Judy Lewis died today at the age of 76. Her story is fascinating and more than a little sad, but her life is one of resilience that is a testament to her strength. She is the secret daughter of Clark Gable and Loretta Young, conceived when Young and Gable were filming Call of the Wild in the 1930s. Young was unmarried, and Gable was married to his second wife Maria Langham. The affair, the pregnancy and the birth were all kept super secret.
Young even left the child at an orphanage for 19 months, and then returned to adopt her when Judy was two years old and raised her as her adopted daughter. Lewis was kept in the dark about her paternal heritage and was raised by Young and her husband Tom Lewis. She took her stepfather’s name. There was never a relationship between Lewis and Gable, and she didn’t learn of who her biological father was for 31 years. Her mother finally told her, but would never admit the truth in public. Gable came to see Lewis once when she was 15, but she had no idea why, as she was never told of his reason for wanting to see her.
In 1994, she wrote a memoir of her parents’ romance and the cover up of her existence and stated that it was very hard as a child to never be accepted. Her mother never publicly admitted to Judy being her daughter until after her death in 2000 with the release of her authorized biography.
Lewis resembled her famous father, so much so that Young had her undergo plastic surgery to alter Lewis’ ears that “stuck out like Clark Gable’s” as Hollywood Rumors stated. She was often made fun of in school for how they stuck out.
Only when Lewis’ autobiography came out in 1994, did the public learn of her parentage. In 1935, the time of the affair and birth, it just wasn’t like the Hollywood of today and the news would have created a scandal that would have likely ruined Young’s career and reputation as a wholesome young woman. As a result of this, Lewis was raised as the adopted daughter of Young to cover the affair.
Although by the time Lewis was a young woman, her paternal heritage was more of an open secret, and it was never officially declared. Even Lewis’ husband, Joe Tinney said he knew Gable was her father and told her so before they married. Judy did not believe him.
For awhile, Lewis followed a bit of her parents’ footsteps and performed in theater on Broadway and in television, shooting soap operas “General Hospital” and produced the soap “Texas”, which was a spinoff of “Another World”.
In the 80s, she went to school and obtained psychology degrees and was an advocate for children’s rights. She counseled teenagers and later became a psychotherapist in LA and continued that up until her illness prevented her from being able to continue.
It was a very different world back then, one where rumors could destroy lives and ruin careers. Being a young girl, single and facing this kind of scandal would have terrified anyone. Did she do the right thing? The wrong thing? It’s not for anyone to say of course, seeing as the world of today would not crucify a movie star for this kind of situation, and in fact it has happened many times over.
Lewis is survived by her partner Steve Rowland, her daughter, two grandsons and her half brothers. She will forever have a place among Hollywood Lore.
Judy Lewis talks about the Hollywood love between her parents, Clark Gable & Loretta Young: