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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,[1][2] later worked with various Catholic charities after her acting career.[1][3]

Early life

She was born in Salt Lake City, Utah as Gretchen Michaela Young,[4] of Luxembourgian descent. At confirmation, she took the name Michaela. She and her family moved to Hollywood when she was three years old.

Young and her sisters Polly Ann and Elizabeth Jane (screen name Sally Blane) worked as child actresses, of whom Loretta was the most successful. Young's first role was at the age of three, in the silent film The Primrose Ring. The movie's star Mae Murray so fell in love with Young that she wanted to adopt her. Although her mother declined, Young was allowed to live with Murray for two years. During her high school years, Young was educated at Ramona Convent Secondary School.



Young was billed as "Gretchen Young" in the 1917 film, Sirens of the Sea. It wasn't until 1928 that she was first billed as "Loretta Young", in The Whip Woman. That same year she co-starred with Lon Chaney in the MGM film Laugh, Clown, Laugh. The next year, she was anointed one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars.[5]

In 1930, Young, then 17, eloped with 26-year-old actor Grant Withers and married him in Yuma, Arizona. The marriage was annulled the next year, just as their second movie together (appropriately titled Too Young to Marry) was released.

File:Cause For Alarm!.JPG

From the trailer for Cause for Alarm! (1951)

During the Second World War, Young made Ladies Courageous (1944; reissued as Fury in the Sky), the fictionalized story of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. It depicted a unit of female pilots during WWII who flew bomber planes from the factories to their final destinations.

Young made as many as seven or eight movies a year. In 1947, she won an Oscar for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter. The same year she co-starred with Cary Grant and David Niven in The Bishop's Wife, a perennial favorite.

In 1949, Young received another Academy Award nomination (for Come to the Stable). In 1953, she appeared in her last theatrical film, It Happens Every Thursday, a Universal comedy about a New York couple who move to California to take over a struggling weekly newspaper. Her costar was John Forsythe.[6]


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.

Personal life

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.

Clark Gable affair

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",[7] 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."[8]


A scandal erupted In 1973, when Young's son Christopher Lewis, then 29, was charged with child molestation and filming and distributing child pornography, along with 13 other men whom the police labeled a "chicken flick ring." Lewis and the other men were indicted with soliciting boys ranging from ages 6 to 17 to perform lewd acts in their movies. Despite pleading "no contest" to child molestation and possibly facing up to life in prison, Lewis managed to be let off with probation and a $500 fine.[9]

Later life

From the time of Young's retirement in the 1960s, until not long before her death, she devoted herself to volunteer work for charities and churches with her friends of many years; Jane Wyman, Irene Dunne, and Rosalind Russell.[10] Young did, however, briefly come out of retirement to star in two television films, Christmas Eve (1986), and Lady in the Corner (1989). Young won a Golden Globe Award for the former, and was nominated again for the latter.[11]

In 1972, a jury in Los Angeles awarded Young $550,000 in her breach of contract suit against NBC. Filed in 1966, the suit contended that NBC had allowed foreign television outlets to rerun old episodes of The Loretta Young Show without excluding, as agreed by the parties, the opening segment where Young would make her entrance. Young testified that her image had been damaged by portraying her in "outdated gowns," and a jury agreed to less than the $1.9 million sought.[12]


Young died on August 12, 2000 from ovarian cancer at the Santa Monica, California home of her half-sister, Georgiana Montalbán,[13] 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.[14]

Young has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — one for motion pictures, at 6104 Hollywood Blvd, and another for television, at 6141 Hollywood Blvd.


