The ‘secret daughter’ of Clark Gable and Loretta Young, Judy Lewis, died on November 25. Lewis had been suffering from cancer, and passed away in the Philadelphia suburb of Gladwyne. She was 76.
Lewis gained fame in the mid-1990s, after revealing herself as the offspring of Gable and Young in the 1994 autobiography Uncommon Knowledge. Until that point, the general public believed Lewis was the adopted daughter of Hollywood starlet Loretta Young. The reality? She had been conceived out of wedlock by Young and an already married Clark Gable, while the two performers filmed Call of the Wild in the 1930s.
Before 1994, her identity had remained a closely guarded secret within Hollywood.
Lewis was born in Venice, California on November 6th, 1935. She was raised by Young as her adoptive daughter, and only learned she was Young (and Clark Gable’s) biological daughter when an adult. The secret was phenomenally well-kept in an age when the Hollywood gossip industry was first picking up momentum. Film critic Leonard Maltin says:
“At the time, what Loretta Young did was completely successful. The general public never had any inkling that she had done this. It protected her stardom and her image as a wholesome young woman.”
Lewis had a stage and television career of her own, starring in soap opera Texas (a spin-off of Another World) and appearing in The Secret Storm as Susan Ames from 1964 to 1971. In the 1980s, she earned psychology degrees, campaigned vociferously for children’s rights and helped to counsel teenagers. She later became a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, only retiring after being diagnosed with cancer.
The revelation about her birth shocked Lewis, who argued with her devout Roman Catholic mother over the matter. In Uncommon Knowledge, she wrote:
“I refused to be dismissed that easily. It all came pouring out – all the years of hurt and abandonment, all the feelings of not belonging, of being an outsider in my own family, years of repressed emotions that couldn’t be contained any longer. The floodgates were opened and the words flowed unchecked.”