photo by Everett Collection
Lewis was conceived while Young was unwed and Gable was married to his second wife, Maria Langham. The two were filming "The Call of the Wild." Their affair resulted in a super secret pregnancy and a hush-hush birth. The actress left her love child at an orphanage for 19 months, returning only then to adopt her. Clearly, this was long before the Internet, DNA testing, or baby daddies.
To add to the mystery, Young kept her daughter in the dark about her family history. Born on November 6, 1935, Judy was eventually raised by her mother and Young's husband, Tom Lewis, whose last name she took. Lewis never did have a relationship with her biological father, although when she was 15, Gable visited her without telling her why. It took 31 years for her to learn the truth, which her mother told her privately but would not admit to publicly.
As Lewis told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1994, when she finally wrote a memoir of her parents' romance and subsequent cover-up: "It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted ... by my mother, who to this day will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child."
Loretta Young and Judy Lewis (photo by Everett Collection)
In fact, Lewis resembled her dad, and according to the New York Times, she was teased in school because her ears "stuck out like Dumbo's. Or, as Hollywood rumors had it, they stuck out like Clark Gable's." Her mother hid them under hats, and had her daughter undergo plastic surgery at age 7 to make them less Gable-like.
The daughter of Hollywood royalty first followed an acting career, with roles in "General Hospital," but left the theatrical world to become a therapist. By the time she was a young woman, it was an open "secret" that her father was Clark Gable. Even her husband, Joe Tinney, told her before he married her that it was "common knowledge" that Gable was her dad, but she didn't believe him.
In her 1994 memoir, "Uncommon Knowledge," Lewis notes that her mother's career would have ended if she had admitted to the out-of-wedlock birth. In her book, Young, who was Catholic, tells her, "Wouldn't you [be unhappy] if you were a movie star and the father of your child was a movie star and you couldn't have an abortion because it was a mortal sin?"
Lewis is survived by her daughter, two grandsons, and two half-brothers -- and a solid place in Hollywood lore.
- Clark Gable
- Clark Gable