Twentieth Century’s “Call of the Wild” went into production at the United Artists studios yesterday with Director William Wellman making something of a record by putting away his first shot at 9:45am. More than 300 but and extra players shared the scene with Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Jack Oakie and Katharine de Mille. The call was 9:00am on the set.
After two more days in the set, which reproduces Tex Rickard’s Skagway saloon during the Alaskan gold rush, the unit goes north January 3 in a Southern Pacific special of eleven cars, producer Darryl F. Zanuck stated.
Ed Ebele, production manager, has has a staff of fifty men on the location at Mount Baker, Washington, for the past 90 days working on set construction, a shooting stage and additional housing accommodations at the high location. Everything is in readiness for the beginning of shooting January 4. The schedule there is four weeks’ shooting.
Sixteen carloads of equipment and paraphernalia, the final consignment to the location, was shopped from Los Angeles today to Belligham from which point it will be trucked 65 miles to the location. Included in the shipment are 100 complete outfits of wearing apparel to clothe every member of the unit against the sub-zero weather.
I remember a party when Loretta Young was at the same dinner table with Ann [Sheridan] and Clark Gable. Loretta talked brilliantly. Ann made no attempt to take the spotlight. In fact, she didn’t speak more than half a dozen words. She offered nothing–just laughed loudly when Loretta or someone said something amusing.
Earlier in the week we looked at the essay Clark Gable wrote about his co-star, Loretta Young, as publicity for Key to the City.
An innocent idea, certainly, except of course when said co-stars had a secret child fifteen years earlier.
So let’s see what Loretta had to say about Clark, shall we…
I first met Clark Gable about twelve years ago when we co-starred in a woodsy drama entitled “The Call of the Wild.” Although we were given top billing, the real star of the picture was a massive dog named Buck. The rest of us, compared to the instant attention Buck’s slightest bark commanded, were no more impressive than a chorus of gnats.
Buck lived in a steam-heated trailer; the rest of us shivered in the Summer quarters of a rustic hotel whose Winter quarters had burned the previous year.
When our picture company was marooned for nine days by twenty-one feet of snow, Buck was accorded the steaks our larder afforded whereas the rest of us were reduced to crackers, scrambled eggs and breakfast cereal.
After the storm had abated, we went to work in temperatures which ranged from ten to thirty degrees below zero. This is the way the scenes were worked out: the human members of the company were sent for, rehearsed, and stationed in their places. THEN the word would be sent out for Buck to be rushed from his cosy quarters into camera range. He would do his bit. The instant the camera stopped turning, Buck would be hurried back to his plush apartment while we chilblained actors flailed ourselves with our arms to keep from congealing. We also smiled wanly in Buck’s direction just to keep our facial muscles from freezing.
Throughout this murderous situation, the only person who never lost his temper, and who never looked at Buck and wondered how Huskie steaks would taste, was Clark Gable. No matter how trying the working and living conditions became, he was always the affable gentleman, who made no demands upon his fellow workers. He expected no favors—although he was a big star even then—and when tempers flared he would say peaceably, “We won’t remember what this was all about in a hundred years. Let’s get going and get this thing finished.”
I remember that he had brought along a supply of books and magazines, adventure stories, sports stories, westerns and the like, and that he served as a one-man library. At the end of nine days of enforced inactivity and imprisonment we would all have had what is known as “Cabin Fever” (the urge to kill) if it hasn’t been for that reading matter.
He could also be depended upon to start a card game when people became short-tempered and restless. He would play anything, could win when he wanted to, could lose when it seemed diplomatic.
Although I was only a careless youngster at the time—spending most of the time at the window waiting for the messenger boy, on snowshoes, to bring the mail in which I thought there might be a letter from a lad in Los Angeles in whom I was deeply interested—I was aware of the great diplomatic ability and keen sportsmanship of Clark Gable.
One of the things that is so admirable about Clark Gable is the consistency of his character. So she seems rather in awe of him, doesn’t she.
According to a friend who knows Clark well, he still carries a locket in which there is a soft, blonde curl—Carole Lombard’s.
The years have brought changes around Clark Gable, and they have brought changes within him. He is a better actor now than ever, and a wiser human being.
