Hollywood Legends on getTV in November
There’s plenty to be thankful for this month, as getTV celebrates the brightest stars in film history every Sunday night at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT. From the fierce independence of Loretta Young to the liberated sensuality of Brigitte Bardot and quiet masculinity of Steve McQueen, these actors left lasting legacies. And getTV shares their stories with fascinating retrospectives packed with home movies, contemporary interviews, and rarely seen film clips.
November 6 - Loretta Young: Hollywood's Heavenly Beauty
What was Loretta Young’s greatest role? Silent movie buffs will point to her breakout performance in 1928 – at age 14 – opposite Lon Chaney in Laugh Clown Laugh. Lovers of holiday movies may prefer her title role in The Bishop’s Wife, a charming romantic comedy with Cary Grant and David Niven. And fans of heartwarming family films will always shed a tear for The Farmer’s Daughter, which brought Young her first and only Oscar.
While these are enduring classics, none crackle with the relevance of Young’s work during Hollywood’s Pre-Code Era. From the transition to sound filmmaking in 1929 until enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines began in 1934, Young reigned supreme in bold, female-centric films. Her output during this period was prolific, with leading roles in many films that shocked audiences with frank depictions of gender inequity.
The best of these is Employees’ Entrance, a 1933 shocker in which Young’s character is seduced by a predatory boss (Warren William). Off-screen, the devoutly religious actress also had her share of complicated romantic entanglements with co-workers, including superstars Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power, and Clark Gable. Her relationship with the married Gable produced a daughter, a fact Young kept secret by putting the baby up for adoption – and then adopting her. She remained a single mother (a rarity in Hollywood at the time) for three years, until her marriage to producer Tom Lewis in 1940.
Despite rocky romances and a “greylisting” by Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck when she quit the studio to go freelance, Young’s career thrived. But after an Oscar nomination in 1950 for Come to the Stable, she made the unheard-of decision to take her talents to the new medium of television. The Loretta Young Show, an anthology series hosted by and occasionally starring the actress, became an NBC hit for eight seasons. Young co-produced the Emmy-winning show with Lewis, eventually taking over all production responsibilities when the couple separated. It was a fitting coda to a career that began with memorable portrayals of self-sufficient career women.
November 13 - Brigitte Bardot: Animal Magnetism
“I’ll be a serious actress when I’m older,” Brigitte Bardot told an interviewer in 1956. She’d soon make good on that promise, but first the 22-year-old Parisian had a world to conquer. Already popular with French audiences thanks to a string of frothy comedies, Bardot became an international sensation with Roger Vadim’s racy …And God Created Woman in 1957. As Juliete, a temptress who turns brother against brother, Bardot earned condemnation by the National Legion of Decency and a new nickname: “sex kitten.”
Behind it all was Vadim, who discovered Bardot as a teen model, married her at 17, and helped to craft her uninhibited persona with appearances (in various stages of undress) at the Cannes Film Festival. But the liberation he encouraged in front of the camera led to indiscretions behind it, and their marriage collapsed.
“I used to lead a libertine life and change husbands and lovers quite often” the still-provocative star (now 82) confesses in Brigitte Bardot: Animal Magnetism. In addition to Vadim and her Woman co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant, Bardot also had a liaison with actor Jacques Charrier, who she met while filming Babette Goes to War in 1959. The two married and had a child, but their life together nearly came to a tragic end in 1960 when Bardot attempted suicide during production of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Truth. Ironically, her character also tries to kill herself in that harrowing drama, which scored an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
Furthering Bardot’s rep as a “serious actress” was her work in Jon-Luc Godard’s Contempt in 1963 and a BAFTA-nominated performance in Louis Malle’s Viva Maria! in 1965. Critical acclaim, however, was increasingly accompanied by public condemnation of her behavior. American audiences still flocked to Bardot’s films, despite her refusal to accept starring roles in English-language productions. She finally agreed to a cameo in 1965 in Fox’s Dear Brigitte with James Stewart, but by the time she co-starred with Sean Connery in the Western Shalako in 1968, her career was on the decline. Bardot announced her retirement from film five years later at age 39, a promise many film fans wish she had not kept.
November 20 - Steve McQueen: Life in the Fast Lane
Audiences may not have realized they were witnessing the birth of a screen icon in 1958 when 28-year-old Steven McQueen battled The Blob. But the evidence was clear soon after, when the ruggedly handsome young actor was cast as Josh Randall on the Western TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive. Portraying a bounty hunter in the post-Civil War West, McQueen brought surprising nuance to a genre often populated with stock characters.
“It’s just an intuitive sort of thing,” the actor said of his low-key performance style in a 1962 interview featured in Steve McQueen: Life in the Fast Lane. In fact, he honed his trademark naturalism in the early 1950s whole studying with Sanford Meisner, the famed New York acting teacher whose mantra was to “live truthfully.” It’s McQueen’s truthfulness and contempt for hypocrisy that gave counter-culture relevance to films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Bullitt in the 1960s and keep them resonant for viewers today. But it’s The Thomas Crown Affair, which McQueen made with director Norman Jewison in 1968, that proves the Indiana farm boy was more than a one-trick pony.
“Steve worked on that harder than he worked on any other film,” biographer Marshall Terrill says in the documentary. “It was everything that he was not as an actor.”
McQueen may have personified truth on cinema screens, but he struggled to find it in his personal life. Drinking, drugs, and infidelity contributed to the dissolution of two marriages – including one to actress Ali McGraw that began with an affair during the making of The Getaway. After The Towering Inferno in 1974, McQueen stepped away from film, halting a meteoric rise that had taken him from low budget sci-fi to Hollywood’s highest perch. He spent the next six years enjoying life, refusing roles in blockbusters, and making a few small films until his untimely death from cancer at age 50. But even though his career was brief – 22 years from his first leading role until his last – he remains the defining male star of his era.
Celebrity retrospectives air Sunday nights at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT on getTV. And join us on Sunday, November 27 as we kick off the Holiday season with Perry Como’s Christmas In Paris.