Loretta Young Biography

Click on the footnote numbers to read related excerpts from Edward Funk's forthcoming book. (1)

Born Gretchen Young in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 6, 1913, she moved with her mother, her two older sisters Polly Ann and Betty Jane, and her younger brother Jack to Hollywood at the age of three(2). As a child, she started working in silent movies (1919 through the 1920's). In her midteens she began taking on leading lady roles(3), becoming a star in the 1930's(4). She played opposite such leading men as Gary Cooper, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Clark Gable (5), Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, David Niven, Tyrone Power, and Spencer Tracy (6) . Loretta worked for Warner Brothers (1927 through 1934), 20th Century Fox (1934 through 1940) (7) , and freelanced starting in 1940. In the 1939 film The Story of Alexander Graham Bell Loretta appeared with her real-life sisters Polly Ann Young, Sally Blane, and Georgiana Young. All became popular actresses, but none achieved the superstar status of Loretta. In 1940 she married Tom Lewis (d. 1988) (8) (10) and raised daughter Judy and sons Christopher and Peter. (12)

Loretta Young won the Academy Award for the 1947 film Farmer's Daughter (9) in which she played a Minnesota farm girl who starts as a congressman's maid and becomes a Congresswoman. Two years later she received an Oscar nomination for the inspirational story Come to the Stable. She appeared in 100 movies, starring in almost all of them.

In 1953 she left her successful movie career for the new medium of television (11). In that year she hosted and starred in her own TV show, "A Letter to Loretta". The next year she became the first Academy Award winner to receive an Emmy. The show's name was subsequently changed to The Loretta Young Show and she received two more Emmys (in 1956 and 1958). In her show, Loretta played an amazing assortment of roles, including a Japanese maid, a swedish servant, and a chic nightclub dancer. In the 1950's most television shows, including Loretta's, produced about 39 new episodes a year. She starred in over one-half of them - about 200 episodes in all. In 1962, she followed it up with a family comedy The New Loretta Young Show. When it went off the air, she retired from show business until the late 80's, (16) when she came back with two movies "Christmas Eve" (1986) and "Lady in the Corner" (1989). In 1993 she married Jean Louis. (19) (20)

A life-long Catholic, (13) Miss Young is known for her strong religious faith and her generous contributions to charitable causes (14) . At her insistance her TV shows were based on moral themes. Her response to entreaties to do otherwise was "It's none of my business what the others do on their shows. I won't glamorize depravity. I will not make a virtue out of vice. There is an unhealthy trend today to turn morality upside down, but not on my show. I will not contribute to it."

As the narrator on a recent "Biography" program stated, "She remains a symbol of beauty, serenity, and grace. But behind the glamour and stardom is a woman of substance whose true beauty lies in her dedication to her family, her faith, and her quest to live a life with purpose."(17)

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