Clark Gable may have been widely regarded as the King of Hollywood, but for his daughter Judy Lewis, he was gone with the wind as he never acknowledged her. Lewis' mom didn't make things any easier.
Judy Lewis’ life was so unique that it could easily pass as a mystery novel – one involving “Gone with the Wind” actor Clark Gable and “The Farmer’s Daughter” star Loretta Young.
Everything began in 1935 when Gable and Young started working as Jack Thornton and Claire Blake in “Call of the Wild.” At the time, Young was 22, and Gable was 34.
Not only was Gable 12 years older than Young, but he was also married to his second wife, Rhea Langham. Still, the two fell “madly in love” and had an affair.
Gable and Young knew how risky their relationship was to their lives and careers as Hollywood had some well-established morality clauses back then. However, she was just “so taken by him."
He swept her off her feet, and the two succumbed to the passion. As a result, she got pregnant. However, Young’s career had just started, and she wasn’t ready to give up on it due to a love child, so she came up with a lie that stood the test of time.
Young, a devout Catholic, hid her pregnancy by telling everyone she had gone on a tour through Europe. After returning, she spent most of her time in her home, claiming that her European trip left her exhausted and she needed to rest.
In November 1935, Judy Lewis was born. Young then sent her to a Catholic orphanage and waited to make her next move. Sadly, Lewis spent about 19 months living in orphanages and hideaways.
Our whole group knew who [Lewis'] parents were – and we knew she did not know.
After that time, Young got in touch with gossip columnist Louella Parsons to announce that she was trying to adopt two girls from a Catholic orphanage. Eventually, she only adopted one kid – her own daughter Lewis – and claimed the second adoption process fell through.
According to Lewis, who wrote about her parents and life story in her 1994 memoir “Uncommon Knowledge,” the adoption was just a “smokescreen” as Young believed nobody would think the adopted girl was actually her biological daughter.
Before the 1930s ended, Young’s plan was finally completed: She had successfully adopted her biological daughter, and nobody knew what really happened – or so she thought.
Although Lewis herself was kept in the dark about Young’s master plan, many people involved in the entertainment industry had reasons to believe that she was indeed Gable and Young’s biological child.
According to Jack Haley Jr., one of Lewis’ friends from high school, even her group of friends had heard the rumor from their parents. Haley Jr. explained:
“Our whole group knew who her parents were – and we knew she did not know. But we thought her mother would tell her.”
Even after Lewis published “Uncommon Knowledge,” Young kept denying her story. She went as far as to say that the “rumors” about her being Lewis’ biological mother were the product of a “bygone time,” and she chose not to give “any further credence.”
It is important to point out that, other than Lewis, Young was the only person who could shed light on the topic as Gable passed away in November 1960 due to a fatal arterial blood clot after a heart attack.
Lewis never felt whole but as “half a person.”
Another rumor that surrounded Lewis’ life was way darker. Linda, the wife of Lewis’ stepbrother Christopher, claimed that Young told her what really happened between her and Gable two years before passing away in August 2000.
According to Linda, Young and Gable had no intercourse while on location (in Washington) but instead, it was during their train trip back to Los Angeles. Young supposedly claimed Gable “date raped” her.
So far, it has not been determined if that actually happened. Historian David Stenn pointed out that it was both conceivable and “acceptable” as many women wanted to be in Young’s position at the time. Stenn added:
“If you look at Gable’s films that preceded [‘The Call of the Wild’], there are films where he manhandled women and they love it. So, I find it highly conceivable either way.”
However, Stenn offered another possible explanation. Young’s Catholic guilt – caused by having premarital sex and unwanted pregnancy – may have made her reframe the events.
Young’s plan saved her and Gable’s career as having an affair and a love child in the 1930s would have resulted in canceled contracts and blacklisting. However, Lewis’ life was quite miserable.
Lewis confessed that the fact that Young kept talking about her – her biological daughter – as a “rumor” was heartbreaking.
Every time Lewis asked about her biological mother and why she had given her up for adoption, Young would be elusive. When asked about her father, Young would say he was dead.
As a result, Lewis never felt whole but as “half a person,” so her memoir became her way to “claim” her parents. Unfortunately, the book was also the reason for Young and Lewis’ estrangement.
In 1986, when Young heard that her daughter was thinking about writing a memoir, their relationship fell apart. According to Edward Funk, who published three books about Young’s life, it was the most painful period in the actress’ life.
Eventually, Young contacted Lewis to reconcile, and although Lewis accepted, their relationship was too damaged to make amends for good.
Just before Young passed away, she told Funk that Lewis was actually her biological daughter. She revealed the truth for her authorized biography “Forever Young” but requested that it'd be published after her death.
In November 2011, Lewis died of lymphoma at home in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. She was survived by her daughter Maria Tinney Dagit and two grandsons.
As per the Gable family, they shunned Young as “Uncommon Knowledge” messed with the King of Hollywood’s image. The Gables made headlines again in February 2019 when Clark James Gable, one of the actor’s grandchildren, was found dead at his Dallas home.
Clark James’ father was John Clark Gable, who never met his famous dad as he was born in March 1961, only four months after Gable’s passing.
It is impossible to determine how different Gable, Young, and Lewis’ lives would have been if she had been acknowledged as their biological daughter from day one. Rest in peace.
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