Chris Hicks: Utah native Loretta Young’s 100th birthday brings DVD set of her TV series

Published: Friday, Feb. 15 2013 12:30 p.m. MST

This is definitely a program of its era and younger audiences might find the introductions and closing moments a bit precious. And because it was produced some 60 years ago, the technical quality is far from the hi-def we’re used to these days.

But most of the stories remain timely and entertaining, and for baby boomers like me — or for Loretta Young’s many fans — this new set is a genuine treasure.

Young stars in all 145 episodes in this collection, 30 each from the first two seasons and selected shows from the six subsequent years. Guests in this set include Dennis Hopper, Mike Connors, Sue Lyon, Eddie Albert, Marion Ross, Shelley Fabares, Hugh O’Brian, Gene Barry and Chuck Connors, among others.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Gretchen Young was born in Salt Lake City in 1913. When she was 3, after her parents separated, Gretchen’s mother moved her, along with two older sisters and a baby brother, to Los Angeles, eventually opening a boarding house near a movie studio.

Even before the boarding house came along, however, someone thought to put this cute little girl in a film as an extra. And that was it. The show-biz bug had infected her and she would never be cured.

After several more uncredited appearances as a child (including Rudolph Valentino’s “The Sheik”), when Gretchen was a blossoming young teen, she decided it was time to pursue an acting career in earnest. Around this time her name was changed to the more marquee-friendly Loretta Young.

Young worked her way up to bigger supporting and co-starring parts, eventually landing her first major role, co-starring opposite Lon Chaney in “Laugh, Clown, Laugh.” She successfully made the transition from silent movies to “talkies” and by age 20 she had been in 40 films.

As she rose to stardom, Young became the very embodiment of glamour during Hollywood’s Golden Age, comfortable in comedies and dramas of all stripes. But her talent was acknowledged with the 1947 best-actress Oscar for an atypical non-glamour role, a funny and charming performance (with a Swedish accent) in the delightful political comedy “The Farmer’s Daughter” (which has inexplicably never been released on DVD).

Over the course of her seven decades as an actress, Young appeared in nearly 100 films through 1953, then, over the next 10 years, she appeared in 189 episodes of her two eponymous television series — the eight-season “Loretta Young Show” and the single-season “The New Loretta Young Show” — followed by a pair of TV movies before her death at age 87 in 2000.

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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