Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 17 December 2010

1930s: Loretta, the depression waif ...

It has been fascinating over the last few years to discover the early work of Loretta Young [1913-2000], whom I knew as a great lady in her later films like THE BISHOP'S WIFE. Her movie career was really over before I began my cinema-going in the mid-'50s and I never saw her television series, so really she became one of those forgotten 1930s stars, but now seeing those early titles like MIDNIGHT MARY or LADIES IN LOVE is a revelation.

Loretta was a true child of the movies, first appearing aged 4 and several in her early teens. She was a prominent lead by the 1930s, co-starring with Jean Harlow in PLATINUM BLONDE in 1931. In 1933 alone she starred in 9 titles - talk about being busy! - in classic titles like the dreamlike ZOO IN BUDAPEST, Borzage's great MAN'S CASTLE where she is the ideal depression waif involved with Spencer Tracy in their shanty town. William Wellman's MIDNIGHT MARY shows her at her most glamorous (when she was 20) in this racy Pre-Code romance with Franchot Tone.

I was totally entraced with her in the 1936 LADIES IN LOVE, probably the first of those Fox '3 girls sharing an apartment and looking for love' movies, set in an idealised Budapest, where she is teamed with the young Tyrone Power - they make a beautiful couple, and compared to her co-stars Constance Bennett (left) and Janet Gaynor, Loretta looks surprisingly modern, dressed simply in black or white, and has some nice line readings, as the girl who falls hopelessly in love with unattainable aristocrat Power.

It seems she and Tracy had a serious romance while making MAN'S CASTLE (above) but as both were Catholics and he was already married, they had to part. She then had a romance on the rebound with Clark Gable when they made CALL OF THE WILD in 1935, which resulted in the birth of a daughter, whom she adopted. De Mille's THE CRUSADES in 1935 is another excellent film of hers from this era, along with titles like RAMONA, SUEZ, CLIVE OF INDIA and others with Power like CAFE METROPOLITAN and SECOND HONEYMOON (that recent Ty Power box set of 10 films included several with Loretta).


While her earlier movies like MIDNIGHT MARY or THE HATCHET MAN in 1932 (where she and Edward G Robinson are Chinese!) are quite racy, Loretta grew more staid as she got older, becoming a prominent Catholic {she was famous for her swearbox - was it Mitchum who said "here's $5, now f**k off"?). She is an ideal nun in the 1949 religious saga COME TO THE STABLE. Her '40s roles include THE STRANGER with Welles, RACHEL AND THE STRANGER, THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER (for which she won the 1947 best actress Academy Award) and the perennial THE BISHOP'S WIFE with Cary Grant and David Niven in '48. Again, it is always a pleasure to see Loretta, particularly in those early 1930s movies.

She was one of the first stars to cross over to television with her successful long running series (there are box sets available, I got one which also include her fascinating home movies). She returned as a very charming old lady in two nice television movies: CHRISTMAS EVE with an equally frail older Trevor Howard in 1986, where she wants to re-unite her warring relatives before she dies, and LADY IN THE CORNER in '89 where she is the magazine owner fighting off a takeover by a pornographer! Naturally, Loretta saves the day. She was still lovely posing for "Vanity Fair" in 1999, the year before her death.

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