Loretta Young movies on TCM
Loretta Young, whose movie stardom lasted a surprising quarter of a century, who then went on to become an Emmy-winning television star, and who would have turned 100 next Jan. 6, is Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Month of January 2013. On Wednesdays this month, TCM will be presenting a total of 38 Loretta Young films, going from the silent era to the early 1950s.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that TCM will be showing precious few Loretta Young movies that are truly rare. In fact, the vast majority of TCM’s presentations this month consists of movies Young made at Warner Bros. in the early 1930s and at RKO in the late 1940s – and nearly all of those have been easily available on TCM itself. Among the handful of exceptions are Fox entries Suez; Wife, Husband and Friend; and Kentucky; and the Columbia releases Platinum Blonde and Man’s Castle.
But don’t expect to get the chance to see Loretta Young in The Careless Age, The Forward Pass, The Man from Blankley’s, The Second Floor Mystery, The Devil to Pay, The White Parade, Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back, And Now Tomorrow, The Perfect Marriage, or Clive of India. Let alone her bit in the long-thought lost 1927 Colleen Moore vehicle Her Wild Oat.
Loretta Young: At her best in the early 1930s
Though generally little more than a poised, good-looking presence in her movies of the 1930s and 1940s, every now and then Loretta Young succeeded in displaying her comedic and/or dramatic sensibilities on screen. Despite a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in the 1947 light comedy The Farmer’s Daughter, Young was actually at her most naturalistic in her early, low-budget “programmers” of the ’30s. Her meatier roles from that period, e.g., those in Frank Bozarge’s Man’s Castle, William A. Wellman’s Midnight Mary, Roy Del Ruth’s Employees Entrance, will be shown in the upcoming weeks.
Among the Loretta Young movies TCM is presenting this evening, of chief interest are the capable Herbert Brenon’s Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), the only silent movie in the series, and Frank Capra’s Platinum Blonde (1931). In the former, the 15-year-old Young has little to do except look young and pretty while worshiped by count Nils Asther and clown Lon Chaney. Beautifully shot by James Wong Howe, Laugh, Clown, Laugh follows the usual Chaney formula: ugly older man with serious psychological hang ups falls for young, pretty, and innocent doll, who, in this case, also happens to be his adoptive daughter. No prizes for those who guess who’ll win Young’s heart at the end. I should add that Laugh, Clown, Laugh‘s crying / laughing scene – you’ll recognize it when you see it – will either make you applaud and cheer or cringe and curse at the screen.
As for Platinum Blonde, it’s a minor Frank Capra effort, chiefly of interest because of the presence of then fast-rising Jean Harlow in the title role. Young is the other woman in Robert Williams’ life, the “girl next door.” No prizes for those who guess who’ll win Williams’ heart at the end. By the way, the now largely forgotten Robert Williams died of complications from appendicitis right at the time Platinum Blonde was released.
More Loretta Young movies: ‘Taxi!,’ ‘Life Begins’
Taxi! goes by so fast you can’t quite tell whether or not the ride was worthwhile, whereas Life Begins seems to last several lifetimes. Both, however, are highly recommended as distinct examples of early ’30s filmmaking: one is rough and hard-hitting; the other – set in a maternity ward – is for the most part unabashedly sentimental. Another Life Begins “plus”: a cast that includes the handsome Eric Linden – generally an amiable but amateurish actor, but who is nothing short of fantastic in the his final scene – and capable supporting players Aline MacMahon and Glenda Farrell.
Surely, most audiences today would label the two-hour-plus The Show of Shows as The Chore of Chores. A typical early talkie extravaganza, The Show of Shows amounts to a series of vaudeville vignettes featuring just about every Warner Bros. performer under contract in 1929. But in spite of its excessive running time and several insufferable sequences, I much prefer The Show of Shows to MGM’s more famous The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Paramount’s Paramount on Parade. In my view, The Hollywood Revue‘s epoch-making “Singin’ in the Rain” notwithstanding, The Show of Shows features more tuneful songs and more entertaining musical numbers than its competitors.
One such number is “Meet My Sister,” in which Loretta Young is featured opposite one of her real-life sisters, Sally Blane. Other dueting siblings are Dolores Costello (Drew Barrymore’s grandmother) and Helene Costello (the leading lady in the first all-talkie feature, Lights of New York); Shirley Mason and former top Metro Pictures star Viola Dana; former MGM leading lady Marceline Day and Alice Day; pert Sally O’Neil and Molly O’Day; and newcomer Ann Sothern – cheating as Harriet Byron, the “sister” of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. leading lady Marion Byron. (Coincidentally, Ann Sothern – born Harriet Lake – did have a sister named Marion.)
Of interest: The Show of Shows’ prissy-acting host was at the time Barbara Stanwyck’s non-prissy, abusive husband. The couple were divorced in December 1935.
Loretta Young TCM movie schedule
Tonight’s Loretta Young movie schedule (ET) from the Turner Classic Movies website:
- 8:00 PM LAUGH. CLOWN. LAUGH (1928). Director: Herbert Brenon. Cast: Lon Chaney. Loretta Young. Nils Asther. Black and white. 74 mins.
- 9:30 PM PLATINUM BLONDE (1931). Director: Frank Capra. Cast: Loretta Young. Robert Williams. Jean Harlow. Black and white. 89 mins.
- 11:15 PM TAXI! (1932). Director: Roy Del Ruth. Cast: James Cagney. Loretta Young. George E. Stone. Black and white. 69 mins.
- 12:30 AM LIFE BEGINS (1932). Director: James Flood. Cast: Loretta Young. Eric Linden. Aline MacMahon. Glenda Farrell. Preston Foster. Black and white. 71 mins.
- 1:45 AM THE SQUALL (1929). Director: Alexander Korda. Cast: Loretta Young. Richard Tucker. Alice Joyce. Myrna Loy. Zasu Pitts. Black and white. 102 mins.
- 3:45 AM THE SHOW OF SHOWS (1929). Director: John G. Adolfi. Cast: Frank Fay. Loretta Young. Richard Barthelmess. Myrna Loy. John Barrymore. Dolores Costello. H.B. Warner. Mary Astor. Betty Compson. Sally Blane. Ann Sothern. Viola Dana. Marceline Day. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Jacqueline Logan. Jack Mulhall. Rin Tin Tin. Sally O’Neil. Shirley Mason. Carmel Myers. Grant Withers. Alberta Vaughn. Lois Wilson. Alice Day. Nick Lucas. Bull Montana. Helene Costello. Marion Byron. Ben Turpin. Alice White. Color. 124 mins.
- 6:00 AM LOOSE ANKLES (1930). Director: Ted Wilde. Cast: Loretta Young. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Louise Fazenda. Eddie Nugent. Inez Courtney. Otis Harlan. Black and white. 67 mins.
- 7:15 AM I LIKE YOUR NERVE (1931). Director: William McGann. Cast: Douglas Fairbanks Jr.. Loretta Young. Henry Kolker. Boris Karloff. Black and white. 62 mins.
- 8:30 AM ROAD TO PARADISE (1930). Director: William Beaudine. Cast: Loretta Young. Jack Mulhall. Raymond Hatton. Kathlyn Williams. George Barraud. Black and white. 75 mins.
- 10:00 AM THE TRUTH ABOUT YOUTH (1930). Director: William Seiter. Cast: Loretta Young. David Manners. Conway Tearle. Myrna Loy. J. Farrell MacDonald. Myrtle Stedman. Black and white. 67 mins.
Loretta Young images via Doctor Macro.