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« With Six You Get Link Roll | Main | National Society of Film Critics Loves Amour »
Sunday
Jan062013

Loretta Young, Ruffled

Happy Centennial to Loretta Young!  (January 6th, 1913 - August 12th, 2000) She was my mom's favorite actress as a little girl which is how I know her name. 

So many ruffles! How can Loretta breathe in there?

Well that and my encyclopedic attention to the Best Actress category in theory long before I'd seen almost any of the movies as a kid. The Farmer's Daughter was literally the first of the 1940s Best Actress winners I ever saw -- entirely because of my mom's love for it -- but I have to admit that I don't remember the movie at all now. (FWIW my favorite Best Actress win of the 40s is a tight race between Crawford's Mildred Pierce and DeHavilland's The Heiress)

We name-checked Loretta very briefly on the recent podcast (Part 1 & 2) because my mom was so happy with the book I gave her as a gift recently. My mother is very conservative so perhaps it was Loretta's devout Christianity in the middle of the Sodom & Gomorrah --aka Hollywood -- that was a draw? Or maybe its was regional pride -  Loretta Young was one of the few big movie stars from Utah, where my mom was born and raised.

The book is called "Hollywood Madonna Loretta Young" (by Bernard F Dick) and is apparently the first biography of this Leading Actress of the 40s. In addition to film stardom, she had a secret love child with Clark Gable and found major television stardom in as the host / sometime star of the long running drama series "The Loretta Young Show" (1953-1961)

Have you seen any of her films?

Loretta Young is naturally being celebrated this month here and there. Her official website is tracking the celebrations and screenings if you're interested in checking her work out. I've got to catch Come to the Stable (1949) one of these days. Such a major hole in my Oscar viewing what with its seven nominations (among the highest for a film that missed a Best Picture citation) and it's a nun movie for Christ's sake  -- Oscar subgenre alert! Frustrated that Netflix doesn't have it.

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Reader Comments (22)

I've seen many of her films, she's better and much looser in her early pre-codes like Midnight Mary and Employee Entrance than once she started to stiffen and take on a patina of holiness as she aged. She isn't bad in The Stranger with Orson Welles and Edward G. Robinson which is from her later period.

I've never understood the win for The Farmer's Daughter, she's adequate nothing more. Of the nominees Susan Hayward gave the best performance in Smash-Up followed by Joan Crawford in Possessed then Rosalind Russell in the overblown Mourning Becomes Electra she was better than Dorothy McGuire in Gentlemen's Agreement but only because Dorothy's part was weak.

I did read Judy Lewis' bio, Uncommon Knowledge, which of course dealt with the whole secret birth and her relationship with her mother. Loretta comes across as a cold customer, ruthlessly ambitious and overly pious who looked at Judy as her mortal sin and held her at a distance until almost the end of her life. Irene Dunne, who was Loretta's best friend, also appears to have been quite the actress, always seeming to be a warm, giving and high spirited person on screen but from Judy's experience a frosty standoffish woman in real life.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Oh Nathaniel, your blog is so delightful! Cute piece, i love stories about moms and movies.
My mother favorite movie star is Patrick Swayze (so funny) and my grandmother favorite movie is Mourning Becomes Electra, she loves a tragedy, did you ever watched this one? It had 2 academy awards noms, actress and actor (Rosalind Russell and Michael Redgrave).

Kisses

Ani

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAni di

Where is your mom from? Mine was born and raised just a few blocks south of the Y in Provo. Was a Cougarette in the 60s. Won't dare see a movie in which an actress bares her chest.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy

My mother loved Loretta Young. She named one of my sisters after Irene Dunne.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

Loved her in one of the most underrated films ever. Borzage's Man's Castle.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Love that picture! You should totally try to match that with your portrait on the right ;)

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I guess you mistyped her birth year there, Nathaniel.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhcu

From what I understand, in a poll of many academy members that year, Rosiland Russell was the leader among Best Actress nominees; therefore considered the favorite. And Loretta Young came in last place in that poll, so her win was considered very surprising, if not only for the not-so-award-worthy performance.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKen

That was one of the years - or so I've read - when there was a surprise result at the awards. Other years were 54 with Grace Kelly winning over Garland, and 1940's Ginger Rogers win.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe U.K.

Joe UK-If I recall my Inside Oscar correctly, Young actually was in the "fifth slot" position in that race, and Rosalind Russell was all but assumed to be the winner for Mourning Becomes...

