U.S. Actor

Loretta Young was one of the first Hollywood actresses to move successfully from movies to a television series. She made that transition in 1953 with Letter to Loretta (soon retitled The Loretta Young Show), an anthology drama series. Anthology dramas were a staple of 1950s programming, presenting different stories with different characters and casts each week. Young hosted and produced the series, and acted in over half the episodes as well. Capitalizing on her glamorous movie star image, her designer fashions became her television trademark. The show's success spurred other similar series, but Young's was the most successful. Like Lucille Ball, she was one of the few women who had control of her own successful series, the first woman to have her own dramatic anthology series on network television, the first person to win both an Academy Award and an Emmy Award.

Loretta Young began her acting career with bit parts as a child extra in silent films. By the mid-1930s, fashion and glamour were important components of her star image. By 1948, after more than twenty years in films, she was recognized for her acting when she won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter, a romantic comedy. In 1952, she made her last feature film and jumped eagerly into television. For older movie actresses, television offered new opportunities and at forty Young was considered "older" when she began her series. Following her lead with prime-time anthology dramas were actresses Jane Wyman, June Allyson, and Barbara Stanwyck.

As a movie star and as a woman, Young realistically had two options for a television series in 1953. CBS, the situation comedy network, home of Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy, suggested a sitcom. NBC offered an anthology drama. Not a zany comedienne like Ball or Martha Raye (who appeared in comedy-variety shows), Young went for the anthology drama. In doing so she would follow film actor Robert Montgomery (Robert Montgomery Presents) to prime-time success as host and actress in her own dramatic anthology series. She wanted--and the anthology format afforded--acting variety, a format for conveying moral messages, and a showcase for her glamorous, fashionable movie star image. Though many anthology dramas were broadcast live, Young--like most movie stars trying series TV--chose telefilm production, a mode that could bring future profit through syndication.

Young and husband Thomas Lewis (who was instrumental in setting up Armed Forces Radio during World War II and developed numerous radio programs) created Lewislor Enterprises to produce the series. Lewis initially served as executive producer, but left the show by the end of the third season. Young became sole executive producer. When her five-year contract with NBC was up, Young formed a new company, Toreto Enterprises, which produced the series' last three seasons.

Religious and moral questions had long concerned Loretta Young. Known for her religious faith and work on behalf of Catholic charities, the stories she selected for production in her series carried upbeat messages about family, community, and personal conviction, and every story was summed up with a quotation from the Bible or some other recognized source. Concerned about postwar changes in American society, Young advocated TV entertainment with a message. Scripts hinged on the resolution of moral dilemmas. Numerous civic and religious groups honored her for this. She also won three Emmys, the first in 1955 as best dramatic actress in a continuing series.

Fashion had also been an important component of Young's star image, and was central to her television program. Indeed, fashion may be the most memorable feature of The Loretta Young Show. Every episode opened with a swirling entrance that showcased her designer dresses, a move that became her television trademark. Many of the dresses she wore on the show were designed by Dan Werle, and some were marketed under the label Werle Originals. Young's strong feelings about fashion were publicized again in the early 1970s when she won a suit against NBC for allowing her then-dated fashion introductions to be shown in syndication. While this emphasis on fashion actually served Young's conviction that women had to maintain their femininity, as a star she epitomized a paradox: she was beautiful and feminine, but she was also a strong-willed woman with a career.

While the star and her fashions often attracted reviewers, some complained that Young and her show were sentimental, low-brow women's entertainment, a typical criticism of women's fiction, where stories focus on the relationships and emotions comprising women's traditional sphere of home and family. The criticism was also typical of a 1950s conceit that filmed television series were inferior to prestigious live anthology dramas such as Studio One and Philco Television Playhouse.

Young's anecdotal and philosophical book, The Things I Had To Learn, was published in 1961, the same year her prime-time series went off the air. Her philosophies about life, success, and faith were the basis of the book, just as they had been for The Loretta Young Show.

She returned to series television in 1962-63 with The New Loretta Young Show, a situation comedy and formed LYL Productions to produce the series. The story originally centered on her as a widowed writer-mother, but her character was married by the end of the season. This new series lasted only one season and Young did not return to television again until 1986, when she appeared in a made-for-TV movie, Christmas Eve. She won a Golden Globe Award for that performance. Her most recent television appearance was in another made-for-TV movie, Lady in a Corner (1989), in which she played the publisher of a fashion magazine.

Loretta Young is probably most important to television's history as a woman who blazed a path for other women as both an actress and a producer, who succeeded with her own prime-time show in a format that was not a situation comedy, and who was able to transfer success in film to success in television. Few film stars have made this transition.

