Giants Of Old Hollywood | EW.com

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Giants Of Old Hollywood

LORETTA YOUNG 1.6.1913 – 8.12.2000

– Born Gretchen Michaela Young. ”Gretch,” as friends and family called her, was an upwardly mobile 22-year-old starlet when she made the worst career move imaginable in 1930s Hollywood: She got pregnant by a married costar (Clark Gable). In an era when studios enforced morality clauses in contracts, out-of-wedlock babies were instant deal breakers. Unwilling to have an abortion, Young pretended that her daughter, Judy Lewis, was adopted. Young finally publicly acknowledged Lewis was her biological daughter in an authorized biography, published posthumously last November. It was a fittingly long-repressed capper to a career that turned on Young’s sexy appeal in paradoxically sweet roles, including the holiday-TV staple The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and her Oscar-nominated turn as a nun in Come to the Stable (1949). These homey pageants of religious uplift complemented Young’s devout Roman Catholicism off screen, but some sniffed at the symmetry. ”I think Loretta alienated some people,” says biographer Joan Wester Anderson. ”They called her ‘Saint Loretta.”’ Still, most of the public remembers Young pirouetting in chic gowns as she introduced her weekly anthology TV series, which ran from 1953 to 1961. The show helped reshape her image as a movie-screen saint into that of household-name glamour gal. ESSENTIAL WORK A Night to Remember (1943), The Stranger (1946), The Farmer’s Daughter (1947)

JEAN PETERS 10.15.1926 – 10.13.2000

– Born Elizabeth Jean Peters. At the height of her career as a foil to such headliners as Tyrone Power (Captain from Castile), Peters often had to fend off fans. But she had a great dodge. ”Are you Jean Peters?” the fans would ask. She’d answer, ”Who is Jean Peters?” The question seemed prophetic once the Ohio-bred beauty – who came to Hollywood after winning a screen test – married Howard Hughes in the mid-’50s. She soon became nearly as reclusive as he. Though Peters made TV appearances after their 1971 divorce, she’s best remembered as a contract player whose plucked-from-the-heartland arc epitomized studio-manufactured stardom. ESSENTIAL WORK Pickup on South Street (1953)

CLAIRE TREVOR 3.8.1909 – 4.8.2000

– Born Claire Wemlinger. Specializing in hard-boiled dames, Trevor played many a frowsy-blowsy moll. ”She was one of my best lessons in acting,” recalls Ricardo Montalban, who appeared with her in 1952’s My Man and I. Indeed, the way his Khan character plagued Captain Kirk was nothing compared with the needlings Trevor doled out. A magnificent tirade against Edward G. Robinson’s mobster in 1948’s Key Largo won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Trevor lamented that she never graduated to glossier leads, but it’s her very air of world-weariness in such B-movie greats as Raw Deal (1948) that made her a second-banana touchstone. ESSENTIAL WORK Stagecoach (1939), Murder, My Sweet (1944)

RICHARD FARNSWORTH 9.1.1920 – 10.6.2000

– In the mid-’70s, expert rider Farnsworth was ready to hang up his spurs after nearly four decades of stunt work in about 300 movies and TV shows. Then his wife convinced him he should ignore worries about his dyslexia and take his first major speaking role for director Alan J. Pakula in the 1978 Western Comes a Horseman. What a career giddyup that turned out to be: Farnsworth lassoed a Best Supporting Actor nod, and a late-blooming star was born. In February 2000, he became the oldest Best Actor nominee ever for his soulful work in The Straight Story. All those years of standing in for taciturn types (he doubled for Henry Fonda in 1957’s The Tin Star) gave Farnsworth an outward stoicism that played perfectly against the charm and impish good humor that he broadcast through his sparkling blue eyes. What you saw on screen in his gentlemanly roles – he despised the cussin’ he had to do for tougher parts – was pretty much unfiltered Farnsworth. ”He was such a cowboy in real life,” says Megan Follows, who played the titular orphan opposite Farnsworth in the 1986 miniseries Anne of Green Gables. ”He wore boots and cut-tight jeans and a big old belt buckle and a cowboy hat and a bolo tie.” Gables writer-producer Kevin Sullivan concurs: ”His charisma came from the fact that he let his own soul shine through in his characters.” ESSENTIAL WORK Comes a Horseman (1978), The Grey Fox (1982), The Straight Story (1999)