The Golden Age of Hollywood

Star of the Month Profile: Loretta Young

Born Gretchen Michaela Young on January 6, 1913

Nicknames
Attila the Nun
The Iron Butterfly
Saint Loretta


Religion
Roman Catholic. Young attended Ramona Convent Secondary School as a teen and contributed to a number of Catholic charitable causes during her career. Marlene Deitrich once said of Young, “Every time she sins, she build a church. That’s why there are so many Catholic churches in Hollywood.” Ouch, Marlene!

Political views
Conservative Republican. Young publicly supported presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. She also donated money to the Republican National Committee. Like many other stars of the time, including John Wayne, Ginger Rogers, and Irene Dunne, Young was an active member of the Hollywood Republican Committee.

Love life
First married actor Grant Withers in 1930, only to divorce a year later. 

While filming THE CALL OF THE WILD (1935) with Clark Gable, the two stars fell in love, despite Gable being married at the time to Texas socialite Maria Franklin Gable. Young became pregnant and secretly gave birth to a daughter, Judith. The baby was placed in an orphanage and adopted by Young a few months later. 

Clark Gable and Loretta Young in CALL OF THE WILD (1935)

When Young married Tom Lewis in 1940, Judy was given his last name. It wasn’t until she was an adult that Judy learned the truth about her parentage, despite Hollywood gossip and her rather obvious resemblance to her biological father. Tom Lewis produced “The Loretta Young Show” between 1953 and 1955, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1969.

Loretta Young’s third and final marriage was to Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis. Louis designed many of the gowns Young wore for her famously fabulous entrances on “The Loretta Young Show.” The couple were married from 1993 until Louis’s death in 1997.

Career
Loretta Young and her sisters started out in movies at a very young age. She started as a child actor in silent films, first appearing in 1914. After high school, she returned to pictures, often in minor roles until her breakthrough with KENTUCKY (1938). Throughout the 1930s and 40s, Young made a number of successful films, many with other leading actors and actresses of the day, including Cary Grant, Celeste Holm, Van Johnson, and David Niven. Young was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER (1947) and later won an Oscar for COME TO THE STABLE (1949).

Loretta Young won three Emmys for her drama anthology television series “The Loretta Young Show.” Initially, the show was entitle “Letter to Loretta” because each episode began with Young reading a letter from a fan and then building the show around a question asked in the letter. This format was abandoned after the first season and a more traditional dramatic show. Loretta Young was the first woman to host a show of this nature. She became famous for the designer gowns she wore at the beginning of each show. In 1972 Young famously sued the network for rebroadcasting her show with her original introductions included – she had stipulated in her contract that these be omitted in any future broadcasts of the show because she did not want to be seen in outdated fashions. She won more than half a million dollars. Here are a few clips of Miss Young showing off her fantastic swirly dresses:

Most feministy moviesWhen reading the synopses for some of the Loretta Young movies in my TCM “Now Playing” guide, I was surprised by how many progressively strong female roles she played. I have not seen many of these films, but I thought them worth pointing out. You must let me know which of these you have seen and what you thought of them.

Loretta Young and a cutie-patootie baby Cary Grant!
  • BORN TO BE BAD (1934): An unmarried pregnant woman is determined that her child will not grow up to be taken advantage of. Directed by Lowell Sherman and co-starring Cary Grant. (on TCM January 9, 11:00 pm)
  • BIG BUSINESS GIRL (1931): A college girl uses her brains and her legs to conquer the business world. Directed by William A. Seiter and co-starring Joan Blondell and Frank Albertson. (January 16, 4:00 am)
  • THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (1940): A man-hating author and a woman-hating doctor have to pretend they’re married. Directed by Alexander Hall and co-starring Ray Milland, Gail Patrick, and Edmund Gwenn. (January 23, 8:00 pm)
  • WEEK-END MARRIAGE (1932): When her husband loses his job, a woman risks her marriage to become the breadwinner. Directed by Thornton Freeland and co-starring Norman Foster, Aline MacMahon, and George Brent. (January 23, 2:30 am)
  • THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER (1947): When she goes to work for a congressman, a Minnesota farm girl takes Washington by storm. Directed by H.C. Potter and co-starring Joseph Cotton and Ethel Barrymore. (January 30, 8:00 pm)
  • KEY TO THE CITY (1950): Two mayors meet and fall in love during a convention in San Francisco. Directed by George Sidney and co-starring Clark Gable (*GASP!*), Frank Morgan, Marilyn Maxwell, Raymond Burr, James Gleason, and Lewis Stone. (January 30, 2:45 am)
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