Hollywood Madonna

Hollywood Madonna: Loretta Young

Bernard F. Dick
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 269
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  • Book Info
    Hollywood Madonna
    Book Description:

    Loretta Young (1913-2000) was an Academy Award-winning actress known for devout Catholicism and her performances inThe Farmer's Daughter,The Bishop's Wife, andCome to the Stable, and for her long-running and tremendously popular television series. But that was not the whole story.

    Hollywood Madonnaexplores the full saga of Loretta Young's professional and personal life. She made her film debut at age four, became a star at fifteen, and many awards and accolades later, made her final television movie at age seventy-six. This biography withholds none of the details of her affair with Clark Gable and the daughter that powerful love produced. Bernard F. Dick places Young's affair in the proper context of the time and the choices available to women in 1935, especially a noted Catholic like Young, whose career would have been in ruins if the public knew of her tryst. With the birth of a daughter, who would have been branded a love child, Loretta Young reached the crossroads of disclosure and deception, choosing the latter path. That choice resulted in an illustrious career for her and a tortured childhood for her daughter.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-080-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Life without Father
    (pp. 3-9)

    Loretta Young and director Frank Borzage had something in common besidesMan’s Castle(1933), the only film (and one of Loretta’s best) that they made together: Both hailed from Salt Lake City, Utah. Loretta could have been born in any number of places. Her parents, Gladys Royal and John Earle Young, met in Denver, where they were married in 1907. Her sister, Polly Ann, was born there on 25 October 1908. In 1910, John Earle Young, who worked as an auditor for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, was transferred to Salt Lake City, and Gladys was required to...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Creation of Loretta Young
    (pp. 10-17)

    In Hollywood, both past and present (but more commonly past), myth and fact have mingled indiscriminately. Myth is elevated to the level of truth, while facts are given a mythic makeover, so that what was drab and ordinary acquires a glossy overlay, like lacquered wood.

    But there are facts that are verifiable. Norma Jean Baker did not become Marilyn Monroe in the same way Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor) become Vicki Lester inA Star is Born(1937) by picking up her paycheck and discovering that she had been renamed. Although Marilyn has inspired an ever-burgeoning mythology, there was nothing mythic...

    (pp. 18-25)

    In 1928, Loretta had only a vague awareness of Joseph P. Kennedy. She might have heard rumors about his relationship with Gloria Swanson (confirmed) or that he was a bootlegger (unproven), but it is hard to imagine that she knew he was the husband of Rose Kennedy, whose father was the colorful and, to some, notorious—Boston mayor, John Fitzgerald, better known as “Honey” Fitz. For Loretta, all that mattered was that she was a contract player at a real studio. What she did not know was that she remained on the studio roster because of Joseph P. Kennedy.


  7. CHAPTER 4 Sacrificial Wives, Shop Girls, and Proud Proletarians
    (pp. 26-38)

    Ever since 1906, when the first nickelodeons made their appearance, exhibitors had looked for ways to lure women to their theaters. Initially, these were converted storefronts, which were stuffy and often uncomfortable—particularly those in working class and immigrant neighborhoods. In time, the nickelodeons improved and looked more like typical movie theaters, but they were never on the order of the movie palaces. While the theaters had no problem attracting children, who at least in 1907 comprised a third of the audience, women tended to avoid them, particularly because they seemed disreputable. Once exhibitors realized that female patronage could give...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Loaned Out
    (pp. 39-47)

    At eighteen, Loretta must have had some idea about Columbia Pictures’ reputation and its president-production head, Harry Cohn. The studio originated as the CBC Sales Co., the Cs standing for the Cohns, Harry and his brother, Jack, the B, for Joseph Brandt, a lawyer who never practiced law. But Harry had no intention of being part of a triumvirate. By 1924, CBC had become Columbia; by 1932, Brandt, whose health was deteriorating, bowed out. Jack returned to New York, which he preferred to Los Angeles, as vice president for distribution. Harry was the one Cohn associated with the new studio,...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Last Days at Warner’s
    (pp. 48-52)

    AfterPlatinum Blonde, Man’s Castle,andMidnight Mary, which together required her to play three different types of women at two other studios, Loretta felt more secure about her art. The reviews bolstered her confidence, and she knew it was only a matter of time before she would be moving on. But where?

    In November 1932, Jesse Lasky announced his intention to become an independent producer at the Fox Film Corporation, withZoo in BudapestandBerkeley Squareas his first productions. Loretta was well aware of Famous Players-Lasky, the studio resulting from the Famous Players-Lasky Feature Plays merger in...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Darryl Zanuck’s Costume Queen
    (pp. 53-64)

    In 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, Darryl F. Zanuck resigned as production head at Warner’s. The previous year, the studio had suffered a net loss of over $14 million, twice that of the 1931 deficit. Warner’s was not alone; RKO reported a loss of almost $4.4 million, and Paramount declared bankruptcy. The studios knew that the only way to survive was to adopt a policy of temporary salary cuts. Although opposed to the decision, Zanuck voluntarily went on half salary. Even after Price Waterhouse and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed that salary reductions...

