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Loretta Young aka Gretchen Young

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Loretta Young aka Gretchen Young

Posted: 10 Nov 2007 5:30PM GMT
Classification: Obituary
Surnames: Young,Belzer,Montalban,WIthers,Gable,Lewis,Tinney,Louis
Loretta Young (January 6, 1913 – August 12, 2000) was an Academy Award-winning American actress.

She was born in Salt Lake City, Utah as Gretchen Young (she took the name Michaela at confirmation) she moved with her family to Hollywood when she was three years old. Loretta and her sisters Polly Ann Young and Elizabeth Jane Young (screen name Sally Blane) worked as child actresses, of whom Loretta was the most successful. Young's first role was at age 3 in the silent film The Primrose Ring. The movie's star Mae Murray so fell in love with little Gretchen that she wanted to adopt her. Although her mother declined, Gretchen was allowed to live with Murray for two years. Her half-sister Georgiana (daughter of her mother and stepfather George Belzer) eventually married actor Ricardo Montalban. During her high school years, she was educated at Ramona Convent Secondary School.
Career

She 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.

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 (ironically titled Too Young to Marry) was released.

Young made as many as seven or eight movies a year and won an Oscar in 1947 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 that still airs on television during the Christmas season and was later remade as The Preacher's Wife with Whitney Houston. In 1949, Young received another Academy Award nomination (for Come to the Stable) and in 1953 appeared in her last film, It Happens Every Thursday.

Moving to television, she hosted and starred in the well-received half hour anthology series The Loretta Young Show. Her "sweeping" trademark appearance at the beginning of each show was to appear dramatically in various high fashion evening gowns. She returned at the program's conclusion to restate to the viewer the moral of the story just seen. (Young's introductions and conclusions to her television shows, which were widely satirized at the time, are not rerun on television because she had it legally stipulated that they not be; the ever image-conscious Young didn't want to be seen in "outdated" wardrobe and hairstyles.) Her program ran in prime time on NBC for eight years, the longest-running prime time network program ever hosted by a woman up to that time.

The program, which earned her three Emmys, began with the premise that each drama was an 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, and the "letter" concept was dropped altogether at the end of the second season. At this time, Young's health 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 this point on, Young appeared in only about half of each season's shows as an actress and merely functioned as the program host for the remainder. This program, minus Young's introductions and summarized conclusions, was rerun in daytime by NBC from 1960 to 1964 and also appeared, again without the introductions and conclusions, in syndication.


Controversy

In 1935, Young had an affair with Clark Gable, who was married at the time, 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). Returning from a long "vacation" (during which she secretly gave birth to her daughter), Young announced that she had adopted the little girl. The child was raised as "Judy Lewis" after taking the name of Young's second husband, producer Tom Lewis. According to Lewis's autobiography Uncommon Knowledge, Lewis was made fun of because of the ears that she received from her father, Clark Gable. Over the years she had heard rumors and secretly knew that Loretta Young was her biological mother, but it was not until 1958 when Judy's future husband Joseph Tinney told her that "everybody" knew the rumors that she really began to suspect. It was not until a few years later, after becoming a mother herself, that she finally got the nerve to ask her mother, who, after promptly vomitting, admitted to her that Clark Gable was her father.
Marriages and relationships

* Married to actor Grant Withers from 1930-1931.
* Married producer Tom Lewis in 1940 and they divorced very bitterly in the mid 1960s. Lewis died in 1988. They had two sons, Peter (Peter Lewis of the legendary San Francisco rock band Moby Grape) and Christopher, a film director.
* Married fashion designer Jean Louis in 1993. Louis died in 1997.
* Involved in affairs with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable; in 1935, she gave birth to Gable's daughter, who was known as Judy Lewis.

She and Danny Thomas shared the same birthday, 1 year apart.

Later life

Loretta Young was the godmother of actress Marlo Thomas, whose parents (her father was Danny Thomas), were, like Young, devout Roman Catholics. 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 friend of many years, Jane Wyman. Young did, however, briefly come out of retirement to star in two television films, Christmas Eve (1986), and Lady in a Corner (1989).

Young died at 87 from ovarian cancer at the Santa Monica, California home of her half-sister, Georgiana Montalban, and was interred in the family plot in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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.

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