THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER was a RKO comedy with heavy doses of patriotism and New Deal ideology intertwined. The story focused on a maid of Swedish descent who, while working in a Congressman's home, decides to run for Congress on the opposition's ticket. Co-starring with Loretta were Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore and Charles Bickford.
Ruth Roberts, who had worked with Ingrid Bergman to help her lose her Swedish accent, now worked with Loretta to help her acquire one. After six weeks of eight hour days of practice, Loretta finally felt confident to go before the cameras as Katie.
So, understandably, Loretta was upset when, halfway into the production, director Henry Potter decided that he had heard enough of Loretta's accent and, assuming that audiences would tire of it as well, told her to drop it. His rationale was that at this point in the picture, Katie was going to night school and she'd learn to speak without the accent. Loretta's position was that all that audience would think was that, halfway through the movie, Loretta forgot to use the accent. Producer Dore Schary was called into referee and Loretta won out using her tried and true, "You can always recast" threat.
A few days later, Schary came onto the set and told Loretta that if she kept up the calibre of her performance, he could see an Academy Award nomination coming her way. Loretta appreciated his encouragement but basically saw it as a little pep talk. Loretta did strive to become a good actress. By now she had been working steadily at it for twenty years, and if it meant slugging it out with the director or producer in order to give what she concluded was her best performance, she had learned to do so. But unlike Bette Davis or Ingrid Bergman, who saw being a movie star as a path to being a great actress, Loretta saw that being an actress would open the door to her being a movie star. The better the actress she became, the bigger the star. She wanted the attention of the audience and she wanted them to like her not just the characters she played. She never considered playing characters who were villainous or ugly, lest the audience confuse her for that character.
******* almost a year later......
THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER had challenged THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and THE EGG AND I as the top box office film of 1947. For Loretta, to be in a hit movie was one thing, but to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress was a totally new, electrifying experience. Not that she thought she would win; she agreed with the conventional wisdom that Rosalind Russell was the shoo-in for MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA. Still, it was fun to have Adrian design a new gown for the occasion, and never one to be caught off-guard, she asked Tom to write a short speech, just in case.
Oscar night was March 20, 1948, and the ceremony was held at the Shrine Auditorium. Constructed on the stage was a huge "Oscar" which stood a couple of stories tall; the pedestal alone took up half the stage. The pedestal's construction allowed for several tiers where all the real oscars sat until claimed. Toward the end of the presentation, there was just one statuette left. In those years, the last presentation of the evening was saved for the Best Actress. That moment arrived, and actor Fredric March, setting the mood, said, "Ladies and Gentleman, this is the award that Oscar loves the most, and if you listen very carefully - we're going to turn the lights down - you'll even hear his heart beat for this one." They turned the lights down and the sound of a heart beat was amplified, creating a very dramatic, very emotional mood. Then he said, "And the winner is: LORETTA YOUNG!"
Loretta, in a state of shock, finally rose and proceeded to the stage. Later, she would be told that she looked like a big green butterfly floating up the steps. Gracious as ever, she mentioned all four of the other nominees in her acceptance speech. Toasted and celebrated for the rest of the night, she and Tom crawled into bed late, only to sit up until 7:00 a.m, talking, lapping up the euphoria.
A few hours later, the maid woke Loretta to take a special phone call. It was Sister Marina, to whom Loretta announced in the second grade that she was going to be a movie star. Sister was ill and confined to the convent infirmary, but she had listened to the ceremony on the radio, and she was so excited she still hadn't been able to sleep. She just wanted to say to Loretta, "Congratulations, Gretchen, you are a movie star!"