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Loretta Young was one of the few actresses of Hollywood's "Golden Age" who got a boost from a fellow female star. Loretta (her original name was Gretchen) was "discovered" by the silent film star Colleen Moore (1899 - 1988) when Loretta played a bit part in one of her films as a teenager. Moore urged the studio to give Gretchen more parts, have her teeth straightened, and she re-named her "Loretta...after the most beautiful doll I ever had".

Loretta's mother was an interior decorator and whenever Loretta played a part in a "period film" such as "Suez" (1938) she had it in her contract that she could have all the ruffled petticoats she wore during film. She would take them home and her mother would turn them into ruffled lampshades, stylish as the time.

Loretta's pre-Code films such as "Zoo in Budapest" are always worth checking out. I also love her in her uncharacteristic later career Western "Rachel and the Stranger" and I enjoy "The Farmer's Daughter" and "The Bishop's Wife". I only saw "Come To the Stable" last year for the first time and it was more enjoyable than I had imagined.

In one of her last interviews, Loretta corrected the reporter, describing herself as "a movie star, NOT an actress!"

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFunbud

The worst part of her win was that Loretta was a very good friend of Russell. When she won she worried "But what about Rosalind?" All was fine, of course. But Russell fired her publicist, who had positively promised her he would get her the Oscar! She had hired him on the strength of his success in bringin an Oscar to Olivia de Havilland the previous year (To Each His Own).

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Did you know that Loretta Young did a screen test for Joan Fontaine's role in 'Rebecca?' It's included on the DVD. She was quite good, but far too glamorous of a presence.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

'Come to the Stable" is on TCM periodically. Best part is Elsa Lanchester's nominated performance.. Of special note is Young's film, "Kentucky," which features Walter Brennan in the only Best Supporting Actor winnning role I have never seen. It is not available in any format, so seeing on TCM is a treat. think it is coming up within the next 2 weeks...

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

She was the ideal golden age movie star angelic image ( with a naughty center) love her in "The Bishop's Wife"

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Born to Be Bad. with Cary Grant, definitely. And it will be screened on TCM this coming Wednesday evening (1/9). There is something about that film that makes it stand out in my memory...

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Wasn't Loretta Young a lifelong Republican and anti-gay rights? None of that should have anything to do with her film performances or Oscar win I know ("Farmer's Daughter" recently played on TCM, and I don't think much of the film or her best actress win), but I'm human after all, and things like that do matter to me.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiam

a boring actress....

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Marlene Dietrich on Loretta Young: ''Every time she "sins", she builds a church. That's why there are so many Catholic churches in Hollywood''.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill

Will -- HA! love it. thanks for sharing.

January 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathan, Come To the Stable is terrific. Celeste Holm is wonderful. I never warmed up to Loretta much, but as a kid I loved The Call of the Wild. Did she and Gable conceive Judy on that set?! Maybe they needed to keep warm. hehe

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

No other actress had the career Loretta Young had. The only actress to be in the Silent era, the golden age of Hollywood, and the golden age of Television. The first actress to win an Oscar, Emmy, golden globe award. The first golden age star to move to television. The trailblazer for women into Television. The leading lady of Television the whole decade of the 1950's. Nominated for an Emmy every year she was on Television. Eight straight years winning three times. Nominated for an Emmy for both TV movies she made and one Emmy for Christmas Eve. Made the difference for Women in Television. Is totally ignored by the Television Hall of Fame. A total forgotten tragedy. A poem I wrote for Ms. Young. Who told me it was the nicest thing a fan ever wrote to her.

My Favorite Star

Here's a Story of a Screen Legend's Life
A Star Kept Shining through unlimited time
Just a young girl extra when Valentino shined
A Teenage Beauty when the Talkies arrived
Through Hollywood's golden era
Of Power, Grant, Cagney, Tracy, and Gable
Her good girl image was always her label
Her romantic aura that filled the screen
Brought out the best in men like these
Through the movie mogul's dynasty and the years of war
Her stardom never died
She gave us Ramona, Mabel Bell, Sister Margaret,
And Sweet Julia, from the Bishop's wife
Her sparkling eyes found your heart
In the Farmer's Daughter her award winning part
She had made her mark on the silver screen
Now it was time try TV
She entered the room in the most glamorous way
When she left she had something to say
The God giving Goodness that came out to reply
Our morals and values are important in Life
With movies and Television her legend survives
God's gift of an angel by heaven's design
When you are mentioned in the great actress' club
We'll always remember you Loretta Young
Dominic Campisi 11/7/98

February 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDominic

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