Before we started the picture, I had a print of that wonderful old picture, “It Happened One Night,” run for me so that I could study Clark’s comedy technique. He was impressive. However, when I saw the rushes of “Key to the City” I realized that he was even better than ever in the first comedy role he has assayed since “It Happened One Night.”
In closing, I would like to say that the Clark Gable who is called “King” in his studio is something far more important than a king to his fellow Americans: he is a real man.
It’s interesting she briefly brings up Carole Lombard, as apparently the news that Clark had married Carole deeply saddened Loretta, who had hoped that Clark would marry her when he was finally free.
Sometimes work duties can be awkward. Like, say, when you are required to pen an essay detailing why your co-star is so great, and you and said co-star had a secret baby out of wedlock fifteen years earlier. Yeah. That’s awkward.
During the press circuit of To Please a Lady, Clark Gable and Loretta Young were asked to do just that. The whole story of their secret baby was known widely around Hollywood but not so much in the households of moviegoers. I’ve often wondered why the producers even proposed starring them together, if it was such a widely known fact. It doesn’t surprise me one iota that neither Clark nor Loretta hesitated to be reteamed on the screen; they were professionals and probably thought that them starring together would put to bed the old rumors.
Of course these articles are fluffy, fluffy fluff and of course the whole time you are reading them, you can’t help but smirk at what they are leaving out. But I do believe that ultimately Clark and Loretta did have respect for each other and did actually LIKE each other. In my opinion, as we can only speculate at this point, I have always believed that what went on between Clark and Loretta was a in-the-heat-of-the-moment thing, a fling so to speak. And once filming was complete and the company headed back to Los Angeles, I don’t believe that either one of them thought they’d make a go of a relationship. It just what what it was. I have no doubt in my mind that if Clark had been a single man when Loretta revealed her pregnancy that he would have married her. He would have done the right thing, certainly. But he couldn’t. So the both of them did what they had to do. She bore the child and pretended to adopt it later, he carried on with his life.
So, fifteen years later, here’s what Clark had to say about Loretta:
Before setting down a few observations on Loretta Young, I decided to check up on a few newspapers and magazines in which interviews were published, just to see how a guy goes about this sort of thing.
When I finished this research I was in more trouble than I had been when I started. Maybe that’s always one trouble with putting yourself wise—the more you learn, the less you know.
I found out that if you’re going to write a story about anyone, you should discover a few startling facts about your subject: like she had hunted tigers in Africa, or she paints portraits of Amazon savages, or she buys all of her clothing to match her mauve (whatever color that is) station wagon.
Well, Loretta simply doesn’t provide any startling facts. She is the nicest, sweetest, sincerest, most normal girl you would want to meet. If she were a man, her friends would say of her that she is a swell Joe.
I met Loretta about twelve years ago, when we were what is laughingly called “co-starred” in the same picture. The only star in that picture was the weather. We arrived in Bellingham, Washington, one afternoon in the midst of a blizzard which kept right on blizzarding for nine days. We were quartered, about thirty of us, in an airy building intended for use during the July heat wave. Brrrother was it cold!
We spent most of our time huddled around a stove, glaring at one another. After the first three days everyone had “cabin fever,” which is a polite term for the urge to kill. All except Loretta. My chief recollection of her at that time consists of seeing her standing at the window, nose pressed against a frosted pane, watching for Arvid Griffin to show up with the mail.
Arvid Griffin was, in those days, a Bellingham school boy who breezed in through the flakes and offered to be our emissary on snowshoes. All he could talk about was Hollywood. Most of us nodded and said, “Yeah, yeah,” from the depths of a book when he plied us with questions, but Loretta was genuinely friendly and interested.
She kept saying, “If you really want to get to Hollywood, you’ll get there. If the desire is planted deeply, and you won’t be distracted from your aim, you’ll succeed.”
There was something about the sincerity of her tone that would have convinced a totem pole.
So here’s an item: Arvid Griffin, once of Bellingham, Washington, was the second assistant director on “Key To The City,” the picture I just finished with Loretta. He regards her as a prophet—almost as a saint.
