Loretta Young Show, airing on NBC from 1953 to 1961, was the
first and longest-running anthology drama series to feature a female
star as host and actress. Film star Loretta Young played a variety
of characters in well over half of the episodes, but her glamorous,
fashion-show entrances as host became one of the most memorable
features of this prime-time series.
under the title Letter to Loretta, the series was renamed
The Loretta Young Show during the first season. Originally,
the series was framed as the dramatization of viewers' letters.
Each teleplay dramatized a different letter/story/message. Even
after the letter device was dropped, Young still introduced and
closed each story. At the beginning of each episode, she entered
a living room set (supposedly her living room) through a door. Turning
around to close the door and swirling her designer fashions as she
walked up to the camera, Young was consciously putting on a mini-fashion
show, and the spectacular entrance became Young's and the series's
trademark. Glamour and fashion had been important elements of her
film star image, and she considered them central to her television
image and appeal. (As an indicatition of how strongly Young felt
about this aspect of the series, she later won a suit against NBC
for allowing her then-dated fashion openings to be seen in syndication.)
successful format and style or The Loretta Young Show spurred
other similar shows. Jane Wyman Theater (1955-58), The DuPont
Show with June Allyson (1959-61), and The Barbara Stanwyck
Show (1960-61) were prime-time network series that attempted
to capitalize on the Young's success. Similar syndicated series
included Ethel Barrymore Theater (1953), Crown Theater
with Gloria Swanson (1954), and Ida Lupino Theater (1956).
When original sponsor Procter & Gamble snapped up the proposed Loretta
Young series, Young and her husband, Thomas Lewis, hired Desilu
(credited on screen as DPI) to do the actual filming for the first
season's episodes. At a time when television was often broadcast
live from New York, the series was filmed in Hollywood, where Desilu
was already a major force in telefilm production. The first five
seasons of show were produced by Lewislor Enterprises, a company
created by Young and Lewis to produce the series. When Lewislor's
five-year contract with NBC was up and Lewis and Young had split
personally and professionally, Young formed Toreto Enterprises,
which produced the series's last three seasons. Young played a variety
of characters, but stories most often centered around her as mother,
daughter, wife, or single woman (often a professional) finding romance.
Presenting both melodramas and light romantic comedies, the series
was designed as and considered to be women's programming. (In fact,
NBC reran episodes on its daytime schedule, which was targeted to
women.) Young chose stories for their messages, lessons to be learned
by characters and audiences. Her introductory remarks always framed
the stories in specifically didactic terms, and she closed each
episode with words of wisdom quoted from the Bible, Shakespeare,
and other authoritative sources.
affirmed postwar, middle-class ideas about the home, families, and
gender roles. Single working women found love and were transformed.
Mothers learned how to be better mothers. Women found true happiness
within the domestic/heterosexual sphere of the middle-class home.
Yet, characters sometimes had to stand up for their convictions,
putting them at odds with the men in their lives. Women demonstrated
strength, intelligence, and desire. This was a series that put women
front stage and center, especially when Young portrayed the characters.
Even when she did not act, themes of women's fiction, such as the
play of emotions and the focus on character relationships, were
present in the stories. Occasionally, the show explicitly addressed
social issues of the day, such as American aid to war-ravaged Korea,
the plight of East European refugees, and alcoholism. It stands
out as a rare, prime-time network drama series where a woman tells
many of the live anthology dramas, big name guest stars were not
a regular feature of The Loretta Young Show. The biggest
stars appeared as guest hosts during Young's illness in the fall
of 1955. Barbara Stanwyck, Joseph Cotten, Claudette Colbert, and
several other film stars hosted the show in Young's absence. Marking
the importance of her swirling entrances, none of the guest hosts
came through the door to open the show. Over the years, guest actors
included Hume Cronyn, Merle Oberon, Hugh O'Brian, and Teresa Wright.
Loretta Young Show won various industry awards, including three
Emmys for Young as Best Actress. It also was honored by numerous
educational, religious, and civic groups. The series and its star
were praised by these groups for promoting family- and community-based
ideals in a rapidly changing postwar America.
Loretta Young Show represents a type of television programming
that no longer exists. The various anthology dramas of the 1950s
disappeared as programs with continuing characters came to exemplify
series television in the 1960s. TV series that worked through the
image of the glamorous Hollywood star would forever remain a phenomenon
of 1950s television, the period in which the Hollywood studio system
that had created larger-than-life stars came to a close. The 1950s
space for strong female stars also closed because television now
had a permanent place in American homes. The industry no longer
felt the need to attract specifically female audiences in prime
time as a strategy to secure domestic approval for the medium.
The Loretta Young Show
SUBSTITUTE HOSTESSES, 1955
John London, Ruth Roberts, Bert Granet, Tom Lewis
HISTORY 225 Episodes
September 1953-June 1958 Sunday
10:00-10:30 October 1958-September 1961 Sunday
Atkins, J. "Young, Loretta." In, Thomas, N., editor. International
Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses.
Detroit, Michigan: St. James, 1992.
R.L. "Loretta Young: Began as a Child-extra and Exuded Glamor for
Forty Years." Films in Review (New York), 1969.
Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein. Loretta Young: An Extraordinary Life.
New York: Delacorte Press, 1986.
S., and B. Siegel. The Encyclopedia of Hollywood. New York:
Facts On File, 1990.
Loretta, as told to Helen Ferguson. The Things I Had To Learn.
Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1961.