an Open letter

I posted this to my personal facebook, earlier, but my increasing disappointment with the focus of the Young & Gable conversation being on why he is innocent and above reproach, also “too handsome to need to rape” made me decide to make this more public.

Since I haven’t done much more than use Facebook and Twitter for my angry, expletive laden outburts on the subject, allow me some time to express some rational thoughts on Loretta Young, Clark Gable, and the rape allegations. This isn’t to say, “I give, no more fighting,” but it’s becoming increasingly clear that my utter disappointment in historians and amateur researchers alike, who continue to make Loretta stand trial, will only grow. The male domination of Hollywood and it’s structures is alive and well, and no amount of evidence against Clark Gable and his pattern of mistreatment of the women around him will convince some people that he was fully capable of taking advantage of Loretta. As many have pointed out, there is no proving it, either way, and I have to bow to that notion. Still, when you are doing your level best to rip open the scars on Loretta’s soul, take into account what you would do, if she was your daughter. Would you look her in the eye, laugh at her, and say, “Your story is preposterous because you were flirtatious, and you shouldn’t have encouraged a man as incredibly attractive as that.” Would you tell her to keep quiet? Would you tell her that she needed to learn her lesson and not be such a female, from now on? Would you punish your daughter when she said that she didn’t understand how something like this could happen to her? While she tried not to scream, giving birth in a darkened apartment with just the barest of necessities at hand, while the child’s father continued in his great fortune, at that very instant, would you look at her and say, “This is your fault, you know.” If you said yes to any of the above, please understand that your fight for Judy Lewis just turned into a war against her. While you continue to tear apart her mother, you’re showing girls that they still have to hide, be ashamed, and possibly even create more stories like Judy’s.

What I want to say to all of the girls out there who see comments from old male “film historians,” and the like is that the classic film community is not all like that. I started this blog because I felt different from other bloggers, felt like I wasn’t on par with their reputations. What I’m finding is that I do not want to be anything like a great portion of them. I am deeply ashamed of this community, at the present. From the ones who refuse to speak, lest they lose followers, to the ones who do, trashing reporters, families, etc. in their quest to exonerate their bro, that give all of us a bad name.
To the kids out there, just getting in to classic film, please know that there are those of us who do care to change the course. We do want to right the wrongs done to the incredible women who helped to get us a voice in conversation. Just because some voices are louder, more misogynistic, more apologetic to the males than the females does not mean that it will always be that way.
And, for the love of all things holy, do not let idiots who have nothing to add but shame convince you that you have anything to ever hide, from the world.

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7 thoughts on “an Open letter

  1. Kayla that is a profoundly moving and very direct blog and entirely true. Loretta Young was a brilliant actress, far better than many historians care to credit. Her best work easily stands the test of time and at the risk of repeating myself, the unanimous response form my film class to her performance in “The Bishop’s Wife” only supports that contention. While Cary and David Niven are wonderful parts of the film as is the great supporting cast, ultimately it is Loretta who is the heart and soul of the film. Without her it would be merely an enjoyable and lightweight piece of froth. You believe everything she says and it is a complete performance as are so many of those she committed to celluloid. Her diverse and very successful career including her Oscar, made many individuals jealous. In addition, her smooth transition to television where she set another standard for excellence, winning numerous awards along the way as well as a staggeringly large audience, only made that resentment greater. Finally, her deep and abiding faith in a town where such beliefs were often not admired but instead ridiculed. Some refused to believe that someone could have such great success and yet remain rooted in reality and steered by a faith that should have been an inspiration to all. They jumped at the Gable incident, preferring to use it as an indictment against Loretta and calling her, among other things, a hypocrite. Some allowed that attitude to spill over into their professional opinions of her work and allowed it to cloud their objectivity. So many of them are so filled with arrogance and a sense of self-importance that to backtrack now would be unheard of. The truth is, Loretta was able to successfully navigate not only the pitfalls of Hollywood but a personal life that was challenging at times including her courage during her final illness while sustaining a rich and rewarding attitude in great part because of her love for family and her faith. Those who dismiss her and chose to blame her for what happened or how she handled it, would prefer not reevaluating Loretta because it might force them to examine their own notions and ideas and realize that they lack that core of honor and faith.

    • Paul, now it’s your turn in making ME cry. Everything you said is just so spot on. Petty jealousies that turn ordinary folks into blatant liars, twisters of truths… it’s so obvious, to think about. Those myths, then, become the standard, and people become misguided into believing them. The thieves of truth lie with such conviction that you start to think they have a case.
      SERIOUSLY EMOTIONAL RIGHT NOW BEAR WITH ME. 🙂

  2. I’ve already said most of this on Facebook, but just to reiterate:

    I am not a particular fan of either Loretta or Clark, nor do I study either of them. I don’t have a dog in this fight, nor do I have the evidence to prove what’s true and what isn’t.

    HOWEVER:

    I do know that we should be able to discuss issues like this, as a classic film community, without automatically reverting to tired old stereotypes in which she probably Liked It anyway because she had sex This Other Time, and he’s so popular and attractive and thus, CLEARLY he’s not a rapist. Attractive people can be rapists. Women can enjoy sex and still be raped. Women can consent to sex with a man, yet still be raped by him days, weeks or months later. This situation has exposed some incredibly misogynistic and slut-shaming tendencies within the classic film community, often from people I wouldn’t have expected it from.

    But you’re right, and we have to reiterate that for the next generation of particularly female fans and scholars (and the two overlap, anyway – I don’t think any classic film scholar is not also a fan) – we can be feminists and fight against these attitudes AND be classic film fans and scholars at the same time. People do it every day. We’re trying. There’s some really awesome fans, amateur researchers, and academics out there who are NOT accepting this shit and who are trying to do film history without dragging harmful prejudices into it.

    ONCE MORE, UNTO THE BREACH, damn it.

    • As I said there, what is killing my soul is that, somehow, doing Key To The City was her “going back to him,” according to some. First of all, a woman staying with or going back to an abuser or philanderer of any sort is not an automatic case dismissal. What that is, is a long, incredibly important issue to examine of the history of women needing to serve, no matter what. Secondly, making two movies 15 years apart is not “going back to him” in any way, shape, or form. That’s doing one’s job, in the studio era. That’s having the titanium tits to look at Hollywood and go, “Who’s laughing now?” She could have been unprofessional and ruined both his career and hers, in that very instant. “No, I won’t do this movie because of What Happened Last Time.” AND SERIOUSLY WHO GIVES A HOT DAMN WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE, ON THAT SCREEN. I have a half a page of tl;dr text devoted to how ungodly romantic the Telegraph Hill scene is. SHE WAS A GOOD ACTRESS, HI, WHAT SHE GOT PAID TO DO?????
      But totes mcgoats, she’s a liar and a slutbag because she made a (probably much lower, tbh) paycheck and kept her three kids fed. GOD FORBID.

      • But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it – women’s choices are always under scrutiny, whether they make the “responsible”/expected choice to serve/keep their families fed/do what they must, or whether they choose to rebel and stand up that bullshit. Women are always, always, always doing something wrong, and they always have to pay the price.

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