Friday, January 06, 2012

A Birthday Tribute to Loretta Young

Academy Award winning actress Loretta Young was born on this date in 1913 in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Loretta, whose birth name was Gretchen, became the superstar in a family of acting sisters which included Polly Ann Young and Sally Blane, born Elizabeth Jane Young. Loretta's extended family included Sally's husband, actor-director Norman Foster, who appeared opposite Loretta in films of the early '30s, and actor Ricardo Montalban, who married Loretta's younger half-sister, Georgiana.

The full scope of Loretta's career has perhaps only begun to be appreciated over the last few years. Although she is rightly known as a long-running TV star and for her later films, including the Christmas perennial THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947) and her Oscar-winning title role in THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (1947), the availability of Young's earliest pre-Code work on Turner Classic Movies has put her career accomplishments in a new context.

The teenaged Loretta Young of the pre-Code film era was a stunner. It's hard to believe she was only 18 when she confidently appeared oppposite James Cagney in TAXI! (1932). She's absolutely riveting in my favorite of her pre-Code films, MIDNIGHT MARY (1933), running the gamut from childhood to a tormented woman on trial for murder, in not much longer than an hour.

In her pre-Code roles, the glam Loretta often conveyed a kind of steam missing from her later parts. As Jeanine Basinger writes of Loretta's pre-Codes in THE STAR MACHINE, "This is not our mothers' Loretta Young." In COMPLICATED WOMEN, Mick LaSalle refers to this incarnation of Young as the "Drinking-Smoking Loretta."

As the '30s moved on, the busy actress starred in many successful, highly enjoyable romantic comedies -- teaming five times with the equally gorgeous Tyrone Power -- mixed with the occasional costume picture. In films such as DeMille's THE CRUSADES (1935), Loretta simply glows, exuding star power; she mixes steely nerve and a soulful sincerity.

It's fun to note that in one of her period pictures, the charming THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939), Loretta's three sisters played her onscreen sisters.

Her best films of the '40s included the suspense thriller THE STRANGER (1946), opposite Orson Welles and Edward G. Robinson; her Oscar-winning role as the Swedish maid-turned-Congresswoman Katie in the delightful THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (1947); the title role in the evergreen THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947) with Cary Grant and David Niven; the bondswoman who marries farmer William Holden, then catches the eye of roving Robert Mitchum in RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948), which was directed by her brother-in-law Norman Foster; and the dedicated, sweetly trusting nun attempting to build a hospital in COME TO THE STABLE (1949).

I've seen most of these late '40s films multiple times over the course of my life, and they never grow old; indeed, the more I watch them, the more I appreciate both the films and Loretta Young's acting skills.

In the '50s Loretta Young moved to television, where she produced her own extremely successful series, helping to blaze a trail for women in a male-dominated business.

Loretta Young passed away on August 13, 2000. Her family maintains an official website.

For more information, books on Loretta Young include her authorized biography, FOREVER YOUNG, by Joan Wester Anderson, which was published just a few months after Young's passing; UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE by Young's daughter, Judy Lewis; and the new book HOLLYWOOD MADONNA by Bernard F. Dick.

Loretta Young films reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: THE DEVIL TO PAY! (1930), PLATINUM BLONDE (1931), TAXI! (1932), THEY CALL IT SIN (1932), LIFE BEGINS (1932), PLAY-GIRL (1932), WEEK-END MARRIAGE (1932), EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933), MIDNIGHT MARY (1933), SHE HAD TO SAY YES (1933), BORN TO BE BAD (1934), THE CRUSADES (1935), PRIVATE NUMBER (1936), THE UNGUARDED HOUR (1936), LADIES IN LOVE (1936), WIFE, DOCTOR AND NURSE (1937), CAFE METROPOLE (1937), LOVE IS NEWS (1937), SECOND HONEYMOON (1937), THREE BLIND MICE (1938), WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND (1939), FOUR MEN AND A PRAYER (1939), THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (1940), HE STAYED FOR BREAKFAST (1940), THE LADY FROM CHEYENNE (1941), BEDTIME STORY (1941), A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1943), ALONG CAME JONES (1945), THE STRANGER (1946), THE PERFECT MARRIAGE (1947), MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN (1949), COME TO THE STABLE (1949), KEY TO THE CITY (1950), CAUSE FOR ALARM! (1951), and HALF ANGEL (1951).