-Madelyn Ritrosky-Winslow


Loretta Young

LORETTA YOUNG. Born Gretchen Michaela Belzer in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., 6 Jan 1914. Attended Immaculate Heart College, Hollywood, California. Married: 1) Grant Withers, 1930 (divorced, 1931); child: Judy; 2) Thomas H.A. Lewis, 1940; children: Chistopher Paul and Peter. Debuted as an extra in The Only Way, 1919; contract with First National film company, late 1920s; contract with 20th Century-Fox, 1933-40; host and occasionally actress in anthology series, The Loretta Young Show, 1953-61; star of series The New Loretta Young Show, 1962-63. Recipient: Emmy Awards 1955, 1956, 1959; Special Prize, Canne Film Festival; Academy Award, 1947; Golden Globe Award, 1986. Address: c/o Lewis, 1705 Ambassador Avenue, Beverly Hills, CA 90210-2720, U.S.A.


1953-61 The Loretta Young Show
1962-63 The New Loretta Young Show


1986 Christmas Eve
1989 Lady in the Corner


The Only Way, 1919; Sirens of the Sea, 1919; The Son of the Sheik, 1921; Naughty But Nice, 1927; Her Wild Oat, 1928; The Whip Woman, 1928; Laugh, Clown, Laugh, 1928; The Magnificent Flirt, 1928; The Head Man, 1928; Scarlett Seas, 1928; The Squall, 1929; The Girl in the Glass Cage, 1929; Fast Life, 1929; The Careless Age, 1929; The Show of Shows, 1929; The Forward Pass, 1929; The Man from Blankley's, 1930; The Second-Story Murder, 1930; Loose Ankles, 1930; Road to Paradise, 1930; Kismet, 1930; The Truth About Youth, 1930; The Devil to Pay, 1930; Bea Ideal, 1931; The Right of Way, 1931; Three Girls Lost, 1931; Too Young to Marry, 1931; Big Business Girl, 1931; I Like Your Nerve, 1931; Platinum Blonde, 1931; The Ruling Voice, 1931; Taxi, 1932; The Hatchet Man, 1932; Play Girl, 1932; Weekend Marriage, 1932; Life Begins, 1932; They Call It Sin, 1932; Employee's Entrance, 1933; Grand Slam, 1933; Zoo in Budapest, 1933; The Life of Jimmy Dolan, 1933; Midnight Mary, 1933; Heroes for Sale, 1933; The Devil's in Love, 1933; She Had to Say Yes, 1933; A Man's Castle, 1933; The House of Rothschild, 1934; Born to Be Bad, 1934; Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back, 1934; Caravan, 1934; The White Parade, 1934; Clive of India, 1935; Shanghai, 1935; Call of the Wild, 1935; The Crusades, 1935; The Unguarded Hour, 1936; Private Number, 1936; Ramona, 1936; Ladies in Love, 1936; Love Is News, 1937; Café Metropole, 1937; Love Under Fire, 1937; Wife, Doctor, and Nurse, 1937; Second Honeymoon, 1937; Four Men and a Prayer, 1938; Three Blind Mice, 1938; Suez, 1938; Kentucky, 1938; Wife, Husband, Friend, 1939; The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, 1939; Eternally Yours, 1939; The Doctor Takes a Wife, 1940; The Lady from Cheyenne, 1941; The Men in Her Life, 1941; Bedtime Story, 1942; A Night to Remember, 1943; China, 1943; Ladies Courageous, 1944; And Now Tomorrow, 1944; Along Came Jones, 1945; The Stranger, 1946; The Perfect Marriage, 1947; The Farmer's Daughter, 1947; The Bishop's Wife, 1947; Rachel and the Stranger, 1948; The Accused, 1949; Mother Is a Freshman, 1949; Come to the Stable, 1949; Key to the City, 1950; Cause for Alarm, 1951; Half Angel, 1951; Paula, 1952; Because of You, 1952; It Happens Every Thursday, 1953.


An Evening With Loretta Young, 1989.


The Things I Had To Learn, as told to Helen Ferguson. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1961.


Atkins, J. "Young, Loretta." In, Thomas, N., editor. International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses. Detroit, Michigan: St. James, 1992.

Bowers, R.L. "Loretta Young: Began as a Child-extra and Exuded Glamor for Forty Years." Films in Review (New York), 1969.

Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein. Loretta Young: An Extraordinary Life. New York: Delacorte, 1986.

Siegel, S., and B. Siegel. The Encyclopedia of Hollywood. New York: Facts On File, 1990.


Se also Anthology Drama; Gender and Television; Loretta Young Show; Wyman, Jane