Another book review for tonight, and this one has a prize attached to it! Yes, I’m giving away something for free…just for reading this (see how I lure you in with treats?). Hollywood Madonna: Loretta Young by Bernard F. Dick is really a beginner’s biography of acclaimed actress and television star Loretta Young. That might turn off fans who have read other biographies of her work, and for them I apologize, but Dick introduces the reader to not only Young, but the world Old Hollywood during the 1930s-1950s before seguing into the world of early television, the anthology series, and Loretta’s life as a devout Catholic. I started reading this because of her relationship with Clark Gable (and the illegitimate daughter that resulted) but found myself learning a lot about Young herself.
Bernard F. Dick has written several biographies and this has to be the first one I’ve read. Hollywood Madonna: Loretta Young follows the star from her childhood to her pre-Code films and beyond. Of course it discusses the conspiracy and intricacy of her illegitimate pregnancy that would have ruined her career. It’s an interesting story if only to showcase the double standard between female actors and male actors (that if a male actor got a woman pregnant they were spreading wild oats and if a female star was an unwed mother she was a whore). Dick devotes the final chapter to analyzing Loretta’s reasons for doing what she did to her daughter Judy, and responds to the claims made in Judy Lewis‘ own memoir.
The book analyzes each movie Loretta made, looking at form, content and what it said about the actress at the time. I’ve only see Loretta in Platinum Blonde (which was reviewed during my Jean Harlow Retrospective). Dick doesn’t name-drop a lot or tell juicy stories about the stars, but he gives a thorough analysis to these films and gave me a lot to check out. When he’s not talking about Loretta he’s dishing on the Hollywood studio system of the time and the numerous players. This may make the book read more like “Everyone but Loretta Young” but I found the mix of stars to be unpredictable.
The key point of the book revolves around Loretta’ creation and work with The Loretta Young television show. I knew she did a show but had no idea how connected to it she was, coming up with the stories and even being a part of the production company. The mix of religion with an anthology series would probably turn off a lot of fans but considering how Loretta blended both elements it didn’t bother me to read about her Catholic devotion (although Dick does tend to run away with the religion stuff at certain points).
The book is a brisk read at 244 pages and is a “Greatest Hits” book. I learned a lot about Loretta Young, and since the book is fairly slim it points you in the right direction to other movies and books about Young.
And that’s why I’m giving away a copy! One lucky reader will receive a copy of Hollywood Madonna: Loretta Young courtesy of Journeys in Classic Film. All you have to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, put Loretta Young Giveaway in the title and include your name and address in the body. The contest runs till May 19th and I’ll pick one winner at random to win the book! If you’re a blogger PLEASE spread the word that I’m holding this contest so we get a slew of entries. Good luck! ***I should mention that due to postage this is a contest for US and Canadian residents only. Sorry other foreign friends.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.