Thursday, January 6, 2011
Loretta Young (January 6, 1913 - August 12, 2000)
Loretta 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 1948 best actress Academy Award for her role in the 1947 film The Farmer's Daughter, and received an Oscar nomination for her role in Come to the Stable, in 1950.
Young then moved to the relatively new medium of television, where she had a dramatic anthology series called The Loretta Young Show, from 1953 to 1961. The series earned three Emmy Awards, and reran successfully on daytime TV and later in syndication. Young, a devout Catholic, later worked with various Catholic charities after her acting career.
Young hosted and starred in the well-received half hour anthology series The Loretta Young Show. It ran from 1953 to 1961. Her trademark was to appear dramatically at the beginning 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 conclusions to her television shows were not rerun on television because she legally stipulated that they not be; she did not want the dresses she wore in those segments to "date" the program.) Her program ran in prime time on NBC for eight years, the longest-running prime-time network program hosted by a woman up to that time.
The program, which earned her three Emmys, was based on the premise that each drama was in answer to a question asked in her fan mail. The program's original title was Letter to Loretta. The title was changed to The Loretta Young Show during the first season (as of the February 14, 1954 episode), and the "letter" concept was dropped at the end of the second season. At this time, Young's hospitalization, due to overwork towards the end of the second season, required that there be a number of guest hosts and guest stars; her first appearance in the 1955–56 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 rerun 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 It also appeared in syndication into the early 1970s, before being withdrawn.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 1990s, selected episodes from Loretta'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 the 1962–1963 television season, Young appeared as Christine Massey, a free-lance magazine writer and mother of seven children, in CBS's The New Loretta Young Show. It fared poorly in the ratings on Monday evenings against ABC's Ben Casey. It was dropped after twenty-six weeks. Dack Rambo, later a co-star of CBS's Dallas, appeared as one of her twin sons in the series.
Young was married to actor Grant Withers from 1930 to 1931. After that she was involved in affairs with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable and in 1935 had Gable's child, a daughter. She married producer Tom Lewis in 1940 and they divorced very bitterly in the mid 1960s. Lewis died in 1988. They had two sons, Peter Lewis (of the legendary San Francisco rock band Moby Grape), and Christopher Lewis, a film director.
She married fashion designer Jean Louis in 1993. Louis died in 1997.
In 1935, Young had an affair with a then-married Clark Gable while on location for The Call of the Wild. During their relationship, Young became pregnant. Due to the moral codes placed on the film industry, Young covered up her pregnancy in order to avoid damaging her career (as well as Gable's). When she began to show she went on a "vacation" to England. Several months later she returned to California. Shortly before the birth she gave an interview stating the reason for her long movie absence was because of a condition she had had since childhood. She gave birth to Judith Young on November 6, 1935, in a house she and her mother owned in Venice, California. Three weeks later, she returned to movie-making. After several months of living in the house in Venice, Judy was transferred to St. Elizabeth's, an orphanage outside Los Angeles. When she was 19 months old, her grandmother picked her up and Young announced to Louella Parsons that she had adopted the infant. The child was raised as "Judy Lewis", taking the last name of Young's second husband, producer Tom Lewis.
According to Lewis' autobiography Uncommon Knowledge, she was made fun of because of the ears that she received from her father, Clark Gable. She states that, at seven, she had an operation to "pin back" her large ears and that her mother always had her wearing bonnets as a child. Over the years, she had heard rumors that Clark Gable was her biological father. In 1958, Lewis' future husband Joseph Tinney told her "everybody" knew that Gable was her father. The only time she remembered Gable visiting Lewis was once at her home when she was a teenager; she had no idea he was her biological father. Several years later, he turned up at the Loretta Young show after Young had been in hospital for several months. Lewis was an assistant and was right behind her mother when she noticed Gable.
Several years later, after becoming a mother herself, Lewis finally confronted her mother. After promptly vomiting, Young admitted her true parentage, stating that she was "just a walking mortal sin."
Young died on August 12, 2000, from ovarian cancer at the Santa Monica, California, home of her half-sister, Georgiana Montalbán, and was interred in the family plot in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Her ashes were buried in the grave of her mother, Gladys Belzer.
Young has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures, at 6104 Hollywood Boulevard, and another for television, at 6141 Hollywood Boulevard.