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Hollywood Madonna

Loretta Young

Bernard F. Dick

Publication Year: 2011

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

Hollywood Madonna explores 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.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-2

My family entered the television age in February 1954, when The Loretta Young Show was in its first season. Then, my only interest was live television. I delighted in Studio One and Robert Montgomery Presents, which brought theatre into our parlor, along with missed cues, flubbed lines...

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1. Life without Father

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pp. 3-9

Loretta Young and director Frank Borzage had something in common besides Man’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...

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2. The Creation of Loretta Young

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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...

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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...

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4. Sacrtficial Wives, Shop Girls, and Proud Proletarians

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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...

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5. Loaned Out

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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...

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6. Last Days at Warner’s

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pp. 48-52

After Platinum Blonde, Man’s Castle, and Midnight 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...

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7. Darryl Zanuck’s Costume Queen

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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...

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8. The Men in Her Life

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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...

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9. Heeding the Call of the Wild

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pp. 71-78

When Loretta learned she would be costarring with Clark Cable in The 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...

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10. The Great Lie

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pp. 79-87

Loretta was a regular on Lux 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 was The Great Lie (1941), with...

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11. Return from the Ashes

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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...

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12. Addio, Darryl

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pp. 103-111

Zanuck was so pleased with the box office receipts for Wife, Doctor and Nurse that Loretta and Warner Baxter were teamed again in Wife, 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)...

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13. The Price of Freedom

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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...

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14. Loretta Goes to War

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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...

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15. “Age cannot wither” (but Hollywood Can)

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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...

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16. Thrice Blessed: A Reunion, a Replacement, and an Oscar

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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 from Little Caesar (1930) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) to The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and the forever fabulous...

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17. The Return to Fox—and Zanuck

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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...

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18. Slow Fade to Small Screen

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pp. 163-169

It was probably Dore Schary’s idea to reunite Clark Gable and Loretta in MGM’s Key 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...

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19. Radio Days

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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...

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20. Another Medium, Another Conquest

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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’s Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), Jules Dassin’s...

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21. The Road to Retirement

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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...

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22. A New Life

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pp. 218-229

Despite the failure of The New Loretta Young Show to 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...

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23. The Last Reel

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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...


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pp. 245-255


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pp. 256-258

Major Radio Appearances

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pp. 259-260

Major Television Appearances

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p. 261-261


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pp. 262-269

E-ISBN-13: 9781617030802
E-ISBN-10: 1617030805
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617030796
Print-ISBN-10: 1617030791

Page Count: 269
Publication Year: 2011