Every week my grandmother had to watch the Loretta Young TV show. Like thousands of women, she tuned in just to see what fashions the great movie star Loretta Young would wear. Each show opened with Loretta literally twirling through a doorway into the program wearing a different designer gown. Way before consumers had the chance to watch runway fashions on a livestream via the Internet, Loretta bought fashion directly into the mainstream with her TV show. Fashion and glamour were a big part of her life and her image. “Glamour is something you can’t bear to be without once you’re used to it,” said Loretta Young. She proved it by wearing designers like Christian Dior, Daniel Werle, William Travilla and Jean Louis.
Loretta Young died in 2000, but her spirit and style have been bought back to life in a new exhibit at the Hollywood Museum which opened this week. I was privileged to attend the opening night gala for a “Loretta Young: 100 years of Glamour & Grace” celebrating the 100 year anniversary of Loretta’s birthday. The exhibit is on display until April 28th at the old Max Factor Building (now the Hollywood Museum) where Loretta once worked as the first Max Factor make-up model. Loretta’s friends, family and former co-stars (The Riflemen’s Johnny Crawford) were on hand to celebrate Loretta’s life and legacy. This exhibit is a must see for both fans of Hollywood and fashion lovers. On display are Loretta’s gowns, her handbags, her hats, even her sewing patterns and sewing machine. Loretta loved fashion so much, she even sewed some of her own clothes (including her caftans) and lent her name to a line of sewing patterns.
But this exhibit is much more than fashion. There are pieces of Loretta’s life, heartaches and passions on display as well as beautiful dresses. A steamy love letter she wrote to actor Spencer Tracy when she was in her early 20s is beautifully preserved and fully legible. In the words of fashion and film blogger Kimberly Truhler of GlamAmor, “it is hot!” Significantly, there are no love letters to Clark Gable, the father of Loretta’s daughter Judy Lewis, on display.
The exhibit was a labor of love for Loretta’s daughter-in-law, Linda Lewis who worked tirelessly to collect Loretta memorabilia from private collections. She also worked with style consultant Karen Noske to refresh and sometimes recreate fashions Loretta wore. So how did all this come about? I interviewed Ms. Noske to get the back story on this exhibit.
Attendees at the opening party shared fond memories of Loretta Young and her positive spirit. Actor Johnny Crawford of The Rifleman, had worked with Loretta and appeared with her on the Loretta Young show. “I was intimidated by her, because she was such a professional, “says Mr. Crawford. “But I enjoyed working with her.” He pointed to her “Recipe for Life,” hand written on a card in a case at the exhibit, which prescribes ” Think Big, talk little, love much, laugh easily, give freely, pay cash and be kind.” Mr. Crawford, like many others at the event spoke, highly of Loretta’s generosity and her work ethic.