  11. CHAPTER 8 The Men in Her Life
    (pp. 65-70)

    “I have been in love fifty times,” Loretta admitted to an interviewer in 1933. “If I didn’t fall a little bit in love with the men I play opposite, I could not do love scenes with them. “This was not the boast of a starlet, eager to graduate to siren, or at least love goddess, status. Loretta was a star; she was also speaking truthfully. Her adolescence was spent in the movie business. While other girls her age went off with their boyfriends to the local soda fountain and sipped ice cream sodas through two straws—the era’s idea of...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Heeding the Call of the Wild
    (pp. 71-78)

    When Loretta learned she would be costarring with Clark Cable inThe Call of the Wild(1935) and working for the fourth time with William Wellman, she was elated. She was prepared to have a crush on her leading man, salving her Catholic conscience by limiting her crushes to fantasies more romantic than erotic. But that was before she went on location at Lake Chelan in Washington—although it would have been the same if she and Gable were in Nevada as originally scheduled. But a change of climate required a change of plan, and the state of Washington was...

  13. CHAPTER TEN The Great Lie
    (pp. 79-87)

    Loretta was a regular onLux Radio Theatre, which aired on Monday evenings from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and featured radio versions of recent and, sometimes, older films, often with their original casts. The radio dramatization scheduled for 2 March 1942 wasThe Great Lie(1941), with Loretta as Maggie in the part created by Bette Davis. Her costars, George Brent and Mary Astor, reprised their original roles. Although it is seems hard to imagine Loretta in a Davis vehicle, she did remarkably well, modeling her interpretation on Davis’s. Davis gave a subdued performance, devoid of the mannerisms and...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Return from the Ashes
    (pp. 88-102)

    By January 1936, it was time for Loretta to go back to work. Like the phoenix, she had risen from the ashes of unwed motherhood—the stigma expunged, the evidence temporarily concealed, and the future brighter than it had been the previous fall. Although Loretta had convinced herself that she had committed a mortal sin, she at least had the satisfaction of knowing that it was not as serious as abortion.

    Loretta might have enjoyed some peace of mind if she sought out a liberal priest, accustomed to hearing actors’ confessions, who would have given her a penance of five...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Addio, Darryl
    (pp. 103-111)

    Zanuck was so pleased with the box office receipts forWife, Doctor and Nursethat Loretta and Warner Baxter were teamed again inWife, Husband and Friend, adapted from James M. Cain’s novella,Career in C Major(1936). By 1936, Cain’s bestseller,The Postman Always Rings Twice(1934), had already established him as a novelist who transcended the gaudy prose of the pulps. By the timeWife, Husband and Friendwas released, he had published another novel, the controversialSerenade, fraught with racial stereotyping and homophobia, none of which appeared in the 1956 movie version with Mario Lanza as an...

  16. CHAPTER 13 The Price of Freedom
    (pp. 112-124)

    Loretta could have continued indefinitely at Fox, but if she stayed beyond 1939, there would have been nothing for her except more of the same. She must have known that Zanuck had his favorites: the more bankable talent, the bigger box office draws such as Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Maureen O’Hara, and Loretta’s replacement, the sylphlike Gene Tierney, the perfect mirror image for Tyrone Power, who still had his looks, but without the androgynous glow. Loretta was no longer one of the inner circle.

    While Loretta was shimmery and angelic, a beam from the moon’s bright side, the exotic Tierney...

  17. CHAPTER 14 Loretta Goes to War
    (pp. 125-131)

    In 1943, as a freelancer cutting multi-picture deals, Loretta realized that, without a home base, she would be leading a nomadic existence, while her peers, ensconced at their own studios, would be starring in more prestigious films: MGM’s Greer Garson, a recent Academy Award winner forMrs. Miniver(1942), inMadame Curie(1943), which brought her an Oscar nomination; Warner’s Bette Davis inOld AcquaintanceandWatch on the Rhine(1943); Fox’s Gene Tierney inHeaven Can Wait(1943); and Jennifer Jones inThe Song of Bernadette(1943). The last was a role that Loretta could have played, as if...

  18. CHAPTER 15 “Age cannot wither” (but Hollywood Can)
    (pp. 132-138)

    At thirty-one Loretta looked as porcelain-skinned as ever. When she endorsed a beauty soap, like Lux, it was as if she had bestowed beauty upon the product, not vice versa. But to remain a star, rather than a working actress who once knew stardom and was now reduced to playing leads in minor films (Virginia Bruce, Kay Francis), or who was relegated to supporting cast status (Fay Wray, Anna Lee, Mae Clark), a dewy complexion was not enough. Loretta had not yet been nominated for an Oscar, although she should have been forMan’s CastleandMidnight Mary. The situation...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  20. CHAPTER 16 Thrice Blessed: A Reunion, a Replacement, and an Oscar
    (pp. 139-153)

    Loretta owed Paramount two more pictures, which turned out to be Hal Wallis productions. As production head at Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1944, with credits ranging fromLittle Caesar(1930) andThe Adventures of Robin Hood(1938) toThe Life of Emile Zola(1937) and the forever fabulousCasablanca(1942), Wallis could have remained at the studio indefinitely. Instead, he chose to leave in 1944 after Jack Warner’s hubris brought their once amicable relationship to an end on Oscar night, 2 March 1944. When director Sidney Franklin opened the envelope and announced that the Academy’s choice of best picture...

