A rare treat for Loretta Young fans: A film festival in her honor in Stuart

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Young always made time for her fans, so now her fans get a rare treat: A film festival in her honor.
Posted: 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A reliable presence on movie and TV screens for almost half a century, actress Loretta Young is a film festival no-brainer. “People forget how Loretta was part of our culture for so long,” says John Loesser, executive director of Stuart’s Lyric Theatre, which will
present the Loretta Young Film Festival starting Friday. “It just seemed a natural for us to try it.”

A natural, in part, because Loretta’s son, Christopher, and daughterin-law, Linda, live in Jensen Beach and were excited to loan their
memories and memorabilia to an event celebrating a woman wellloved, and well-liked. “Mom had a very nice manner about her. She would stop and talk to everybody, and she signed autographs till almost the day she died,” says Christopher Lewis.

Adds Linda Lewis, “She was the most remarkable mother-in-law, too. When do you get that with a movie star?” 

Born in 1913, Young made almost 100 movies from 1917 to 1953, the same year she began an eight-season run of “The Loretta Young Show,” the Emmy-winning drama anthology. “In the jobs she took, she kept up with the times, and she was very dedicated to her business,” says Christopher Lewis. “And, she knew when to get off the stage,” retiring from acting after the end of a second, short-lived TV series in 1963.

Beginning Friday, the Lyric will show four films from the golden era of Young’s silver-screen work:

“The Farmer’s Daughter:”
In this 1947 comedy, Young is a Swedish maid who becomes a congresswoman, “so that was an unusual story for the time,”
Christopher Lewis says. ”But it’s got a lot of parallels to today.”

The smart money was on Rosalind Russell to win the Best Actress Oscar for “Mourning Becomes Electra,” but Young picked up the prize for “Farmer’s Daughter” instead.

“The Stranger:” Young plays a Connecticut housewife unwittingly married to a Nazi (Orson Welles) being pursued by War Crimes Commission investigator (Edward G. Robinson) in this 1946 film noir.

“If you asked Mom about ‘The Stranger,’ she’d say, ‘I never knew what that movie was about’,” says Christopher Lewis. “She was tremendous in that movie, and it’s one of the more modern movies we’re showing — and more modern because it was directed by Orson Welles.”

“Midnight Mary:” “So many people think of Loretta — wrongly think of her — as a goody two shoes,” says Linda Lewis, Young’s daughter-in-law. “But in ‘Midnight Mary’ she’s a gun moll and goes to jail. It’s a really different role for her. It’s not your mother’s Loretta.”

By the time Young appeared in this 1933 William Wellman suspenser, “she’d already done 50 movies,” Linda Lewis says. “She was 20 years old. She was such a pro at such a young age.”

“The Bishop’s Wife:” Everyone on the set of this 1947 film, now a Christmastime favorite, knew everyone else, says Christopher Lewis. “It was like Old Home Week.”

Young had co-starred with Cary Grant in 1934’s “Born to Be Bad,” and when David Niven moved to Los Angeles, he rented an apartment over the Young family garage. “They had all grown up in the industry together,” Christopher Lewis says.

On Sunday, the festival will conclude with “A Conversation About Loretta Young,” featuring home movies and clips from her TV show.
Over the weekend, the Lyric will display a small selection of Loretta Young memorabilia —her Oscar and an Emmy, gowns and glamour
photos, jewelry and love letters — and each film will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the Lewises.

On Saturday and Sunday nights, festivalgoers are invited to join the couple a few doors away from the Lyric at The Gafford for an intimate, Hollywood-themed dinner. “It could be Clark Gable salad,” Loesser quips, a reference to Young’s “Call of the Wild” co-star and the father of their daughter, Judy.

“Stuart is great place to do this,” Loesser says. “It’s such an eclectic audience. When we do ‘Gone With the Wind’ here, there’s a waiting list. And I can bring in some obscure foreign film, and people will try that, too, which is lovely.”

The Lyric typically shows classic movies each summer, but its screen will go dark for several months as workers complete a $1 million
renovation of the 1926 theater. When the venue reopens in mid-November, Loesser says, “it will look like a gorgeous concert hall.”

Loretta Young Film Festival, Friday through Sunday,
Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart, 772-286-7827,

Screening Times:
“The Farmer’s Daughter,” 7 p.m. Friday
“The Stranger,” 2 p.m. Saturday
“Midnight Mary,” 5 p.m. Saturday
“The Bishop’s Wife,” 2 p.m. Sunday
“A Conversation About Loretta Young,” featuring film and TV clips,
home movies and more, 5 p.m. Sunday
Tickets to individual screenings are $15; a weekend pass to all five is