Born Gretchen Young, her family moved to Hollywood and she began appearing (at age four) as a child extra in movies, as did her sisters (one of whom later became known as actress Sally Blane). At 14, she got a small supporting role in Naughty But Nice (1927), which led to a screen contract. She moved quickly from teenager to ingénue to leading lady roles, appearing in many films and successfully making the transition to the sound era. By the mid-'30s, she was an established star, usually cast in decorative roles in routine programmers. For her work in The Farmer's Daughter (1947) she won the Best Actress Oscar, and was nominated again for Come to the Stable (1949). After a consistently busy screen career of 25 years, she retired from films in 1953 to host the TV series The Loretta Young Show, a weekly half-hour teleplay; she appeared in about half of the show's episodes, winning three Emmy Awards. Since the early '60s, she has devoted most of her energies to Catholic charities. She has been married twice. In 1930, she made headlines when, at age 17, she eloped with actor Grant Withers. However, the marriage was annulled after a year. She later married producer and writer Thomas Lewis, from whom she eventually separated. She authored the memoir The Things I Had to Learn (1961). After NBC unlawfully broadcast her TV shows abroad, she sued the network in 1972 and won 600,000 dollars.
- Sister-in-law to Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban.
- Made her movie debut at age 4 in The Primrose Ring (1917).
- Eloped with her first husband, Grant Withers, when she was 17 years old. The marriage was annulled the following year, which happened to be the same year the pair appeared together in the film Too Young to Marry.
- As a devout Catholic, attended church every day and fined actors who cursed on her set.
- Daughter Judy Lewis was conceived as a result of an affair with The Call of the Wild costar Clark Gable. Lewis was born in secrecy and later "adopted" by Young so as to avoid scandal.