Judy Lewis, the illegitimate daughter of movie star Clark Gable, passed away on Friday (Nov. 25) in Pennsylvania, the NY Times reports. She was 76.
Lewis’s mother, Loretta Young, was a budding actress when she had an affair with Gable, and she went to extreme lengths to keep Lewis’s true parentage a secret. For the first 19 months of her life, Lewis lived in orphanages so that Young could protect her career.
A few months before her second birthday, she returned to live with Young, who told her for years that she had been adopted. Young always had her daughter wear hats when they were in public, as she had inherited Gable’s famously large ears — Young feared that the distinctive characteristic would give away the secret.
When she was seven years old, Lewis underwent surgery to pin back her Gable ears, at her mother’s insistence.
She so resembled the actor, though, that when Lewis began to question her background at age 31, five years after Gable’s death. Her fiance exclaimed, “It’s common knowledge, Judy. Your father is Clark Gable.” When Lewis confronted Young, she threw up, and admitted the truth to Lewis.
At the time of Lewis’ conception, Gable was married to Maria Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham, a Texas socialite. She was his second of five wives. Gable visited Lewis one time, when she was 15. He allegedly asked her about her life, kissed her on her forehead, and left. They did not speak again.