During the twelve years between “Call Of The Wild” and “Key To The City,” I didn’t see much of Loretta. I remembered her as a sweet kid, sort of carefree and good-natured, not too much interested in her career in spite of having plenty of talent.
I found out, during the first few days of the picture, that the carefree kid had matured into a great lady and a real trouper.
Clark’s voice is definitely in the writing. He’s probably right about research on Loretta not turning up much! “Didn’t see much of Loretta”—um, no you didn’t!
She’s a gorgeous soul. Instead of returning to her dressing room between scenes, she would join Ruth Roberts (the dialogue coach) and either go over lines, or chat. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the sound stage, with electricians moving huge light standards, grips moving walls, prop men bringing up fresh items of equipment, and foreman yelling directions, Loretta would be perched on a tall, wooden stool, watching the activity with as much real enjoyment as if it had been all new to her.
She has the happy quality of never being bored. Everything interests her and everyone interests her. She knows which gaffer is about to become a father, and whether he and his wife want a boy or a girl and what they plan to name the child; she knows whose mother is ill, and who is taking a vacation trip to Honolulu. What a memory! And what genuine interest in her fellow human beings!
Another Young attribute which appeals to a man is that Loretta is devoted to her husband and her youngsters. She is that rare combination, a natural-born homemaker as well as a very successful actress.
Natural-born homemaker! I think nowadays that would be considered an insult! No, you are not going to find any nitty gritty here.
You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive and stay tuned for Thursday, when I have Loretta’s essay on Clark.
Synopsis: Gable is Steve Fisk, the boorish mayor of Puget City, who meets Clarissa Standish (Young), the stuffy mayor of Winona, Maine at the annual mayors conference in San Francisco. They fall in love despite their differences but trouble arises as they try to make their relationship work outside the convention.
Best Gable Quote: “I don’t start anything I can’t finish. If I tell you I love you, I mean it.”
Not-So-Fun Fact: Young and her husband hosted the film’s wrap party at their home on September 18, 1949. It was during the party that everyone learned that their costar, Frank Morgan, had died suddenly of a heart attack. Gable had played golf with him that very morning.
My Verdict: An enjoyable comedy. After 15 years, Loretta and Clark still have chemistry–although you kind of wonder why Clark bothers trying so hard to melt her chaste armor…but nonetheless. Frank Morgan, in his last role, is a delightful sidekick as always. And Clark gets to lead a bar room brawl, just like in the old days! Good script and a cute little romance.
Synopsis: Gable is Mike Brannon, a decorated war hero and a ruthless race car driver who will do anything to win. Stanwyck is feisty Regina “Reggie” Forbes, who writes a no-holds-barred weekly syndicated newspaper column. She sets her sights to rip apart Brannon after he runs another racer off the track into a fatal crash. She confronts him about the crash following a race and is put off by his blasé attitude. Furious by his indifference, she writes a scathing column about how heartless he is. After that, Brannon is suspended from auto racing and can’t find a job racing anywhere; her column has poisoned his name. The only employment he can find is being a daredevil driver for a local fair. Regina attends the fair, morbidly curious of what has become of the man she forced out of racing. He is none too pleased to see her, but there is a thin line between their love and hate—soon sparks ignite. While both are ruthless in their pursuits, their love falters as she can not get over the fact that he was responsible for the death of another man. The finale was filmed at the Indianapolis Speedway and real footage was used from the 1950 Indianapolis 500.
Best Gable Quote: “You better listen to what I’m saying or I’ll knock that smile off your face!”
Fun Fact: Gable wasn’t too crazy about the title of the film, as he was recently married to Lady Sylvia Ashley and didn’t appreciate the press making the connection between the two. It was later re-released under the title Red Hot Wheels.
My Verdict: This film took a couple of viewings to grow on me. At first it seems a bit silly; Clark is rather old to be a daredevil race car driver, slapping dames and doing stunts. His chemistry with Barbara is definitely there, as they were good friends. I can’t help but wonder how this film would have been if they had done it fifteen years earlier? Maybe a bit steamier, a bit more scandalous. Their romance here is a bit stilted, but it’s ok. Clark is having fun and it shows.
