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Loretta Young became a star as a teenage ingenue in silent films, and remained one as a leading lady throughout the 1930's and '40's. When her film career waned in the 1950's, Young turned to television, and extended her stardom by another decade. Although she was a talented actress, most of Young's film roles relied only on her extraordinary beauty, grace and elegance, and rarely demanded more of her. By 1947, she had been in films for 20 years, but few of her talking films had been memorable. The Farmer's Daughter (1947) changed that.
Based on a Finnish play called Hulda, Daughter of Parliament, The Farmer's Daughter is the story of Katie Holstrom, a Swedish-American country girl who moves to the big city. Circumstances force Katie to work as a maid for a Congressman and his mother, and she ends up running for Congress herself, teaching the politicos something about principles. Movie mogul David O. Selznick acquired the property specifically for his contract star Ingrid Bergman, and put Dore Schary in charge of producing it. But Bergman was not interested, and the search began for another star. Selznick wanted another of his contract players, possibly Dorothy McGuire. Schary disagreed. Selznick suggested Sonja Henie, a Norwegian. Schary disagreed even more vehemently and suggested Loretta Young instead, to which Selznick finally agreed.
Young, however, wasn't so sure the film was right for her. She liked the script and the role, but she was nervous about attempting the accent. Schary agreed that the part was a gamble for her, different from her usual glamorous roles. But he was not only convinced that she was right for The Farmer's Daughter, he thought she could win an Oscar for it. Young agreed to do the film, but suggested that instead of a Swedish accent, she could do a Southern one. Schary said that the Swedish background was essential for the character, and that he would get her a coach.
Schary's choice of coach was inspired: Ruth Roberts had Swedish ancestors, and had taught English to Swedish immigrants in Minnesota. When Ingrid Bergman had come to Hollywood from Sweden, Selznick had hired Roberts, the sister of director George Seaton, to help Bergman lose her accent. "We always said Ruth took away Ingrid's accent and gave it to me," Young later recalled. With Roberts' help, Young's accent was perfect.
The star who left everyone in awe, however, was the legendary Ethel Barrymore, who played Joseph Cotten's mother. The grande dame of the theater charmed everyone by talking sports with stagehands, and performing vaudeville turns with Cotten. And when Young returned to work after suffering a miscarriage, Barrymore played nurse, sitting guard outside Young's dressing room (with a portable radio so she could listen to baseball games) to make sure Loretta wasn't disturbed while resting.
The reviews for The Farmer's Daughter, and for Young's performance, were among the best she had ever received. At Academy Awards time, Young was nominated as Best Actress, and Charles Bickford, who had played the family butler, was nominated as Best Supporting Actor. The competition for best actress was stiff: Joan Crawford, Susan Hayward, Dorothy McGuire, and Rosalind Russell, one of Young's best friends. Russell was nominated for a rare dramatic performance, in Eugene O'Neill's somber drama, Mourning Becomes Electra (1947). Russell had already won a Golden Globe for her performance, and oddsmakers considered her a shoo-in for the Oscar. Young was thrilled to be nominated, but told her family and friends not to bother to attend - she didn't have a chance. Russell was already half out of her seat as the winner was about to be announced, when Young's name was called. Good sport Roz remained standing and began applauding, turning her gaffe into a standing ovation for her pal. An overwhelmed Loretta Young gazed lovingly at her statuette, and cooed "At long last!"
Director: H.C. Potter
Producer: Dore Schary
Screenplay: Allen Rivkin, Laura Kerr, from the play by Hella Wuolijoki (as Juhani Tervapaa)
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Editor: Harry Marker
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Feild Gray; set decoration, Harley Miller, Darrell Silvera
Music: Leigh Harline
Principal Cast: Loretta Young (Katrin Holstrom), Joseph Cotten (Glenn Morley), Ethel Barrymore (Agatha Morley), Charles Bickford (Joseph Clancy), Rose Hobart (Virginia Thatcher), Lex Barker (Olaf Holstrom), Keith Andes (Sven Holstrom), James Aurness [Arness] (Peter Holstrom).
BW-98m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri