Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


HOLLYWOOD MADONNA: LORETTA YOUNG. Bernard F. Dick. University Press of Mississippi; 2011.

This career study posing as a biography briefly looks at Young's early days, then documents the movies she made on her way up [Platinum BlondeThe Hatchet Man; Wife, Husband and Friend], before emerging as the major star of such films as Orson Welles' The Stranger and Rachel and the Stranger with William Holden. In her last days of movie stardom, she began to appear in such "B" movies as The Accused and Paula, before she accepted it was time to throw in the towel and flee for television. There she had the successful Loretta Young Show for several seasons, an anthology in which she played various parts with well-known co-stars. When she got tired of that she tried to reinvent herself as a sitcom star, but The New Loretta Young Show, in which she played a widow with several children, only lasted one season. Young had no desire to go the fright flick route a la Davis and Crawford, which is one reason why she is not an icon today. She did sign to star in the prime time reboot of Dark Shadows, but backed out (as did Joan Fontaine after her), with the role eventually going to Jean Simmons. Two late-in-life telefilms years later capped her career, but she spent most of her time devoted to her Catholic faith and in humanitarian works. Her first husband was the actor Grant Withers [Jungle Jim serial], and both of her sisters were also actors, Polly Ann Young and Sally Blane [She Had to Choose].

Frankly, most fans find more fun and fascination in the "bad girls" such as Davis, with Young -- if she's thought of at all today -- as the somewhat sanctimonious hypocrite who had a child out of wedlock with the married Clark Gable, then didn't tell her daughter the truth of her birth for many decades. At times Young almost seems demented in her piousness. The shame of it is that whatever you think of Young's character or private life, she was a very good actress and gave strong performances in many movies. This book, however, doesn't delve into her true character that much; there are few if any back stage anecdotes or interviews, and it's hard for the reader to get a true sense of just what the woman was like. On the other hand, author Dick does examine her career with thoroughness, even devoting a chapter to her radio appearances wherein she reprised her performances in some of her movies and took on other actress's movie roles as well.

Verdict: Superficial as biography, but worthwhile as career study with some biographical details. ***. 


angelman66 said...

The only movie I have ever seen Loretta Young in is the Christmas one with Niven and Cary Grant...she was good but never spurred me on to explore further...the illegitimate-child-by-Clark Gable story is compelling, though, would make a great movie or novelization!

William said...

Funny how Young was so very popular for a time, but the public just seemed to lose interest in her, until her daughter Judy Lewis' book on her came out, and she was back in the public eye, but only for a time. I've no doubt she has fans, but no cult has sprung up around her like Davis, Crawford and a few others. Aside from the business with Gable, her private life was comparatively dull.