Synopsis: Gable is fast-talking, take-no-prisoners-newspaper editor Jim Branch, who is determined to dig up a juicy story on a corrupt millionaire. He starts sucking up to the newspaper’s music reviewer, wealthy socialite Sharon Norwood (Bennett), when he discovers she is close to the impending story. After the millionaire’s wife turns up dead, Sharon and Jim disagree on the culprit. Jim becomes determined to crack the case and reunite with Sharon, whom he has now fallen in love with.
Best Gable Quote: “You mean I’ve got to get out and walk home–like a girl?” (That line always makes me laugh, it’s so absurd)
Fun Fact: Constance Bennett was quite flirty with Gable during filming. He ignored her for the most part, thinking her a prima donna. He had not forgotten how poorly she had treated him when he was a bit player and she was the star in The Easiest Way.
My Verdict: Rather humdrum, forced newspaper comedy that wants to be It Happened One Night but isn’t. Bennett and Gable have no sparks. The murder plot meanders so much and their romance is so forced that in the end the whole film seems run of the mill. This one is forgettable. Not awful, but forgettable.
Synopsis: Gable is Jack Thornton, on the hunt for a gold mine through the tundra with his sidekick Shorty (Oakie). As they struggle through the mountains in the bitter cold, they encounter Claire Blake (Young) who is stranded alone after her husband left her to search for food. They discover that Claire and her husband were after the same gold mine. Aided by their trusty dog Buck, they find the mine and along the way Claire and Jack fall in love. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as Claire’s husband reappears and a rival turns up to claim the mine as his own.
Best Gable Quote: “I wanted you. And I took you with us. Well, I’m keeping you.”
Fun Fact: Gable and Young had an affair during filming. Only the cast and crew of the film knew about it then and the affair ended after filming wrapped. Young became pregnant and had the baby, a girl named Judy, on November 6, 1935. Gable never admitted parentage and Young put the child in an orphanage and then “adopted” her months later. She only admitted the truth to Judy in the 1990′s, shortly before her death. Judy wrote a book about the experience being the secret love child of two classic stars, called Uncommon Knowledge. Read more about it here.
My Verdict: The scandal surrounding the filming of this movie is what draws people to it nowadays, I think. And with that Loretta Young romance being considered, it is definitely an essential for Gable fans to see. But all that aside, this atill stands as a really good film. The Washington location shoot and its bitter cold may have been less than ideal shooting conditions but they definitely add perfect ambiance, as too many times did the studios throw together a film like this on their backlot and the outcome is less than ideal. Loretta and Clark are so sweet together and their scenes together just sparkle. Being a dog lover myself, I like Clark scenes with Buck, as he is just a natural with animals and it shows. This is not the most faithful adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel, but it’s a delightful film and a must see.
Yes, that is actually the title of this article! It is about the horrendous working conditions the cast and crew faced on Washington state location shoot for Call of the Wild.
Most of it is a brief interview with Loretta Young:
“Nobody expects to believe that a pampered film player ever is exposed to real hardships,” Loretta told me, “but if you could have seen what we went through–! It was no press agent’s dream, the rigors of that location trip.
“It might not have been so difficult for me had I been accustomed to cold. Although I was born in Salt Lake City, where winter is frigid enough, I was brought to Hollywood when very young, and lived all my life in sunshine and palms. When we got to the jumping off place near Mount Baker, I was unable to adjust myself to the cold. And it was bitterly cold, with worse to come.
“When we attempted to make the location camp on Mount Baker, our part had no sooner been bundled into cars when we met the studio trucks returning. Snowslides had blocked the roads. There was no hotel at the little settlement at Glacier. We were stumped.
“Fortunately Mr. and Mrs. Graham of Glacier made room for Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Owen, my companion, Mrs. Frances Earle, and me. Bill Wellman and Dorothy, his wife, pushed on by dog sled the next morning, and then a snowplow cleared the way for the rest of us. That was our introduction to the hardships to follow.
