Coming attractions have always been designed to be tantalizingly brief and to the point.

Hello, everybody.  Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to permit Frank to maintain that venerable tradition. Or, at least give it the old college try.

You and probably many other classic film fans were flabbergasted to see The New York Times splash across its front page on Dec. 1 the obituary of Judy Lewis, who died Nov. 25. The economy stinks, the Euro’s existence is threatened, political gridlock grips Washington, and the Times so touts Lewis’ obit? How come?

The headline (Judy Lewis, Secret Daughter of Hollywood, Dies at 76) and first two sentences (Her mother was Loretta Young. Her father was Clark Gable.) explain the front page treatment.

When Joe and I got talking about the story, he casually mentioned that as the co-author of a book about Loretta Young — Loretta Young: An Extraordinary Life (1986) written with Edward Z. Epstein — he had received a different interpretation of the Loretta-Gable-Judy Lewis saga, which has been the subject of Hollywood gossip for decades.

At Frank’s urging, Joe sat down and wrote three blogs — to run consecutively this very week — expatiating on what he learned in researching his book. His conclusions may surprise you.

A few words about Loretta Young. Born in 1913, she spent almost her entire early life in Hollywood movies (she began as a child extra at the age of 4) , rapidly moving from teenager to ingenue to leading lady by the late Twenties. Always an elegant beauty, she was a very big star by the mid-Thirties.

In Frank’s opinion, if there is just one Loretta Young movie to be seen, make it 1946’s The Stranger costarring Orson Welles as a Nazi  leader posing as a school master in a small Connecticut town and Edward G. Robinson as the man assigned to track him down. Young as Welles’ newly-wed wife more than holds her own against these two formidable actors.

What made Young a truly national household name was her eight-year NBC television series in the 1950’s, The Loretta Young Show. Her glamorous entrances each week made her shows an absolute must see, and millions faithfully tuned in.

As you read Joe’s blogs this week, keep in mind two things:

— Having a child out of wedlock was an absolute career killer for an actress back in the early Thirties when Young’s career was taking off. (The age of the single mother was far in the future.) The options back then were abortion or giving up the child for adoption.  As you’ll see Young chose another route, courageous but also professionally risky.

— To complicate matters, Young was a practicing Roman Catholic.  And this was back in the day when Hollywood at least paid lip service to formal religious affiliations, if only to appease the Hay’s office’s Joseph Breen, who administered the Motion Picture Production Code.  And, let’s not forget that the Catholic Church had its own Legion Of Decency lists posted in Church lobbies, and would have certainly frowned on movies starring an actress who had given birth out of wedlock.

OK, get ready for Joe’s blogs on all this.  By all means, stay tuned.


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