Thursday, January 31, 2013
Loretta in One Word---Devout
It's been a fun month celebrating the lovely Loretta Young. I've enjoyed discovering some of her early 30's films and re-acquainting myself with some of her later films. It's also been delightful reading through her authorized biography, Forever Young, The Life, Loves, and Enduring Faith of a Hollywood Legend, and as I close both the book and the month devoted to her, one word comes to mind...one word which summarizes Loretta's life and career...and that word is devout.
Miss Young wasn't a perfect woman by any means. She had her faults, and she made her share of mistakes; however, she was a devout Catholic, whose commitment to God and His ways gave her a desire to live a righteous, upstanding, moral life. She knew that, in the public eye as she was, she would have influence on others, and she wanted that influence to be positive.
With the exception of 1934's Born to Be Bad---a film in which her character encourages her young son to lie and cheat and, also, unashamedly seduces the married Cary Grant---I have never known Loretta to portray a less than honorable woman. In every film of hers that I've seen, she has been decent, kind, and oftentimes, gentle...and now I know why. Early in her career, her priest told her, "You have chosen a very public profession, Loretta....one through which you will be able to exert influence on others for better or worse....what does the Bible say? Rather than give bad example, you should have a stone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Extreme, yes, but if you're not going to live according to your faith, you should at least get out of the movie business." Through Father Ward's words Loretta began to realize that she needed to take seriously the influence she had on others. "After that, she never wanted to play evil people in movies, or wear immodest costumes or do drape art (revealing photography shots)."
One rather comical way her commitment to decency and morality played out was during the filming of Come to the Stable, when she instituted the "swear box." From the start of her career, Loretta had been bothered by profanity on the set---especially when the profanity was blasphemous towards God; however, early in her career, she hadn't the clout to do anything about it. By the time Come to the Stable was filmed, Loretta was an Academy Award-winning star and was in a position to have a bit of pull; thus, the "swear box" was born. With fines being charged for swearing and blasphemy and the money earned being donated to a Catholic maternity home, the box helped change the atmosphere on the set. After that, Loretta chose to make the "swear box" a fixture on the films she made.
Over and over throughout her career, Loretta would have to fight the studio over her religious convictions. From refusing to have an abortion (of her second son, with whom she discovered she was pregnant as arrangements were being made for a movie about Elizabeth Blackwell) to turning down scripts which glorified adultery, Loretta sought to live what she believed. She didn't have just a "words only" faith; instead her actions bore her words out. With very few stars (then or now) seeking to live by any kind of moral code, Loretta is a bright light in a world of darkness. Her faith and integrity are beautiful to behold. As a woman of faith seeking to live by godly principles myself, I appreciate her example.
All this to say, Forever Young is a totally lovely read. If you enjoy positive, uplifting, inspiring life stories, rather than juicy, scandalous, gossipy ones, then you're sure to find this book completely delightful.
NOTE: All information and direct quotations derived from Forever Young, the Life, Loves, and Enduring Faith of a Hollywood Legend, by Joan Wester Anderson, Thomas More Publishing, 2000.