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Loretta Young - Eternally Young

Updated on April 15, 2013

I saw Loretta Young on television when she was 76 years Young (forgive the pun) and I was simply astonished at how beautiful a woman she still was. Funny thing, what I remembered the most was her hair color and style. It was so very becoming to her that I asked my wife to talk her mom into doing the same thing to her hair. She did not respond.

The woman was beautiful her entire life. Not only was she beautiful outside, but she had an inner beauty that gained her a nickname of Saint Loretta. She spoke with a soft, warm voice and I can not remember ever seeing her without a smile on her face. Of course, I must have since she made numerous drama's. However, when you think of someone being as kindly and sweet as a Loretta Young you tend to remember the smile.

Loretta transcended her film roles with a dignity and poise that only she could embellish with her character and a sincerity to herself that all of Hollywood was aware of. She was totally against cursing and made it clear on the set that she did not want it around her. She brought a box to work that was for fines given to the cast and crew for swearing. The story goes that when she was working with Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Mitchum, they put a sum of money in the box and told her that the amount should do them for that day.

Loretta worked in silent pictures, then in sound and finally on television and did them all justice. She was born Gretchen Young on January 6, 1913 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the youngest of five children. There was the oldest, Jack and her two sisters, Polly Young and Elizabeth Young and her half-sister, Georgiana Young. Elizabeth would later change her name to Sally Blane and, of course, Gretchen would become Loretta.

All five were in films and in 1939 all four sisters were in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell. Loretta's sister, Georgiana was married to actor Ricardo Montalban for 56 years, truly remarkable in Hollywood marriages. The only one I can think of right now that surpassed this marriage was Joel McCrea and Francis Dee who were married for 57 years to the day.

Loretta's entire life has been on the screen and one can find her all the way back in 1914 as a baby in one scene in The Only Way. The most profound silent film she was a part of was The Sheik in 1921 starring the legendary Rudolph Valentino along with two of her sisters. Loretta and her siblings were bit players as Arab girls.

After dozens of both silent and sound films, Loretta finally had her breakthrough role in 1938's Kentucky with Walter Brennan who would win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Loretta achieved Hollywood royalty with her role in 1947's The Farmer's Daughter which won her the Oscar for Best Actress. That same year, she had another highly popular film role in The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and David Niven. In 1949 she received a second Academy Award nomination for her role as a nun in Come to the Stable. Another nickname for Loretta was Atilla the Nun.

In 1953 at the age of 40, Loretta made her final film, It Happens Every Thursday, although still very much the beauty and probably with plenty of years left as a leading lady just as Irene Dunne had done well into her 40's.

Loretta made 100 films by age 40 and there was one incident that happened along the way that she covered up throughout her life. While making The Call of the Wild in 1935, she and co-star, Clark Gable had an affair and she got pregnant. Clark was married and the studios frowned on such news getting out to the public, so Loretta and her mother quietly went on a vacation to Europe where Loretta would deliver a daughter on November 6, 1935 that she named Judith.

In 1940, Loretta married Tom Lewis and from that point on Judith became Judy Lewis. It was not until after Loretta's death in her posthumously released autobiography that she revealed the truth about her daughter and Clark Gable. Loretta and Clark would make another film together in 1950, The Key to the City.

In 1963, Loretta had her very own television series. The Loretta Young Show brought Loretta a whole new audience and they loved her. She would appear at the beginning of every show dressed like a duchess. Women all over America were envious of her still ageless beauty. She retired in 1963 after her second series titled, The New Loretta Young Show. It would be over twenty years before Loretta came back to the media with a movie made for television, Lady in the Corner in 1989 at age 76 looking as beautiful and radiant as ever.

She retired in Palm Springs, California until her death on August 12, 2000 from ovarian cancer.

Loretta married at age 17 to Grant Withers which ended in divorce after just one year. Her marriage to Tom Lewis lasted 29 years until Loretta was 56 and they had two sons. At age 80, to everyone's surprise, she married for the third time to Jean Louis and would be with him until her death.


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      WILLIAM EVANS 4 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      My favorite photo of her is the 2nd one from the top when she was 20....great profile! The first photo above of she and Clark Gable was one of the earlier films you refer to made in 1935. The Christmas movie you mentioned is the one I mentioned above when she was 76 and I was blown away by her beauty.

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      Tommy 4 years ago

      You never mentioned her pre-code movies during the early 1930s. They were fascinating. She did not always have to act like a "goody goody." I found those films most interesting and actually thought she was at her prettiest 1931-1937. She was always a beautiful woman. My favorite movie of hers was Midnight Mary (1933) Wow! Just look at her gorgeous face. It's mesmerizing! AND, at barely 20 years of age, did a great job of acting. In fact, I can't really call it acting because she comes off so very natural. Without naming them all, I really enjoy all her early 1930s films. I saw her in a Christmas movie made for television when she was I believe 75 or 76 with all white hair and she was radiant, still a great beauty.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 6 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      You've got that right! Appreciate the comment, Coolmon.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      I love watching her movies, but for some reason the movie networks aren't playing them as often as they once did. Loretta was a very classy lady; the current (and past) high-profile movie stars could learn a LOT from her on how to carry yourself with dignity. I enjoyed reading your article.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 6 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      So glad you stopped by. Thanks for your comments.

    • TheLastBabyBoomer profile image

      Deborah Turner 6 years ago from Surprise Arizona

      Very interesting. I have always loved old time Hollywood. I have seen her many times in many clasic movie roles but never really knew about her.

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