Judy Lewis, the secret daughter of actor Clark Gable and actress Loretta Young, has died at age 76 in the Philadelphia suburb of Gladwyne, Penn.
For the first 19 months of her life, Lewis was shunted through orphanages and various hideaways, unaware of the identity of her parents and taken to be an abandoned orphan by her caretakers.
It was three decades when she was adopted by screen star Loretta Young that the pieces finally began falling into place: Young was actually her birth mother, and screen legend Clark Gable was her father.
Web of Secrecy
Judy Lewis would spend much of her life untangling the elaborate web her mother had constructed around her pregnancy.
Loretta Young was a rising movie star in a time when being pregnant out of wedlock was both unacceptable and career-ruining. So when she became pregnant at 22 by Clark Gable, a married man, during their filming of The Call of the Wild, Young resorted to desperate measures to keep her lfie afloat.
Unwilling to abort her unwanted pregnancy or completely give up the child, Loretta Young instead decided to hide her pregnancy, and her resulting daughter, until she could adopt her child without arousing tabloid suspicions. She told gossip columnist Louella Parsons that she had adopted a child whom she loved like her own, and her career was saved.
The ruse held for her daughter as well as for the public all the way until 1966, when Judy Lewis was 31. Confused and suspicious of her mother's story, Lewis confronted Young, who tearfully confessed the entire affair.
'It all came pouring out.'
Lewis grew up to be an actress herself, according to MSNBC. In an autobiography she wrote in 1994, Uncommon Knowledge, she finally revealed the truth to the rest of the world.
Frank about her mother's imperfections and sometimes difficult personality, Judy Lewis reveals that their relationship had grown increasingly strained in the years leading up to Loretta Young's confession.
Young disapproved of her daughter's choice to act in the '50s soaps, and her focus on her career and Catholic faith made their bond ever more fragile. In 1966, when young refused to attend her granddaughter's wedding, something snapped.
It all came pouring out, Lewis wrote. All the years of hurt and abandonment, all the feelings of not belonging, of being an outsider in my own family.
'I was frantic and terrified.'
Nonetheless, after Loretta Young's tearful confession, Judy Lewis found she was better able to understand her mercurial mother. Her motivations for hiding the truth were motivated not only by her and Gable's careers but by her faith and the intimidating reach of the Hayes Code.
When I discovered I was pregnant with you, I was frantic and terrified, Young told Lewis. It would have ruined both our careers, a scandal like that.
Insight into Gable
Young also gave her some insight into her father. Clark Gable died in 1960, six years before Judy Lewis learned the truth about her parentage.
Well, he was your father, Young said. He was darling. Sweet, and very gentle.
Lewis is survived by her daughter, three half-brothers and her partner, Steve Rowland.