Joe Morella, one half the classic movie chat team (Frank Segers is the other) here solo today to reveal some little known info on the movie star of the 30s and 40s and GIGANTIC TV star of the 1950s, Loretta Young.
Ever since Judy Lewis, Loretta’s daughter, died last month, Frank has been pressuring me to write about Young and Clark Gable, who Lewis insisted was her father.
OK, I give in. Today’s blog is the first of three on this long “forbidden” Hollywood topic. (Incidentally, that’s Judy on the left with her mother in the photo above.)
It should be noted, first off, that Lewis said Loretta admitted to her, after much badgering, that the rumors were true. That she’d become pregnant after an affair with Gable on location of the 1935 adventure drama, Call of the Wild.
BUT, Young never publicly acknowledged this.
After Judy Lewis published her autobiography — Uncommon Knowledge (1994) — Loretta didn’t speak to her for several years. They did reconcile before Young’s death in 2000.
Others in Young’s intimate circle — which included her sisters Polly Ann and Betty Jane (known professionally as Sally Blaine) — never talked about Judy’s birth or “adoption.”
But one person who almost made it into the inner circle did speak to me.
Years ago, when Ed Epstein and I wrote Loretta Young — An Extraordinary Life, I had the priviledge of doing extensive interviews with Tom Lewis, Loretta’s second husband and Judy’s adoptive father.
First some backround. Loretta Young was a genuine star and all of 17 years old when she married actor Grant Withers.
They’d eloped (to Yuma, Arizona). Because Grant was a partier and heavy drinker, the “inner circle,” Loretta’s mother and two older sisters, didn’t approve. The marriage lasted less than a year (1930 to 1931), but “thank heaven,”(according to Mama Young,) they’d only been wed civilly, not in a religious ceremony, so the marriage wasn’t recognized by the Catholic church.
As a divorcee and no longer under the influence of her strong mother, Loretta began a serious affair with Spencer Tracy, her co-star in 1933’s “Man’s Castle.” Ironically, she portrays a homeless waif in this melodrama set in the Great Depression, impregnated and abandoned by Tracy’s character, a shiftless wanderer.
The Tracy-Young affair was so public that the Bishop of Los Angeles had called them in and told them that as good Catholics they had to stop seeing each other. They had been together for a year, and many thought Loretta was waiting for Tracy to divorce his wife and marry her. They soon made a formal announcement that their ‘friendship’ was over.
A few days later Loretta left for location shooting with Clark Gable.
A few months later it was announced she left for Europe and was very ill. Rumors were rampant. Was it Gable’s child? or Tracy’s? But, five months after she disappeared, Loretta was back and alone and ready to resume work.
Two years later Loretta, a single woman, adopted two little girls, three-year-old Jane, and two-year-old Judy. Jane was soon returned to her natural mother, who’d supposedly changed her mind about giving the child up for adoption. Judy Young became part of the close knit Young Clan (see photo below).
(In tomorrow’s blog, Joe tells of his encounter with Tom Lewis, Judy’s adoptive father. What he told Joe may surprise you. Stay tuned.)