Loretta Young (born Gretchen Young; January 6, 1913 – August 12, 2000) was an American actress. Starting as a child actress, she had a long and varied career in film from 1917 to 1953. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film The Farmer's Daughter (1947), and received her second Academy Award nomination for her role in Come to the Stable (1949). Young moved to the relatively new medium of television, where she had a dramatic anthology series, The Loretta Young Show, from 1953 to 1961. The series earned three Emmy Awards, and was re-run successfully on daytime TV and later in syndication. In the 1980s, Young returned to the small screen and won a Golden Globe for her role in Christmas Eve in 1986.
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 (1934 film) 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.
Young has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for her work in television, at 6135 Hollywood Boulevard, and the other for her work in motion pictures, at 6100 Hollywood Boulevard. 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 the 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.
Year Title Role Notes
1916 Sweet Kitty Bellairs unknown Lost; uncredited
1917 The Primrose Ring Fairy Lost; uncredited
1917 Sirens of the Sea Child As Gretchen Young
1919 The Only Way Child on operating table
1921 White and Unmarried Child Uncredited
1921 The Sheik Arab child Extant; uncredited
1927 Naughty But Nice Bit part Extant; uncredited
1927 Her Wild Oat Bit by ping pong table Extant; uncredited
1927 Orchids and Ermine unknown Extant; uncredited
1928 The Whip Woman The Girl Lost
1928 Laugh, Clown, Laugh Simonetta Extant; made at MGM
1928 The Magnificent Flirt Denise Laverne Lost; made at Paramount Pictures
1928 The Head Man Carol Watts Lost
1928 Scarlet Seas Margaret Barbour Extant (Vitaphone track of music and effects survives). Picture elements discovered at Cineteca Italiana, Milan
1929 Seven Footprints to Satan One of Satan's victims Extant; uncredited
1929 The Squall Irma Extant, in Library of Congress
1929 The Girl in the Glass Cage Gladys Cosgrove Lost
1929 Fast Life Patricia Mason Stratton Lost (Vitaphone soundtrack discs at UCLA Film and Television)
1929 The Careless Age Muriel Lost
1929 The Forward Pass Patricia Carlyle Lost
1929 The Show of Shows "Meet My Sister" number Extant, in Library of Congress
1930 Loose Ankles Ann Harper Berry Extant, in Library of Congress
1930 The Man from Blankley's Margery Seaton Lost (Vitaphone soundtrack discs at UCLA Film and Television)
1930 Show Girl in Hollywood Extant, in Library of Congress; uncredited
1930 The Second Floor Mystery Marion Ferguson Extant, in Library of Congress
1930 Road to Paradise Mary Brennan/Margaret Waring Extant, in Library of Congress
1930 Warner Bros. Jubilee Dinner Herself Short subject
1930 Kismet Marsinah Lost (Vitaphone soundtrack discs at UCLA Film and Television)
1930 War Nurse Nurse Extant; made at MGM; uncredited (Young's scenes deleted)
1930 The Truth About Youth Phyllis Ericson Extant, in Library of Congress
1930 The Devil to Pay! Dorothy Hope Extant; produced by Samuel Goldwyn; released by United Artists
1931 How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 8: "The Brassie" Herself Short subject
1931 Beau Ideal Isobel Brandon Extant; made at RKO
1931 The Right of Way Rosalie Evantural Extant, in Library of Congress
1931 The Stolen Jools Herself Short subject
1931 Three Girls Lost Norene McMann Extant
1931 Too Young to Marry Elaine Bumpstead Extant, in Library of Congress
1931 Big Business Girl Claie "Mac" McIntyre Extant, in Library of Congress
1931 I Like Your Nerve Diane Forsythe Extant, in Library of Congress
1931 The Ruling Voice Gloria Bannister Extant, in Library of Congress
