Judy Lewis, the identity of whose biological parents — Clark Gable and Loretta Young — was one of the best-kept secrets in Hollywood for decades and became an actress and producer in her own right, died Friday of lymphoma in the Philadelphia suburb of Gladwyne. She was 76.
Not until Lewis acknowledged her story in the 1994 autobiography “Uncommon Knowledge” did the general public know the truth: Lewis was not the adopted daughter of Hollywood starlet Loretta Young but had been conceived out of wedlock by Young and Gable while the two were shooting 1935 film “The Call of the Wild.”
Lewis was an adult when she learned that Young, a devout Roman Catholic, conceived her during an affair with the married Gable in the 1930s.
“At the time, what Loretta Young did was completely successful,” said Leonard Maltin. “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 was born in Venice, Calif., and went on to perform on Broadway and television, including soap operas “The Secret Storm” and “General Hospital.” She also produced the soap “Texas,” a spinoff of “Another World.” In the 1980s, she earned psychology degrees, advocating for children’s rights and counseling teens. She later became a psychotherapist in Los Angeles.
In her book “Uncommon Knowledge,” Lewis wrote that Young kept her sequestered with a nurse for months after her birth, and that she was then turned over to an orphanage. When she was 2, Young brought her home as her adopted daughter.
Before her memoir was published, the identity of her parents had long been rumored. Maltin said the truth was never truly public, however, until the memoir, in which Lewis describes her mother telling her the truth in 1966.
Lewis’ survivors include her daughter, three half-brothers and her partner, Steve Rowland.