Saturday, 3 December 2011



Judy Lewis, the secret daughter of film stars Loretta Young and Clark Gable, has died of cancer. She was 76.

Young and Gable had a brief affair while filming Call of the Wild on location in 1935. Judy was conceived on the train back to Hollywood. Gable, married to much-older Texas socialite Ria Langham, was notorious for bedding his leading ladies. Young was a once-divorced, yet naive 22 year old, and a devout Catholic. To be an unmarried mother in 1930s Hollywood would have been a massive scandal and the end of her career, yet as a Catholic she could not reconcile herself with the idea of an abortion.

Loretta Young & Clark Gable in Call of the Wild (1935)

Judy believed her mother didn't inform Gable that she was carrying his child. She finished her commitments on Cecil B. DeMille's The Crusades, then when she began to show "disappeared" from Hollywood for several months, travelling to England and returning to LA just before the baby was born in November 1935. Newspapers reported costly delays on films 20th Century Fox had lined up for the popular star, then earning around $200,000 a year, and Loretta blamed an "illness" she had suffered since childhood. When she was born, baby Judy was immediately placed into an orphanage away from public scrutiny. Loretta returned to Hollywood to finish work on Ramona and begin filming Ladies in Love with Constance Bennett.

Loretta Young with Constance Bennett in Ladies in Love (1936)

Two years later, Young's mother drove out to the orphanage, picked up Judy, and Loretta announced to columnist Louella Parsons that she had "adopted" a child. In 1940 she married producer Tom Lewis, and had two other sons. Gable married film star Carole Lombard after Ria Langham divorced him, and they were married until Lombard's death in a plane crash in 1942.

Loretta Young and Clark Gable reunited in 1950 to film Key to the City
Gable and Young saw each other only socially in the years that followed. In 1950 they made another film together, Key to the City. It's believed Loretta may have told Clark about their daughter during this time, as he turned up unannounced to her house one Sunday to meet Judy, who was now 15. They exchanged small talk, he kissed her on the forehead, then left. 

Judy Lewis in the 1970s
Judy could not have looked more like both her mother and her father. She had inherited Gable's large ears, and remembered as a baby Young continually pulling a bonnet over her ears whenever they would go out in public. At age 7 she underwent an operation to have them pinned back. But people still talked. 

Judy was in her 20s and engaged to be married when her future husband Joseph Tinney told her that her famous parentage was the talk of Hollywood and Gable was her real father. Several years later, she confronted her mother, who excused herself, vomited, and returned admitting the story was true. By this time it was too late for a relationship with her father, as Clark Gable had died five years earlier.

Judy Lewis with Loretta Young in the 1960s

Judy wrote a book in 1994 on the story, entitled Uncommon Knowledge. Young refused to speak to her for three years for breaking her silence, but they reconciled before her death from ovarian cancer in 2000. In her official biography, published posthumously, Young confirmed that the story was true. 

Judy had a brief career on television in several soap operas and later became a psychotherapist, based in Los Angeles, specialising in foster care and marriage therapy. She is survived by a daughter and two grandsons. 

I'll give the last word on this one to Marlene Dietrich who, according to her daughter Maria Riva, hated Loretta Young more than anyone else in Hollywood: "Every time she sins, she builds another church!"


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