  21. CHAPTER 17 The Return to Fox—and Zanuck
    (pp. 154-162)

    In 1939 Loretta told Zanuck she would never work for him again (which, in effect, meant never working at Fox), but the passage of time, an Oscar, and a three–picture contract—including one in which she would play a nun—prompted Loretta to think differently about the studio where she had spent five years, making twenty-two films. However, only one of three that Zanuck offered her,Come to the Stable(1949), was significant. If the other two,Mother Is a Freshman(1949) andHalf Angel(1951), had never reached the screen, audiences would have been spared two more mediocre...

  22. CHAPTER 18 Slow Fade to Small Screen
    (pp. 163-169)

    It was probably Dore Schary’s idea to reunite Clark Gable and Loretta in MGM’sKey to the City(1950). In July 1948, Schary, realizing he could never work with RKO’s new owner, Howard Hughes, left the studio and accepted Louis Mayer’s offer to become MGM’s vice president in charge of production. Schary does not mentionKey to the Cityin his autobiography, although he includes it in his filmography as one of the movies made under his “executive supervision.” The credited producer was Z. Wayne Griffin, whose chief function was dealing with logistics (schedule, budget, daily reports). George Sidney, the...

  23. CHAPTER 19 Radio Days
    (pp. 170-185)

    When Loretta closed the book on her film career, she could say with justifiable pride that for someone who started in pictures at four and stopped at forty, she had left behind an impressive gallery of characters. Her beauty made her difficult to cast; it was obvious that she was neither a femme fatale nor a musical comedy diva. In fact, Loretta never made a musical; the closest she came was the vaudeville bit she did with her sister inThe Show of Shows. She was not a character actress as such, but an actress able to grow into her...

  24. CHAPTER 20 Another Medium, Another Conquest
    (pp. 186-206)

    Loretta never worked with Lucille Ball, although she knew who Ball was, and closely followed her growing fame in the medium that Loretta was planning to enter. Lucille Ball was star writ small. She appeared in some films—Dorothy Arzner’sDance, Girl, Dance(1940), Jules Dassin’sTwo Smart People(1946), Henry Hathaway’sThe Dark Corner(1946), Douglas Sirk’sLured(1947)—that have attracted film scholars, not because of her, but because of the directors. Ball’s MGM career was erratic; she could have brought her own brand of zaniness to the MGM musical, except that the studio had its resident zany,...

  25. CHAPTER 21 The Road to Retirement
    (pp. 207-217)

    When Loretta initiated a separation from Lewis in spring 1956, she secretly hoped their marriage could be salvaged—not for personal reasons, but because she feared the stigma of divorce, a word that was anathema to devout Catholics. Her mother avoided the problem by not remarrying after her divorce from Belzer. Loretta’s marriage to Lewis, on the other hand, was a media event, and a divorce would be a bigger one, particularly since it involved two exemplary Catholics. Thus, Loretta was careful to give the press the impression that she and Lewis were only separated, appearing together, if necessary, at...

  26. CHAPTER 22 A New Life
    (pp. 218-229)

    Despite the failure ofThe New Loretta Young Showto repeat the success of the first series, Loretta had not given up on either television or film. In the 1960s, Hollywood’s drama queens of yesteryear, eager to continue working, accepted roles requiring them to play grotesques (Bette Davis inWhatever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Nanny); women entrapped and terrorized by punks (Olivia de Havilland inLady in a Cage), or tormented by relatives (Bette Davis by cousin Olivia de Havilland inHush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte; Joan Crawford by sister Davis inBaby Jane, and by daughter...

  27. CHAPTER 23 The Last Reel
    (pp. 230-244)

    Early in her career, Loretta was romantically linked with several men, including director Edward Sutherland; actors Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, and Tyrone Power; a British polo player; and a shady lawyer. All were attracted to her beauty, just as she was to their varying degrees of masculinity: paternal, carnal, androgynous, and protective. Most were older than she; some, significantly so (Gable, twelve years; Tracy, thirteen; Sutherland, eighteen). She and Power were the same age; they would have made a smashing couple, except that during the Suez shoot (1938), Power discovered the gamine-like Anabella in the supporting cast and married her...

  28. NOTES
    (pp. 245-255)
    (pp. 256-258)
    (pp. 259-260)
    (pp. 261-261)
  32. INDEX
    (pp. 262-269)