Nationality: American. Born: Gretchen Michaela Young in Salt Lake City, 6 January 1913; grew up in Hollywood. Education: Attended the Ramona Convent, Alhambra, California. Family: Married 1) Grant Withers, 1930 (divorced 1931), adopted daughter: Judy; 2) Thomas H. A. Lewis, 1940, sons: Christopher Paul and Peter; 3) costume designer Jean Louis, 1993 (died 1997). Career: Film debut as extra at age five in The Only Way ; late 1920s—contract with First National, and with 20th Century-Fox, 1933–40; 1953–61—host and occasionally actress in The Loretta Young Show (anthology program), and actress in the drama series The New Loretta Young Show , 1962–63. Awards: Best Actress Academy Award for The Farmer's Daughter , 1947. Died: 12 August 2000 in Los Angeles, California, of ovarian cancer.
The Only Way (Melford) (as child on the operating table); Sirens of the Sea (bit role)
The Son of the Sheik (Melford) (as Arab child)
Naughty but Nice (Webb)
Her Wild Oat (Neilan); The Whip Woman (Boyle); Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Bernon); The Magnificent Flirt (D'Arrast); The Head Man (Cline); Scarlett Seas (Dillon)
The Squall (Korda) (as Irma); The Girl in the Glass Cage (Dawson) (as Gladys Cosgrove); Fast Life (Dillon); The Careless Age (Wray) (as Muriel); The Show of Shows (Adolfi); The Forward Pass (Cline) (as Patricia Carlyle)
The Man from Blankley's (Green) (as Margery Seaton); The Second-Story Murder (Del Ruth) (as Marian Ferguson); Loose Ankles (Wilde) (as Ann Harper Berry); Road to Paradise (Beaudine) (as Margaret Waring/Mary Brennan); Kismet (Dillon) (as Marsinah); The Truth about Youth (Seiter) (as Phyllis Ericson); The Devil to Pay (Fitzmaurice) (as Dorothy Hope)
Beau Ideal (Brenon) (as Isobel Brandon); The Right of Way (Lloyd) (as Rosalie Evantural); Three Girls Lost (Lanfield) (as Noreen McMann); Too Young to Marry (Leroy) (as Elaine Bumpstead); Big Business Girl (Seiter) (as Claire McIntyre); I Like Your Nerve (McGann) (as Diane); Platinum Blonde (Capra) (as Gallagher); The Ruling Voice (Lee) (as Gloria Bannister)
Taxi! (Del Ruth) (as Sue Riley); The Hatchet Man (Wellman) (as Toya San); Play Girl ( Love on a Budget ) (Enright) (as Buster); Weekend Marriage (Freeland) (as Lola Davis); Life Begins (Flood and Nugent) (as Grace Sutton); They Call It Sin (Freeland) (as Marion Cullen)
Employee's Entrance (Del Ruth) (as Madeline); Grand Slam (Dieterle) (as Marcia Stanislavsky); Zoo in Budapest (Lee) (as Eve); The Life of Jimmy Dolan ( The Sucker ) (Mayo) (as Peggy); Midnight Mary ( Lady of the Night ) (Wellman) (as Mary Martin); Heros for Sale ( Breadline ) (Wellman) (as Ruth Loring); The Devil's in Love (Dieterle) (as Margot); She Had to Say Yes (Berkeley and Amy) (as Florence Denny); A Man's Castle (Borzage) (as Trina)
The House of Rothschild (Werker) (as Julie); Born to Be Bad (Sherman) (as Letty Strong); Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (Del Ruth) (as Lola Field); Caravan (Charell) (as Countess Wilma); The White Parade (Cummings) (as June Arden)
Clive of India (Boleslawski) (as Margaret Maskelyne Clive); Shanghai (Flood) (as Barbara Howard); Call of the Wild (Wellman) (as Claire Blake); The Crusades (DeMille) (as Berengaria)
The Unguarded Hour (Wood) (as Lady Helen Dearden); Private Number (Del Ruth) (as Ellen Neal); Ramona (King) (title role); Ladies in Love (Edward Griffith) (as Susie Schmidt)
Love Is News (Garnett) (as Tony Gateson); Café Metropole (Edward Griffith) (as Laura Ridgeway); Love under Fire (Marshall) (as Myra Cooper); Wife, Doctor, and Nurse (Walter Lang) (as Ina); Second Honeymoon (Walter Lang) (as Vickie)
Four Men and a Prayer (Ford) (as Lynn Cherrington); Three Blind Mice (Seiter) (as Pamela Charters); Suez (Dwan) (as Empress Eugenie); Kentucky (Butler) (as Sally Goodwin)
Wife, Husband, Friend (Ratoff) (as Doris Blair Borland); The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (Cummings) (as Mrs. Bell); Eternally Yours (Garnett) (as Anita Halstead)
The Doctor Takes a Wife (Hall) (as June Cameron); He Stayed for Breakfast (Hall) (as Marianne Duval)
The Lady from Cheyenne (Lloyd) (as Annie); The Men in Her Life (Ratoff) (as Lina Varsavina)
Bedtime Story (Hall) (as Jane Drake)
A Night to Remember (Wallace) (as Nancy Troy); China (Farrow) (as Carolyn Grant)
Ladies Courageous (Rawlins) (as Roberta Harper); And Now Tomorrow (Pichel) (as Emily Blair)
Along Came Jones (Heisler) (as Cherry de Longpre)
The Stranger (Welles) (as Mary Longstreet)
The Perfect Marriage (Lewis Allen) (as Maggie Williams); The Farmer's Daughter (Potter) (as Katrin Holstrom); The Bishop's Wife (Koster) (as Julia Brougham)