1931 Platinum Blonde Gallagher
1932 Taxi! Sue Riley Nolan Extant, in Library of Congress
1932 The Hatchet Man Sun Toya San Extant, in Library of Congress; original title The Honorable Mr. Wong
1932 Play-Girl Buster "Bus" Green Dennis Extant, in Library of Congress
1932 Week-End Marriage Lola Davis Hayes Extant, in Library of Congress
1932 Life Begins Grace Sutton Extant, in Library of Congress
1932 They Call It Sin Marion Cullen Extant, in Library of Congress
1933 Employees' Entrance Madeleine Walters West Extant, in Library of Congress
1933 Grand Slam Marcia Stanislavsky Extant, in Library of Congress
1933 Zoo in Budapest Eve Extant
1933 The Life of Jimmy Dolan Peggy Extant, in Library of Congress
1933 Heroes for Sale Ruth Loring Holmes Extant, in Library of Congress
1933 Midnight Mary Mary Martin
1933 She Had to Say Yes Florence "Flo" Denny Extant, in Library of Congress
1933 The Devil's in Love Margot Lesesne Extant
1933 Man's Castle Trina Extant
1934 The House of Rothschild Julie Rothschild
1934 Born to Be Bad Letty Strong
1934 Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back Lola Field
1934 Caravan Countess Wilma
1934 The White Parade June Arden
1935 Clive of India Margaret Maskelyne Clive
1935 Shanghai Barbara Howard
1935 The Call of the Wild Claire Blake
1935 The Crusades Berengaria, Princess of Navarre
1935 Hollywood Extra Girl Herself Short subject
1936 The Unguarded Hour Lady Helen Dudley Dearden
1936 Private Number Ellen Neal
1936 Ramona Ramona
1936 Ladies in Love Susie Schmidt
1937 Love Is News Toni Gateson
1937 Café Metropole Laura Ridgeway
1937 Love Under Fire Myra Cooper
1937 Wife, Doctor and Nurse Ina Heath Lewis
1937 Second Honeymoon Vicky
1938 Four Men and a Prayer Miss Lynn Cherrington
1938 Three Blind Mice Pamela Charters
1938 Suez Countess Eugenie de Montijo
1938 Kentucky Sally Goodwin
1939 Wife, Husband and Friend Doris Borland
1939 The Story of Alexander Graham Bell Mrs. Mabel Hubbard Bell
1939 Eternally Yours Anita
1940 The Doctor Takes a Wife June Cameron
1940 He Stayed for Breakfast Marianna Duval
1941 The Lady from Cheyenne Annie Morgan
1941 The Men in Her Life Lina Varsavina
1941 Bedtime Story Jane Drake
1942 A Night to Remember Nancy Troy
1943 China Carolyn Grant
1943 Show Business at War Herself Short subject
1944 Ladies Courageous Roberta Harper Famously "a clef" biopic of the WWII WASPs, pioneering women pilots
1944 And Now Tomorrow Emily Blair
1945 Along Came Jones Cherry de Longpre
1946 The Stranger Mary Longstreet
1947 The Perfect Marriage Maggie Williams
1947 The Farmer's Daughter Katrin "Katy" Holstrum Academy Award for Best Actress
1947 The Bishop's Wife Julia Brougham
1948 Rachel and the Stranger Rachel Harvey
1949 The Accused Dr. Wilma Tuttle
1949 Mother Is a Freshman Abigail Fortitude Abbott
1949 Come to the Stable Sister Margaret Nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress
1950 Key to the City Clarissa Standish
1951 You Can Change the World Herself Short subject
1951 Cause for Alarm! Ellen Jones
1951 Half Angel Nora Gilpin
1951 Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Awards Herself Short subject
1952 Paula Paula Rogers
1952 Because of You Christine Carroll Kimberly
1953 It Happens Every Thursday Jane MacAvoy
1986 Christmas Eve Amanda Kingsley TV movie
1989 Lady in a Corner Grace Guthrie TV movie
1994 Life Along the Mississippi Narrator (voice) TV documentation
Year Program Episode/source
1940 The Campbell Playhouse "Theodora Goes Wild"
1945 Cavalcade of America "Children, This Is Your Father"
1947 Family Theater "Flight from Home"
1950 Suspense "Lady Killer"
1952 Lux Radio Theatre "Come to the Stable"
1952 Family Theater "Heritage of Home"
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