Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Loretta Young Centennial

January 6, 2013, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary actress Loretta Young. The multi-faceted Young was an Oscar-winning actress, a savvy businesswoman, and a television pioneer who also enjoyed the glamorous side of the business, always looking like a million dollars.

An exhibit on Young, subtitled "100 Years of Glamour and Grace," opens this week at the Hollywood Museum and runs through April. Young's centennial was also celebrated today in Palm Springs, where she lived in her later years; there was a ceremony at the Palm Springs Historical Society and the rededication of her namesake chapel at Desert Regional Medical Center. And of course, Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to Loretta all month, celebrating her as the Star of the Month. (January 7th Update: Susan King of the Los Angeles Times covers the celebrations.)

Bloggers paying tribute to Young include Kay at Movie Star Makeover, Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts, and Cliff at Immortal Ephemera, and be sure to visit the Official Loretta Young website.

Below is my own tribute to Young, originally posted on January 6, 2012, and updated with links to additional movie reviews.


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.

3 Comments:

Blogger Judy said...

Loretta Young is a favourite of mine too, though I've got loads of her films still to see. I especially like her pre-Codes - love 'Midnight Mary', 'Taxi!' and 'Man's Castle' - and more recently saw one of her later films, the noir 'Cause for Alarm!', which had me on the edge of my seat. You've reviewed a wonderful range of her films here, Laura, and I will often be dipping into your archives to catch up with your reviews.

12:03 AM  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

you missed my tribute at the film experience! my mom's favorite actress.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much, Judy, I hope you'll enjoy exploring more of Loretta's films. I've seen all that you mention except for MAN'S CASTLE and they were all terrific.

Nathaniel, thanks very much for sharing your tribute, always happy to link to more posts on Loretta!

Best wishes,
Laura

9:47 AM  

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