Loretta Young had already had a long career by the time she won the Oscar in 1947.

She had started in silent films as a child in bit parts, then as  a young teenager, she starred opposite the silent screen’s most famous villain, Lon Chaney, in Laugh Clown, Laugh. She served a long apprenticeship at First National then Warner Brothers, doing up to 5 films a year.

When Darryl Zanuck founded 20th Century Pictures he lured her away from Warners with promises that she’d star in top films opposite top stars.

After years at 20th (soon 20th Century Fox) she was disillusioned with the material offered her. She’d done light comedies with Tyrone Power, period pieces, and even epics. But she wanted more. She left Fox and Zanuck saw to it that she was blackballed and couldn’t work at other studios.

Her agent was able to get her work at Columbia. But she was making programmers, not top material.

She married Tom Lewis and was going to retire, but the U.S. entered World War II and Lewis was tapped to head up Armed Forces Radio. Loretta continued working, even though she and Lewis had two small sons. (Tom had adopted Judy Young, Loretta’s illegitimate daughter by Clark Gable, but that’s another story.)

Tom still wanted her to retire, but they reached a compromise. She’d continue to work but only in good material.

Her films of the mid forties are indeed her best. We’ve previously mentioned Along Came Jones, The Stranger, and The Farmer’s Daughter. During this period she also made The Bishop’s Wife (now a Holiday classic on TV) with Cary Grant and David Niven,  and another really good film, Rachel and The Stranger.

Just as with The Bishop’s Wife, this film provided her with two leading men. This time William Holden (pictured above with Loretta) and Robert Mitchum were fighting for her affections. Since it’s a period piece, set in the frontier of colonial America, the film holds up very well. And it touches on two themes seldom seen in movies, indentured servitude and women’s role on the frontier.

Don’t miss this film. All three stars give top notch performances.

Young made one more really good film, Come to The Stable, but then her film career stalled and just like Robert Young, Loretta wisely turned to television. Her TV series, an anthology drama show,  was one of the most successful on the new medium. People of a certain age still talk about her, elaborately gowned,  coming through that revolving door each week.

 

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