Friday, December 2, 2011

A Hollywood Affair

Here is a true story with more bathos than a soap opera.  It was mentioned in the news this week because one of the participants just died.

In 1935, a young actress named Loretta Young had a budding career in Hollywood.  She was single and attractive.  Loretta became romantically involved with a famous movie-star, even though he was married to another woman.  The two had an affair and Loretta became pregnant.  You probably recognize her boyfriend -- he was Clark Gable.  Yes, the guy from "Gone With The Wind" and several other big movies.

Loretta was afraid a sex scandal would ruin her career so she left town.  She lived in Europe while pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl.  Loretta returned to Hollywood after the baby was born.  To explain the child's existence, Loretta announced through famed gossip columnist Louella Parsons that Loretta had adopted the girl.  Loretta told the girl, as she was growing up, that she was adopted.  Loretta never told the girl who her father was.

The girl, Judy Lewis, thought she was adopted and had no known father, when in fact her parents were Hollywood royalty.  Loretta Young made dozens of movies and won an Oscar for her role in "The Farmer's Daughter" (1947).  She had her own TV show, named after her, for which she won three Emmys.

In 1966, when her daughter was 31 years old, Loretta tearfully confessed to the girl that she was not adopted but was actually Loretta's biological child.  Loretta refused, however, to admit this publicly or to say she'd had an affair with Clark Gable.  She kept that secret until she died in 2000.  She revealed it in a book published after her death.

Loretta's daughter Judy looks just like her parents.  Judy died last week and received obituaries in all the major newspapers.

What do you think of this?


  1. Ow... another example of how some of the more rigid social conventions ruin the party for everyone. Growing up adopted is a big strain on a child's psyche anyway, but I can't imagine how it must feel to find out years later that your primary caregiver lied to you all the time, and did so for the sake of their career (vs., I'm making this up as I go, protecting the child from persecution by a former abusive partner who would be revealed as the other parent if the remaining parent acknowledged that this child was biologically theirs... or something of the sort). Growing up feeling unwanted, as her obituary says she did, is also no piece of cake. In this scenario, it would probably have made more sense to actually give up the child for adoption!

  2. Wow, that is one amazing story. I had not heard about it at all. I am not familiar with Loretta but do know Clark Gable of course. What an irony to be brought up as an adopted child by your own biological mother. Usually it is the reverse.

  3. I just read about this yesterday....I LOVE Old Hollywood! Talk about a well kept secret! Loretta Young was so beautiful and elegant, but NO ONE could resist Clark Gable!!! ~Serene

  4. I think social structures can be ridiculous, but also that celebrity life is so scrutinized, I'm not sure I'd ever want to be famous.

    On the flipside I think our histories shape who we are [to some extent] and without them, we'd be entirely different people.

  5. I think what she did is not easily understood by most people today. She found a way to keep her daughter with her. Many other young women in a similar situation would not have had the resources to keep their child and would have been forced to give her up for adoption. Unless you have given up a child, you have no idea how that can affect your entire life.

  6. Rigid social expectations often result in desperate actions. It's told in Hollywood cinema and the real life players in Hollywood. I wasn't aware of their story, but reminds me of Jack Nicholson, who grew up believing his biological mother was his sister and his grandparents were his parents.

  7. How very sad.
    I could say many things but at the end, you had to be there and be her.

  8. Times have changed so much that this seems inconceivable but it was almost commonplace at the time. My grandfather married someone whose sister had had an illegitimate child in the thirties. Her neice was brought up as the youngest child of the family but it blighted her life (and her mothers) although I think they loved each other very much.


  9. There are so many "secrets" like these from those days in Hollywood. I can't imagine being Judy and learning all that suddenly in my 30s. This is just one of those things, where, as much as I fantasize about Hollywood, especially in that time, I'm glad I didn't live it.

  10. Im 57 years old i used to watch loreta on tv.she looked just like my mom. I still watch er on TCM she was a good actress to be able hide such a decetful life for so long may all three of tem rest in peace