In many ways, Gretch is still the skinny little girl who used to crawl into my bed at night, at the convent, whispering “Let me sleep with you, Bet, I’m lonely!”, the loyal child who’d go stand with me, face to the wall, when I was punished.She’s become strong, yes, and determined. At a time when most women slow down, she went into television with all the acceleration it demands.
When she’s in a hurry, she’s not always gentle. She won’t explain. But there’s nothing untouchable or aloof about her. If she’s in a room full of actresses, she’ll out-actress all of them. If she’s with family or friends or just people, the transition is immediate. She’s no actress, but a woman- eager, sympathetic, warm, and very sensitive.
-Quote from sister, Sally Blane, in a TV Radio Mirror article about Loretta, March 1963
I’m kind of quote crazy, lately. The one above sums up Loretta so well, though, that I simply had to write about it, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, for fans.
In a few days, a new fiction novel will be released, which includes Loretta as a main character. I find the book to be wholly objectionable, given the angle the author has chosen to take, not to mention the fact that not once did she reach out to any member of Loretta’s family, nor did she consult the children of Loretta’s sisters, Polly Ann, Sally, and Georgiana, as they will also figure into and be characterized, in the book. Nonetheless, this is fiction, and I have to accept that. I will read it, probably throw it across the room a few times (like I do, and I do), and life will go on. It scares the bejeezus out of me, though, that some other shady nonsense came about from a work of fiction, too. On that fact, however, I digress.
My point, today, is that Loretta was very sensitive to the feelings of others. She respected when people were angry, even at her, and did not hesitate to take blame for things. Also, she was incredibly strong, a survivor and a fighter before people acknowledged that was a thing a woman could be. She was a true trailblazer for women’s rights and equality, whether she knew it or not, and yet… with no regard for her, so many people want to trivialize her accomplishments and her career into nothing more than a few romances. It angers me to no end that so few people will choose the charity aspect to be inspired by (to those who have, rock on with yourselves because that is the best), or that tough as nails lady that stood up to sponsors who wanted to control the message of her show. Where is she? Is she hiding behind a curtain? No, of course not- anyone can find the article I posted the quote from, with a Media History Digital Library search. And you know what the whole purpose of that story was? To speculate on whether she was going to divorce Tom Lewis. It amazes me at how little times have changed. Instead of the masses looking past her outer shell of beauty and glamour, they would much rather marginalize her to nothing BUT that pretty face, who they believe cannot exist outside the world of men.
The real Loretta Young would fight for or alongside just about anyone, apologize at a moment’s notice, if she felt she had done something wrong or, hell, even when she hadn’t but still kind of felt like she should have done more to prevent something, and keep on a brave face while doing so. She cared for and about people, and her genuine warmth and caring made those around her want to take care of her, too. But she wasn’t fragile. She wasn’t someone who we now need to go back and rewrite as a stock female lead in a crappy romance novel. She played, and was bored by, plenty of those, on screen. She had some incredibly unfortunate experiences, in her life, and other than wishing she’d spent more time with her children, I doubt she regretted anything.
So please, give Loretta the courtesy of being sensitive to her, for once. As I’ve said before, why would we try to change her? How would we change her? And instead of working our imaginations to change history, how about we pick up something we like and look into that. Gretchen Young was more than 1935. She was a light and a force, and inspirational in so very many ways.