“Loretta Young” Hollywood’s Heavenly Beauty

Loretta Young 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, and received her second Academy Award nomination for her role in Come to the Stable.

Film

Loretta Young in 1930

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.

Television

From the trailer for Cause for Alarm! (1951)

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.

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