Loretta Young and Clark Gable were the romantic leads of the 1935 Twentieth Century Pictures film The Call of the Wild. Young was then 22 years old; Gable was 34 and married to Maria “Ria” Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham. During filming, Young became pregnant by Gable.
Young did not want to damage her career or Gable’s. She knew that if Twentieth Century Pictures found out about the pregnancy, they would pressure her to have an abortion; Young, a devout Catholic, considered abortion a mortal sin. Young, her sisters, and her mother came up with a plan to hide the pregnancy and then pass off the child as adopted. When Young’s pregnancy began to advance, she went on a “vacation” to England. After returning to California, she gave an interview from her bed, covered in blankets; at that time, she stated that her long movie absence was due to a condition she had had since childhood. Young gave birth to a daughter, Judith, on November 6, 1935, in Venice, California. Young named Judith after St. Jude because he was the patron saint of (among other things) difficult situations. Weeks after her birth, Judith was placed in an orphanage. Judith spent the next 19 months in various “hideaways and orphanages” before being re-united with her mother; Young then claimed that she had adopted Judith. After Young married Tom Lewis, Judith took Lewis’s last name.
Few in Hollywood were fooled by the ruse. Judith (Judy) Lewis bore a strong resemblance to Gable, and her true parentage was widely rumored in entertainment circles. When Lewis was 31 years old, she confronted Young about her parentage; Young privately admitted that she was Lewis’s birth mother, stating that Lewis was “a walking mortal sin”. Young refused to confirm or comment publicly on the rumors until 1999, when Joan Wester Anderson wrote Young’s authorized biography. In interviews with Anderson for the book, Young stated that Lewis was her biological child and the product of a brief affair with Gable. Young would not allow the book to be published until after her death.
In 2015, Linda Lewis, the wife of Young’s son, Christopher, stated publicly that in 1998, a then-85-year-old Young had told Lewis that Gable had raped her. According to Linda Lewis, Young added that no consensual intimate contact had occurred between Gable and herself. Young had never disclosed the rape to anyone. Lewis stated that Young shared this information only after learning of the concept of date rape from watching Larry King Live; she had previously believed it was a woman’s job to fend off men’s amorous advances and had perceived her inability to thwart Gable’s attack as a moral failing on her part. Linda Lewis said that the family remained silent about Young’s rape claim until after both Young and Judy Lewis had died. (Wikipedia)
Judy Lewis was born on November 6, 1935 in Venice, California. She was conceived while her birth parents, Loretta Young and Clark Gable, were working on the film The Call of the Wild. Gable was married at the time of Lewis’ conception, and Young concealed her pregnancy to avoid scandal. Weeks after her birth, Lewis was placed in an orphanage. Lewis would spend the next 19 months in various “hideaways and orphanages” before being reunited with her mother. Young then claimed that she had adopted Lewis. When Lewis was four years old, Young married radio producer Tom Lewis, and Judy took his last name.
Lewis bore a striking resemblance to Gable, including having ears that stuck out. When Lewis was seven years old, Young had her undergo a painful operation to pin her ears back in another attempt to hide her real parentage. When Lewis was fifteen, Gable came to her mother’s house to visit her briefly. Gable asked Lewis about her life and then, upon leaving, kissed her on her forehead. It was the only time that Lewis ever spoke to Gable, and at the time, she had no idea that he was her father.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she wrote in her memoir. “He was right in front of me, and he was smiling at me. His eyes were crinkled into smile lines at the corners and he was so tall that I had to look up. He was much more handsome than I remembered him from the movies.… What is he doing here? I wondered to myself. But I could say nothing. I was speechless.”
Lewis was married for several years to Joseph Tinney. They had one daughter, Maria, and two grandsons. They divorced in the late 1960s.
After Lewis became engaged to Tinney at age twenty-three, he told her it was common knowledge that Gable was her biological father; Lewis was stunned.
After Gable’s death, Lewis, at age 31, finally confronted her mother about the mystery behind her parentage. Young became nauseated, but acknowledged that she and Gable were Lewis’ biological parents. In 1994, Lewis published a book about her life entitled Uncommon Knowledge in which she stated that Gable was her father; Young refused to speak with her for three years after the book was published.
“I had to write this book,” Lewis told The Times in 1994 when her memoir was released. “I don’t think anyone knows what it’s like not to be acknowledged by your own parents.”
Loretta Young died on August 12, 2000, at age 87; her autobiography, published posthumously, confirmed that Gable was indeed Lewis’ father.
Lewis never had a chance to ask Gable the questions that swirled in her head for years: Did he want a child? What was he thinking that day they met? Would he have wanted to help raise her if her mother hadn’t pushed him away? She said that whenever she watched Gable’s loving scenes with his on-screen daughter in Gone With the Wind, she cried.
“It’s very sad to me,” she told the London Telegraph in 2002, “because he’s so dear with her. I pretend it’s me.”
Judy Lewis died of cancer at age 76 on November 25, 2011, in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.