A Tribute to Loretta Young
My earliest memory of Loretta Young was her typical entrance at the beginning of her successful TV program, The Loretta Young Show, sweeping onto the set in a glamorous gown, with a big smile.
It wasn’t until years later that I became aware of the fact that Loretta Young also had a successful screen career, making over 100 films from 1927 (at the end of the silent era) to 1989 (with an appearance in a TV-movie), in addition to a few movies she appeared in as a young child.
Gretchen Young was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 6, 1913, and moved with her mother to California at the age of 3. Her uncle, an assistant cameraman, got her a few bit parts in films as a small child, but it didn’t amount to much, and she spent most of her childhood attending parochial schools and helping her mother run her boarding house.
Then one day the director of Naughty But Nice called to speak to her older sister and Gretchen, then 14, answered the phone. She ended up in the film, and within two years, after changing her first name to Loretta, she had a leading role in Laugh, Clown, Laugh (one of the last silent films), with Lon Chaney, Sr. This was followed by a part in one of the first sound films, entitled The Squall, after which she signed a contract with Warner Brothers, eventually following Darryl Zanuck to Twentieth Century Fox in 1934.
In 1935 she secretly gave birth to a daughter, Judy, later revealed to be fathered by Clark Gable, Loretta’s costar in Call of the Wild. Loretta “adopted” Judy, who did not know the identity of her mother and father until more than two decades later.
Loretta soon became one of Hollywood’s most popular stars, winning an Oscar for The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), starring with Cary Grant and David Niven in The Bishop’s Wife (1948), and getting another Oscar nod for Come to the Stable in 1949.
In 1953, she jumped to television, starring in The Loretta Young Show for ten years, virtually eclipsing her earlier movie fame. She returned to private life when the show ended its run, devoting herself to Catholic charities. She appeared in a couple of made-for-TV movies in 1986 and 1990.
Loretta Young died of ovarian cancer on August 12, 2000, at the age of 87, after a long career which established a benchmark for big screen and small screen glamour and elegance, not to mention strength and moral rectitude. Please enjoy this birthday salute, and check out the various online resources collected in Parts II through IV of this article.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters