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Loretta Young 8/27
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Loretta Young

Loretta Young Profile

"A dream walking," was how some described Loretta Young, a woman whose beauty was so exquisite that she almost didn't seem real. But there was more to Young than just her lovely face. She was an Oscar®-winning actress who had brains and talent as well. Rising from humble beginnings, she made her first appearance on the silver screen in 1917 at age four and enjoyed a long career in movies and television until her death in 2000 at age 87. A movie star in every sense of the word, Young's grace, beauty and elegance never faded.

Born Gretchen Young in Salt Lake City, Utah, the future star moved with her mother and sisters to Hollywood at age three following her parents' split. Young got her first taste of the movie business working as a child extra in silent films.

Convent school took Young away from acting for the next several years, but she returned to films at age 14, appearing in Naughty But Nice in 1927. Director Mervyn LeRoy, who was instrumental in getting Young cast in the film, took an interest in developing the young actress beginning with a name change from Gretchen to Loretta. Following a successful screen test, the newly christened Loretta Young landed a contract with First National Studios.

During her teenage years, Young worked steadily in silent films including the bittersweet Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) opposite the "Man of a Thousand Faces," Lon Chaney. With her trademark beauty emerging, she began to be noticed, acting in several films a year, and successfully making the transition to sound when she appeared in First National's first talking picture ever, The Squall in 1929.

In the 1930s, Young moved to Twentieth Century Fox, where she became better known for her pronounced cheekbones and sensuous lips than the undistinguished projects in which she often appeared. Still, the steady work in films such as The Devil to Pay! (1930), Life Begins (1932), and Employees' Entrance (1933) gave her career the momentum it needed to propel her to leading lady status. The 1930s also saw her brief first marriage to rising matinee idol Grant Withers, as well as romances with her co-stars Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Her affair with Gable led to a pregnancy that she refused to acknowledge for the remainder of her life, despite the persistent whispers. After secretly giving birth to daughter Judy, she later reappeared on the Hollywood scene with her new "adopted" baby.

A free agent after refusing to renew her contract with Fox, Young's career flourished in the 1940s. A host of pictures including The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940), Bedtime Story (1941), and The Stranger (1946) with Orson Welles all kept her popular with audiences. In 1948, Young won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in The Farmer's Daughter (1947), beating out Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Susan Hayward. She starred opposite Cary Grant in the sentimental favorite The Bishop's Wife in 1947 and showed versatility in the western Rachel and the Stranger (1948) opposite William Holden and Robert Mitchum. Young closed out the 1940s by scoring a second Oscar® nomination for her work in the heartwarming drama Come to the Stable (1949).

Following a string of films in the early 1950s including Key to the City (1950) and Paula (1952), Young surprised everyone when she jumped to the new medium of television as host of Letter to Loretta (later renamed The Loretta Young Show), which ran from 1953 to 1961. Young's glamorous entrances on the show clad in gorgeous designer fashions every week became her memorable signature. During its long successful run, Young took home three Emmy awards for her work on the show.

Following the cancellation of The Loretta Young Show, Young retired from acting for the next 25 years. In the late 1980s she emerged again to make a pair of well-received television movies (Christmas Eve [1986], Lady in the Corner [1989]) which marked her final on-screen roles. In 1994 she provided the narration for the television production, Life Along the Mississippi. Still as beautiful as ever in her seventies, Loretta Young remained the eternal picture of grace and class.

by Andrea Passafiume

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