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Jack Nicholson Was Raised to Believe Grandma Was His Mom — Stranger Exposed His Real Mother When He Was 37

Daniella Segell
Jul 20, 2022
07:00 A.M.
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Movie fans know Jack Nicholson as an incredible actor, who has made a name for himself in Hollywood. However, not many know about the dark history behind his family and the shocking news about who his birth mother was.

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Jack grew up as the much younger brother of two sisters, June and Lorraine. His parents were John and Ethel May (who Jack affectionately called Mud), but John was hardly ever in the picture as he moved away just after Jack was born.

Throughout Jack's life, his father floated in and out of the picture and was not a good father figure to Jack. However, Jack's mother was devoted to her children and ensured they were raised correctly.

A high school portrait of Jack Nicholson, circa 1955 | Source: Getty Images

A high school portrait of Jack Nicholson, circa 1955 | Source: Getty Images

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Jack's mother, Ethel, opened a beauty shop to bring in money to provide for her children. She was also well-known in the neighborhood for being something of an Agony Aunt, to whom people would come to air their grievances and seek advice.

Jack once mentioned that he felt fortunate to grow up in the way he did because of how free it was and how he learned to be responsible. He said:

“I'm very fortunate to have had that very unusual environment to grow up in. A lot of responsibility — not heaped on you, but just by definition of the situation."

LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD

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Headshot portrait of American actor Jack Nicholson smiling. 1974 | Source: Getty Images

Headshot portrait of American actor Jack Nicholson smiling. 1974 | Source: Getty Images

Although Jack was a high academic achiever and scored in the top 2% nationally for his college entrance exams, Jack did not enjoy school and could not bear the thought of going to college and getting a degree.

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Instead, he and his sister, June, decided to try and make a career for themselves in Hollywood. June was already living in Los Angeles when Jack finished school, and he moved there to be with her for a few weeks.

After a while, Jack found that he enjoyed Los Angeles so much that he would stay with his sister, and they would try and find their big breaks in Hollywood as actors. He then started to get odd jobs on sets.

Jack Nicholson in a scene from the movie 'The Passenger', 1975. | Source: Getty Images

Jack Nicholson in a scene from the movie 'The Passenger', 1975. | Source: Getty Images

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However, one day an MGM manager noticed him, and soon he was cast in low-budget horror films. With the support of his sister, June, Jack kept this up for a couple of years until he finally got his big break in 1959's "Easy Rider."

Sadly for June, she was never cast in anything that would lead to a big break for her, and eventually, in 1963, when she was in her mid-40s and Jack was only 26, June passed away. This left Jack on his own in Hollywood.

SHOCKING NEWS

Jack Nicholson in a scene from "Prizzi's Honor." 1985 | Source: Getty Images

Jack Nicholson in a scene from "Prizzi's Honor." 1985 | Source: Getty Images

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Decades after Jack's sister passed away, and he enjoyed continuous success in Hollywood, Nicholson got some shocking news from an unlikely source. The information would change the way he saw his upbringing.

When Jack was 37 years old, a Time News reporter changed his life by contacting him with some interesting news. The reporter had done some research on Nicholson's family and found a well-kept family secret.

The reporter informed Jack that his mother, Ethel, was his grandmother. In addition, the reporter told Jack that his sister, June, was his birth mother and that he never knew his birth father. The news was entirely unexpected for Jack.

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Jack Nicholson poses for a photo during a portrait session at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York, NY. 2010. | Source: Getty Images

Jack Nicholson poses for a photo during a portrait session at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York, NY. 2010. | Source: Getty Images

Since his Ethel and June had both passed away when Jack got the news, he contacted his sister (who was his aunt), Lorraine, and she confirmed that what the reporter had told Jack was true.

She never acted as a mother to Jack, instead leaving that job to his grandmother, Ethel.

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Jack then revealed that he never got the chance to find out who his birth father was because the only two people that knew were June and Ethel. Jack indicated that his mother and grandmother never told anyone who his father was.

Instead of being upset by the secret kept by his family, Jack was proud of his mother and grandmother for having been able to keep the secret until their deaths. He was calm about the entire situation.

Jack Nicholson and his son, Ray Nicholson, attend Apollo in the Hamptons at The Creeks. August 16, 2014 in East Hampton, New York. | Source: Getty Images

Jack Nicholson and his son, Ray Nicholson, attend Apollo in the Hamptons at The Creeks. August 16, 2014 in East Hampton, New York. | Source: Getty Images

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Jack even expressed how happy he was with the life he was given, despite it being difficult. He said that he was not at all angry at about what happened. He said:

"My only emotion is gratitude, literally, for my life."

The star now knows who his father is and is grateful for the life that he was able to live with his "sisters" and "mother" before June and Ethel passed away, and he became a household name.

THE TRUE STORY

 Jack Nicholson during the Politics Intro on SNL. February 15, 2015 | Source: Getty Images

Jack Nicholson during the Politics Intro on SNL. February 15, 2015 | Source: Getty Images

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After Jack found out that his sister was his mom and his mom was his grandmother, he decided that he should know the whole story behind what happened during his childhood. His "sister,” Lorraine, told him all he needed to know.

Jack's mother, June, fell pregnant as a showgirl when she was 17. The man whose baby she was carrying was named Donald Furcillo. However, their relationship did not work out because Donald was already married, so he could not make an honest woman out of June.

Of course, neighbors and friends of the family began noticing that June was pregnant, but she birthed Jack quietly and then set off to pursue her acting career. She never acted as a mother to Jack, instead leaving that job to his grandmother, Ethel.

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 Actor Jack Nicholson attends Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers basketball game at Staples Center March 24 2017. Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Actor Jack Nicholson attends Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers basketball game at Staples Center March 24 2017. Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Although his biological father, Donald, wanted nothing to do with Jack when he was a youngster, he has since come out with feverish claims about being Jack's father and is proud that Jack is his son.

Throughout Jack's childhood, he saw his biological mother and aunt as his sisters and his grandparents as his mother and father. It was only in 1974 that he learned the truth. However, he has not let it change his attitude toward his family or his upbringing.

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