Loretta wasn’t placating her friend. She was so sure she would not be chosen that she had discouraged everyone in the family from attending the ceremony. Judy, Loretta’s daughter, would be allowed to stay up late and listen to it on the radio. And Georgie and Ricardo, her sister and brother-in-law, had insisted on coming, because they felt someone ought to be around to console Loretta. But since the Montalbans’ seats were way in the back, Tom would be the only family member nearby, and that’s just the way Loretta wanted it. (Original plans had called for the Lewises to attend with Dore Schary and his wife but, at the last minute, Miriam Schary got the flu, and Dore didn’t want to leave her. Instead, he gave his tickets to some good friends, who would sit with Loretta and Tom.) Loretta’s only concession to a possible win was the preparation of an acceptance speech, which she had asked Tom to write. “I was so used to following scripts that I felt uneasy talking extemporaneously at an event like this, especially if I bawled and looked unprofessional,” she said. “So I told Tom how I felt, and he wrote it, and I memorized it. Then I forgot it.”
Now the limousine sped through the Hollywood streets. Loretta was excited and nervous, but enjoying every minute. “Our driver happened to pass the Deluxe Theater, where we boarding house kids had gone to all those Saturday matinees.” It seemed like a hundred years ago. Who could have imagined her life now?
The awards were given at the huge Shrine Auditorium, which seated about 6000 people, and the stage seemed to go on forever. It was darkened except for lights following those who walked across it, and there were great white, tiered shelves holding the statues, grouped around a 30-foot Oscar. Today, the Best Picture award closes the ceremony, but in those days, it was presented third-to-last, followed by the Best Leading Actor award, and finally, the Best Leading Actress.
“We had sat through the whole event, and amazingly, every Daily Variety poll winner had also won the actual award,” Loretta said. “There was no suspense remaining for the final two Oscars.” As predicted, Ronald Coleman won the Best Actor award. Then it was the women’s turn. People began gathering their coats. Rosalind Russell, then on to the parties… Frederic March stepped to the microphone, and announced the final award. “And the winner is… ” he opened the envelope, “Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter!”
The entire audience gasped. Then Georgie, from somewhere in the back, yelled, “Oh-h-h, Gretch!” The auditorium erupted in astonished applause.
Tom pushed Loretta out of her chair. “Go get it! Go get it!” He laughed. She flew up the stage stairs in absolute shock. Was this a dream? Had she done it? And where was Roz?
By the time she got to the stage, however, she could see Roz. She was standing, leading the applause. Loretta was overwhelmed. And what had she been planning to say? Her mind was a blank. “Holy Spirit, help me!” she prayed. And suddenly, the words were there. “The Academy Awards has always been a spectator sport for me,” she began as the clapping died away. “But tonight I dressed for the stage, just in case!” Everyone laughed. “And as for you,” Loretta held up Oscar, “at long last!” She kissed it, said “good night, and God bless you,” and walked in a daze off the stage.
Jean Hersholt, the Academy president, was standing in the wings with his arms out. “Oh, Jean!” she gasped, “isn’t this wonderful?”