“A flimsy sound stage had been built near the summer lodge on top of Mount Baker, in case of blizzards. We drew a blizzard immediately, and tried to work on this stage. Wind whistled through it. My nostrils frosted shut, my feet seemed like cakes of ice. In that bitter cold, we could shoot for only a half hour at a time.
“We slept in the cabin annex to the hotel which had burned down, with little heat and all sorts of discomforts, but not a soul complained. Mrs. Clark Gable stuck it out valiantly, but she and I almost lost heart when one night the power plant broke down. Without lights or electric heat, we were ready to freeze to death for dear old 20th Century. I felt so sorry for the crew sent to repair the plant that I forgot my own discomfort and how we cheered them when they returned, successful, after battling three solid hours to reach the power plant through the snow. One of the boys passed out, and came very close to giving his life to save the rest of us from surely freezing.
“Clark and Jack Oakie and Director Wellman made life bearable with their unfailing good humor—though sometimes Jack also made life almost unbearable with his gags. But you have to forgive him—he is so contrite and innocent looking when he confesses a prank.
“We had plenty of frozen meat, but we were soon starved for fresh vegetables. I developed a tremendous hankering for a stick of celery—just one little piece of celery would have made me happy. For five days, we couldn’t even leave our cramped quarters, with the snow over the tops of windows and a howling blizzard raging. The partitions that divided our chicken-coop rooms where as thin as paper and afforded only visual privacy.
“Mrs. Earle had a birthday, and the chef stirred up a cake. We had speeches and celebrated grandly. Then Clark announced his birthday, and we celebrated again. I regretted that my own birthday, on January sixth, had arrived before our location trip. These little parties were a god-send to keep our minds off the privations.
“Making our way about camp required a guide to get us through the maze of deep cut snow paths. They seemed to lead everywhere. One night, we tried to find our way to the mess shack without our guide, Harvey, and became lost. Finally, we saw a light and got back to the cabins, but we were as frightened as we were frozen.
“There was real danger—avalanches for one thing—all about is, as we all knew, but the players and crew never became discouraged nor lost heart. Wellman kept things in an uproar. There was never a dull moment if he could help it.
“After Mrs. Earle sprained her ankle and another member if the party crushed a knee cap on the slippery paths, we went around with ski sticks to keep from falling. It was a thrilling experience, but I’d hate to repeat it!”
Ok, so let’s get this part out of the way and say that Loretta of course doesn’t mention one way she and Clark had of staying warm up there in the freezing snow… Loretta would have been pregnant when she gave this interview, if she knew it or not. I was quite astounded to hear her mention “Mrs. Clark Gable.” I have NEVER heard of Ria accompanying them to Washington for the shoot. Never. It has always been said it was when Clark returned from the location shoot (after “spending time” with Loretta) that he went home and told Ria he was moving out. I am wondering if that little nugget was planted here because of all the rumors that were swirling about Clark and Loretta. By the time this article was published, the Gables weren’t yet separated, so there was still a marriage at stake here. Maybe she said that to deliberately point out that his wife accompanied them up there. Interesting.
Key to the City is only notable really for the re-teaming of Clark Gable with Loretta Young, his co-star in Call of the Wild fifteen years earlier…oh, and the mother of his daughter, Judy. Loretta was suggested as his leading lady because the studio was trying to bring back some of Clark’s romantic luster as the grim Any Number Can Play and female-less Command Decision has darkened it.
Gable is Steve Fisk, the boorish mayor of Puget City, who meets Clarissa Standish (Young), the stuffy mayor of Winona, Maine at the annual mayors conference in San Francisco. They fall in love despite their differences but trouble arises as they try to make their relationship work outside the convention.
Clark is getting too old for this—running around in a child’s costume showing his sock garters, playing the brute to Loretta’s prim and proper virginial Mayor Standish. The roles are tailor-made, I suppose, as Loretta had a reputation for being a bit stand-offish and a prude. And Clark’s character never had a formal education and is proud of his roughneck background. Sound familiar?
It’s rather hard to understand why Clarrissa falls for Steve, as he never really makes any sweeping gestures. He lures her against her wishes to a “make out spot” on a foggy hill, then seduces her in a way that’s rather creepy, really. She jumps on his statement of “You don’t want to marry a guy like me” and takes it as a proposal. Then all of a sudden they are engaged and he’s okay with it. Never mind the fact that just hours earlier he was perfectly happy schmoozing with nightclub dancers.