Rachel and the Stranger (Foster) (as Rachel)
The Accused (Dieterle) (as Wilma Tuttle); Mother Is a Freshman (Bacon) (as Abigail Fortitude Abbott); Come to the Stable (Koster) (as Sister Margaret)
Key to the City (Sidney) (as Clarissa Standish)
Cause for Alarm (Garnett) (as Ellen Jones); Half Angel (Sale) (as Nora)
Paula (Maté) (title role); Because of You (Pevney) (as Christine Carroll)
It Happens Every Thursday (Pevney) (as Jane MacAvoy)
Christmas Eve (Cooper—for TV) (as Amanda Kingsley); Going Hollywood: The War Years (doc—archival)
Lady in the Corner (Levin—for TV) (as Grace Guthrie)
Life Along the Mississippi (for TV) (as Narrator)
Interview with James Bawden, in Films in Review (New York), November 1987.
The Things I Had to Learn , as told to Helen Ferguson, New York, 1961.
Eells, George, Ginger, Loretta, and Irene Who? , New York, 1976.
Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein, Loretta Young: An Extraordinary Life , New York, 1986.
Lewis, Judy, Uncommon Knowledge , New York, 1994.
Current Biography 1948 , New York, 1948.
Bowers, Ronald L., "Loretta Young," in Films in Review (New York), April 1969.
Williams, Lena, "For Loretta Young, at 82, Life Still Waltzes On," in New York Times , 30 March 1995.
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Loretta Young's career is perhaps the archetype of those stars of the 1930s who prolonged careers by living an image rather than merely performing in films. Laughable as some of the side-effects of that effort may have been, it was also a way of enhancing one's professional durability—Young managed to work a very long time.
Indeed, she was practically a child performer when she made her first featured film appearance in a Colleen Moore vehicle, Naughty but Nice . Her performance in that film gained her a contract with First National Pictures, and she was soon playing opposite Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh . She survived the transition to talkies, and entered into a busy career of B picture assignments. Most of these roles were of the sweet ingenue variety, and it was only in the occasional film, such as Born to Be Bad , that she got a dramatically challenging part. This was due to her hesitancy at essaying unsympathetic roles, a mistake that ultimately made her film career less distinctive than it might have been, since she could be a moving and effective actress when the occasion demanded. A concrete example of her ironclad public image of upstanding Catholicism was given by Leonard Spiegelgass (in an interview with George Eells). Spiegelgass, a scriptwriter on her film The Perfect Marriage , noted that: "we had all kinds of problems because she didn't want to mention the word 'divorce' . . . the whole play was about a divorce she never got. That's why she agreed to do it. She'd say 'separation' but not 'divorce'." This counterproductive attitude, and a marriage that put her into semiretirement, brought her career to an ebb in the mid-1940s. At the urging of MGM's Dore Schary, she made a stunning comeback in The Farmer's Daughter , for which she received an Academy Award.
Despite this success, Young's career did not return to its prewar heights. Her well-established screen persona of virginal womanhood was perhaps less appealing to moviegoers in the postwar era. There was a new trend toward pictures that depicted life in greater complexity, without clear-cut happy endings. While her lighter, wholesome roles were waning, Young was used to advantage in several films noir, including The Accused , Cause for Alarm , and The Stranger . In the latter film she plays the fiancée of director Orson Welles's character; he is an escaped Nazi posing as a New England college professor. In this film Young's rosy beauty and innocence exemplify the superficial, naive realm in which ugliness and evil sometimes flourish.
Young's image of wholesome, unsullied femininity was a "natural" for television, however, and she made a smooth transition to that medium in the early 1950s. She produced a pilot show for television that later became The Loretta Young Show , a series that won several Emmy Awards as well as a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival. After several years of success in that medium, the show was canceled, and she went into semiretirement.
Whatever her public image of yielding femininity might be, there is no denying that she was a forceful and commanding personality as a businesswoman, and it was this tenacity that ensured her lasting success in the entertainment field.
—Joseph Arkins, updated by Frank Uhle