay! (18-Dec-1930) · Dorothy Hope
The Truth About Youth (3-Nov-1930) · Phyllis Ericson
Road to Paradise (20-Jul-1930) · Margaret Waring
Loose Ankles (2-Feb-1930) · Ann
The Show of Shows (21-Nov-1929)
The Squall (9-May-1929) · Irma
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (14-Apr-1928) · Simonetta