The news that the daughter of classic film actress Loretta Young died has stayed with me for more than a week. I loved Loretta Young when I was a kid (that’s her in the original version of The Bishop’s Wife), but I never knew about any mystery daughter until she died. Now, her story won’t leave my heart.
Imagine that you’re given up for adoption at birth. At 2, you’re “adopted” by a wonderful woman who marries when you’re 5. He doesn’t like you and treats you badly. Your mother has 2 children with him. He refuses to adopt you, but you take his last name anyway.
At 31, you learn that your adopted mother is your birth mother. Soon after, you figure out what apparently, all of your friends, and all of Hollywood, already knew: Your father is a mega-famous actor — Clark Gable — and you met him only once.
How messed up was this poor girl? How messed up was her mother?
If you don’t know, Loretta Young almost always played the good girl, the classy girl…never the knocked up hollaback girl. Devoutly Catholic, she gave her newborn to be raised by nuns until she retrieved her 2 years later.
Ms. Lewis dealt with it all by becoming a family therapist, working with foster children and pregnant teens. She exorcised some of the drama in 1994 by writing her biography, Uncommon Knowledge. She said in an interview that year: ”It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted or acknowledged by my mother, who, to this day, will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child.”
Difficult?! Ya think?
Publication of the book embarrassed Loretta, who also continued to publicly deny Mr. Gable’s paternity. Loretta stopped speaking to her daughter until just before she died in 2000. Mr. Gable died in 1960 without ever speaking to his daughter again. (His legitimate heir, John, was born four months after Mr. Gable’s death.)
Judy, bless her, married, divorced and had children and grandchildren of her own. She appears to have come out of it all in better shape than she had any right to be. (Shown above, in 2000. Credit: Jill Connelly/Associated Press)
Behind this story are the tales of an entirely new bag of pain to be considered: Moms who pass as NotMoms, with breaking hearts and Oscar-quality performances of lies guaranteed to poison the lives of both mother and child.