Year Film Role Notes
1917 The Primrose Ring Fairy uncredited
Sirens of the Sea Child as Gretchen Young
1919 The Only Way Child on the operating table
1921 White and Unmarried Child uncredited
The Sheik Arab child uncredited
1927 Naughty But Nice Bit Part uncredited
Her Wild Oat Bit by Ping Pong Table uncredited
1928 The Whip Woman The Girl
Laugh, Clown, Laugh Simonetta
The Magnificent Flirt Denise Laverne
The Head Man Carol Watts
Scarlet Seas Margaret Barbour
1929 Seven Footprints to Satan One of Satan's victims uncredited
The Squall Irma
The Girl in the Glass Cage Gladys Cosgrove
Fast Life Patricia Mason Stratton
The Careless Age Muriel
The Forward Pass Patricia Carlyle
The Show of Shows Meet My Sister number
1930 Loose Ankles Ann Harper Berry
The Man from Blankley's Margery Seaton
Show Girl in Hollywood uncredited
The Second Floor Mystery Marion Ferguson
Road to Paradise Mary Brennan/Margaret Waring
Warner Bros. Jubilee Dinner Herself short subject
Kismet Marsinah
War Nurse Nurse uncredited
The Truth About Youth Phyllis Ericson
The Devil to Pay! Dorothy Hope
1931 How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 8: 'The Brassie' Herself short subject
Beau Ideal Isobel Brandon
The Right of Way Rosalie Evantural
The Stolen Jools Herself short subject
Three Girls Lost Norene McMann
Too Young to Marry Elaine Bumpstead
Big Business Girl Claie 'Mac' McIntyre
I Like Your Nerve Diane Forsythe
The Ruling Voice Gloria Bannister
Platinum Blonde Gallagher
1932 Taxi! Sue Riley Nolan
The Hatchet Man Sun Toya San
Play-Girl Buster 'Bus' Green Dennis
Week-end Marriage Lola Davis Hayes
Life Begins Grace Sutton
They Call It Sin Marion Cullen
1933 Employees' Entrance Madeleine Walters West
Grand Slam Marcia Stanislavsky
Zoo in Budapest Eve
The Life of Jimmy Dolan Peggy
Heroes for Sale Ruth Loring Holmes
Midnight Mary Mary Martin
She Had to Say Yes Florence 'Flo' Denny
The Devil's in Love Margot Lesesne
Man's Castle Trina
1934 The House of Rothschild Julie Rothschild
Born to Be Bad Letty Strong
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back Lola Field
Caravan Countess Wilma
The White Parade June Arden
1935 Clive of India Margaret Maskelyne Clive
Shanghai Barbara Howard
The Call of the Wild Claire Blake
The Crusades Berengaria, Princess of Navarre
Hollywood Extra Girl Herself short subject
1936 The Unguarded Hour Lady Helen Dudley Dearden
Private Number Ellen Neal
Ramona Ramona
Ladies in Love Susie Schmidt
1937 Love Is News Toni Gateson
Café Metropole Laura Ridgeway
Love Under Fire Myra Cooper
Wife, Doctor and Nurse Ina Heath Lewis
Second Honeymoon Vicky
1938 Four Men and a Prayer Miss Lynn Cherrington
Three Blind Mice Pamela Charters
Suez Countess Eugenie de Montijo
Kentucky Sally Goodwin
1939 Wife, Husband and Friend Doris Borland
The Story of Alexander Graham Bell Mrs. Mabel Hubbard Bell
Eternally Yours Anita
1940 The Doctor Takes a Wife June Cameron
He Stayed for Breakfast Marianna Duval
1941 The Lady from Cheyenne Annie Morgan
The Men in Her Life Lina Varsavina
Bedtime Story Jane Drake
1943 A Night to Remember Nancy Troy
China Carolyn Grant
Show Business at War Herself short subject
1944 Ladies Courageous Roberta Harper
And Now Tomorrow Emily Blair
1945 Along Came Jones Cherry de Longpre
1946 The Stranger Mary Longstreet
1947 The Perfect Marriage Maggie Williams
The Farmer's Daughter Katrin 'Katy' Holstrum Academy Award for Best Actress
The Bishop's Wife Julia Brougham
1948 Rachel and the Stranger Rachel Harvey
1949 The Accused Dr. Wilma Tuttle
Mother Is a Freshman Abigail Fortitude Abbott
Come to the Stable Sister Margaret Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
1950 Key to the City Clarissa Standish Her final film with Clark Gable
1951 You Can Change the World Herself short subject
Cause for Alarm! Ellen Jones
Half Angel Nora Gilpin
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Awards Herself short subject
1952 Paula Paula Rogers
Because of You Christine Carroll Kimberly
1953 It Happens Every Thursday Jane MacAvoy


  1. 1.0 1.1 Laufenberg, Norbert B. (2005). Entertainment Celebrities. Trafford Publishing. p. 863. ISBN 1-412-05335-8.
  2. Davis, Ronald L. (2001). Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 47. ISBN 0-806-13329-5.
  3. Lowe, Denise (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women In Early American Films, 1895-1930. Psychology Press. p. 585. ISBN 0-789-01843-8.
  4. Leading Ladies The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era. New York: Chronicle, 2006.
  5. Lowe, Denise (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women In Early American films, 1895-1930. Routledge. pp. 67. ISBN 0-789-01843-8.
  6. American Movie Classics telecast
  7. Official Site of Judy Lewis
  8. Girl 27 film where Judy is interviewed about encounter
  9. Boca Raton News, April 5, 1974. See also "Chicken ring: Loretta's son fined, no jail." Advocate; 6/19/74, Issue 140.
  11. Awards for Loretta Young
  12. "Loretta Young Wins $559,000 Damages", Oakland Tribune, January 18, 1972, p12
  13. "Elegant beauty Loretta Young dies". 2000-08-12. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  14. [1]


Further reading

External links

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