It’s a bit hard to stomach the sexism, too. Mayor Standish is very proud of her Harvard education and her reputation as a good and honest mayor. She’s well aware that it’s a man’s world and she holds her head high and wants to be treated just like any of the male mayors at the convention. Mayor Fisk is rude to her, disrespects her, and talks down to her like she’s a child. But of course he is irresistible to her and naturally, she will give up her position and move to his town of Puget City to be the mayor’s wife. Naturally. I get it, he is Clark Gable after all, but still…
All in all the film is a bit hokey. Clark and Loretta still have chemistry but the plot really seems to fit more in the 1930’s than the 1950’s. Near the end, Clark is in a fist fight that echoes back to his brawl with Spencer Tracy in Boom Town . Despite this one being ten years later, there seems to be something missing in the way of special effects here, as the staging of the fight in Boom Town was much more realistic. This fight has almost laughable staging and the sound mixers should have been fired (there are actually several moments in the film that the over-dubbing is evident). Loretta taking whacks at Marilyn Maxwell is especially ridiculous.
Clark was single and playing the field during filming (in fact he dated co-star Marilyn Maxwell briefly) but Loretta was married to her second husband Tom Lewis and no romantic overtures took place between the two former lovers. Loretta, who had two sons with Lewis, was actually pregnant when filming began. During the filming of the “Telegraph Hill” scene, where they are on a park bench with simulated fog, Loretta fainted and Clark had to carry her back to her dressing room. She was rushed to the hospital and suffered a miscarriage.
Loretta and her husband threw a party at their Beverly Hills home when filming was completed. The cast and crew were there when they heard the news that their beloved co-star, Frank Morgan, had just died of a heart attack. Frank, best remembered for his numerous roles in The Wizard of Oz, was a close friend of Clark’s and the two had played golf together that very morning.
Key to the City is not yet available on DVD. You can read more about the film here and see over 100 pictures from the film in the gallery.
Judy Lewis, the daughter of Clark Gable, and Loretta Young, died Friday, November 25, of cancer in Pennslyvania.
Read the New York Times article on her death here.
Judy was concieved during the freezing Washington location shoot for Call of the Wild. Loretta maintained that there had not been a big love affair between her and Clark, just that they were mutually attracted to each other and one night her “iron will slipped.”
Loretta Young and Clark Gable in Call of the Wild
Loretta realized she was pregnant during the filming of her next picture, The Crusades, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. This was crushing news. Not only did she feel ashamed by her actions, she had violated the morals clause in her contract and would be immediately fired and a Hollywood outcast if her pregnancy was discovered. She would be an unemployed, unwed mother. Strong in her Catholic beliefs, abortion was not even considered by Loretta. There are many articles in fan magazines from 1935 detailing Loretta’s “mysterious illness.” Reporters visited her home and saw her in bed, covered in heavy blankets. When the pregnancy became too obvious to hide, Loretta and her mother took off to Europe for a much-publicized “vacation” in Europe.
When the birth was imminent, they returned to the US and lived secretly in a rental home that Loretta’s mother owned. Loretta stayed indoors and only ventured out at night for walks.
Judy was born in that home with only a doctor and her grandmother present, on November 6, 1935. On a publicity tour for Mutiny on the Bounty, Clark received an unsigned telegram telling him his child had arrived safely, blonde and blue-eyed.
Little Judy stayed at home with a nurse at first, then was placed in an orphanage until the time came when it seemed appropriate for her to be “adopted” by Judy. Loretta later said, “Judy was my baby, I loved her, and I knew I’d have enough angels around me, my mother and sisters, so that we could take care of her properly and give her a good life…I didn’t have a father, and I got along fine. I believed Judy would too.” At the time of the “adoption”, it was announced to the press that Loretta was adopting two toddler girls, Judy and Jane. Then later it was announced that Jane’s family decided to raise her instead, so only Judy would remain in the Young household. It seems “Jane” never existed. I don’t know why that story was spun. Judy’s age was also adjusted to make her older so that no one could put together the timing of her birth and of Loretta’s mystery illness. The press never dug into the fact that in California law at that time it was illegal for a single woman to be an adopted parent.
