Hello, everybody. Joe Morella, one half of the classic movie guys team, here today to wind up our special three-part series on Loretta Young — the mother, the wife, the lover. (Frank is taking the day off, and is out cavorting with Mrs. Norman Maine.)
In our two previous blogs, I’ve mentioned Tom Lewis, and identified him as a radio executive and as Young’s second husband. Of course he was much more than that.
When I did extensive interviews with him for my book on Young, I realized someone should be writing a book about him and his accomplishments. He was the man behind Armed Forces Radio. (But more about Lewis in future blogs.)
Today we want to concentrate on Loretta.
Her first marriage (a civil one) was to actor Grant Withers (that’s the handsome devil pictured above.) The union was an impetuous romp which lasted less than a year. Before her first “real” Catholic marriage to Lewis in 1940, Loretta’s name was linked to many men, but only a few were serious affairs. (Boy, for a good Catholic girl she certainly got around.)
By far the most important of these was with co-star Spencer Tracy. He was separated from his wife Louise and had been drinking heavily. Loretta’s kindness toward him blossomed into love, and he by all accounts was mad about her.
But they had no future together because even if Tracy were free they could not marry since his marriage to Louise had been a religious one. Besides that he had two children and did not want a divorce. After a year of pain, anguish and one assumes ecstasy, they finally split.
Then there was a long relationship with veteran British-born director Eddie Sutherland (1939’s The Flying Deuces costarring Laurel and Hardy, among other titles), but Young’s close friend actor Gordon Oliver told me, “he was too old for her.” (Sutherland had 18 years on Young.) Oliver also said all that publicity at the time about Tyrone Power and Loretta was just that: publicity.
One serious love affair with writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz (what else?, 1950’s All About Eve) might have led to marriage, but he (pictured below) was divorced, and refused to appeal to the Pope for a dispensation.
Then there was William Bruckner. He was the nephew of the chairman of the board of New York Life. He was described as a socialite, a playboy a wealthy broker, but by the end of 1938, he was being described as a con man. For the first, and only, time in her career Young was caught up in tabloid type scandal. She weathered the storm.
Tom Lewis and Loretta married in 1940, and lived together until the mid 50s. Then he took their two sons and moved back to New York. (To get the full story of why he left her you’ll have to read the book).
For years Young tried to foster the notion that they were still married and living bi-coastally. This was nonsense, of course. The marriage had ended. But in those days Catholics could not seek a divorce without losing the right to receive the sacraments. Since neither Tom and Loretta could seek the divorce, there would be no divorce.
Josie Wayne, Loretta’s childhood friend, was still a Catholic in good standing because she hadn’t sought the divorce. John Wayne had. (By the way, Duke Wayne remained friends with Young’s ex, Grant Withers, and often cast him in his Westerns.)
However, in the late 1960s the Catholic church changed its rules, and couples were allowed to divorce and receive the sacraments. The Lewis marriage was dissolved for legal purposes. But in the eyes of the Church they still were wed until death.
After Tom Lewis died Loretta married again. Her third husband (second in the eyes of the church) was designer Jean Louis. He had worked on tv’s hugely successful The Loretta Young Show for years, and designed all those dresses that whirled through all those doors. (We can still picture the lavishly decked out Loretta descending that staircase.)
She was 80, he 86. They were married until his death four years later.