January 2013 Update: Here are links to additional Young films reviewed in the past year: HE STAYED FOR BREAKFAST (1940) and CHINA (1943).

Related posts: Judy Lewis, Daughter of Loretta Young and Clark Gable, Dies at 76; New Book: Hollywood Madonna: Loretta Young; Ricardo Montalban Dies at 88.

January 6, 2013: Please visit my updated post, The Loretta Young Centennial.

11 Comments:

Blogger DKoren said...

Very nice tribute! And wow, it was a shock to realize I have not seen one of the Loretta Young movies you've reviewed here. Not one out of that very large list. What's up with that?? :-D

8:18 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Deb, and thanks!

Highly recommend the pre-Code MIDNIGHT MARY. Since you like Westerns, ALONG CAME JONES might appeal to you also. Both are on DVD, although it appears only MIDNIGHT MARY is available from Netflix.

Happy viewing!

Best wishes,
Laura

8:44 AM  
Blogger VP81955 said...

Excellent tribute to an actress whose reputation was significantly enhanced by the pre-Code revival (and thankfully, she lived to see it). Loretta Young in the early and mid-'30s exhibited a luminosity equally only by a few other actresses (Carole Lombard and Michelle Pfeiffer, to name two)...and her acting skills were wonderfully sublime.

12:22 PM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Thank you, Laura, for this lovely tribute to a grand lady. You mentioned in your Spencer Tracy Festival post that you haven't seen MAN'S CASTLE. If you can't make the screening you can see it when it plays next on TCM. Tracy and Young are precious together in a very off beat story. Luminous Loretta will tug at your heart strings, I promise! Jane

8:59 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

From pre-Codes to TV, I've always thought it remarkable how she was able to re-invent herself and stay relevant to the times.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Citizen Screen said...

laura,

A great tribute and post, as all of your posts are! Your affection for films, Hollywood and its stars always come through. Thanks for brining this to my attention, I'd have been sorry to miss it.

Although I am familiar with Loretta's films, I've yet to see the majority of the ones you list. So many new titles now to add to my "must-see" list. Don't know how I'll do it.

great read!

Aurora

9:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for the very nice feedback, I appreciate it immensely! It's wonderful knowing Loretta has so many fans out there who appreciate her work.

Best wishes and Happy New Year,
Laura

9:52 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Just curious if you've seen Loretta Young's last two theatrical films, BECAUSE OF YOU (1952), a melodrama with Jeff Chandler, and IT HAPPENS EVERY THURSDAY (1953), romantic comedy with John Forsythe in a kind of Frank Capra vein. These are both excellent--directed by Joseph Pevney, who really worked well with Young and was very versatile in making good movies in many different genres, as these two show. IT HAPPENS EVERY THURSDAY is especially charming and one I enjoyed returning to a few years ago. They both used to play on AMC in its good days but now are presumably locked up in the Universal vaults until someone releases them!

11:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake!

IT HAPPENS EVERY THURSDAY and BECAUSE OF YOU are two Young titles I'm still looking for. It's really a shame how so many Universal (and Paramount) titles are so very difficult to find. Hopefully these will turn up at some point! Enjoyed your thoughts on them.

Best wishes,
Laura

12:30 AM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

BECAUSE OF YOU is on You Tube. I found it during my ongoing search for Frances Dee films. Although this movie was made towards the end of Young and Dee's theatrical film careers, they're both as radiant as when they began in pictures over two decades earlier. - Jane

8:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

*Thank you*, Jane, for letting me know about it being on YouTube. Making a note so I can check it out!!

Best wishes,
Laura

8:48 PM  

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