It’s amazing how the press protected the stars in those days. Certainly those reporters visiting Loretta and reporting of her illness and her trip to Europe suspected the truth. Certainly there were numerous people at the foundling home where Judy was placed who knew the truth. And apparently around Hollywood everyone knew too, but no one said anything. I can’t help but be amazed that the public never put two and two together. Judy is the absolute SPITTING IMAGE of Loretta. Their facial structure is nearly identical. I do see a bit of Clark around the eyes. And Judy was born with those ears, as well—a dead giveaway to her parentage if ever there was one! Which is why Loretta ordered her nannies to keep a bonnet on her at all times. Later on, Judy had reconstructive surgery to pin her ears back.
Judy was raised as Loretta’s adoptive daughter, while Loretta went on to have two sons with her husband Tom Lewis (and Judy took on that surname as well.) It wasn’t until Judy was about to get married that her fiancé told her that it was pretty much common knowledge that she was the biological daughter of Loretta and Clark. Judy said she had always kind of known in the back of her mind that Loretta was really her mother. She would not confront her mother with these facts until many years later, when Clark was long dead. Loretta confessed the truth to her daughter and was very angry when in 1994, Judy published an autobiography titled Uncommon Knowledge that detailed all her mother had confessed to her. They were estranged for several years afterward, making amends finally before Loretta died in 2000. When the press asked her for a statement after Judy’s book was published, Loretta’s reply was always, “No comment.”
People always wonder if Carole knew. I am inclined to say that indeed she did. Whether her and Clark ever discussed it is anyone’s guess. I can imagine it being a source of frustration for Carole when she had trouble conceiving a child.
Judy said in an interview she had dinner with Clark and Kay’s son, John Clark Gable, twice in the 1990’s. But afterward he refused to submit to DNA testing to support her claim and cited that in his father’s will he said he had no children at the time of his death and that his father’s word was good enough for him.
Through this website and my research, I have attempted to get inside Clark’s brain, so to speak, to dissect the man. The whole Loretta Young-Judy Lewis situation is the one puzzle piece that just doesn’t fit his personality. Many Clark detractors like to go on and on how he abandoned his child and his responsibility and left Loretta to the burden. That isn’t really fair. It is hard to comprehend the panic and fear that both Clark and Loretta must have felt in these days when, as I am writing this, the top story on People.com is that some reality “star” is having her second child out of wedlock. These things aren’t covered up nowadays, they are celebrated. If Loretta’s pregnancy had been discovered, Clark and Loretta would have been Hollywood outcasts—both of their careers over and done with, no doubt about it. Clark was summoned to meet with Loretta and her mother, Gladys, where he was told of the situation. His initial reaction was one of panic. “She was a married woman—I thought she knew how to take care of herself,” he reportedly said. “Take care of herself” meaning handling the birth control aspect, I suppose. After that, he did call Loretta and tried to see her. She pushed him away, ignoring his calls and refusing to see him. He left Ria, finally, and moved into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. I honestly do believe that if he had not been married to Ria, he would have done the “right thing” and married Loretta, even though I don’t think he was in love with her. But he couldn’t marry her. It would have taken at least a year to get a divorce decree from Ria and that was time that they didn’t have I don’t think he would have hesitated to do the honorable thing and make Loretta his wife if he could have. Can you imagine? I have wondered how that would have turned out. At least little Judy would have known all along who her parents were, and then Clark could have experienced being a father. He was essentially robbed of that experience twice in life.
It is possible that Clark questioned the paternity, as well. A lot of people want to blame “womanizer” Clark for “seducing poor innocent Loretta” but that is hardly the case. Loretta was involved in a lengthy, heated affair with the married Spencer Tracy that ended shortly before she began filming on Call of the Wild. So it is possible that Clark suspected he wasn’t the father. Back before DNA testing, he only had Loretta’s word to go on. I’ve received emails from people about the Loretta page on this website, questioning Judy’s paternity and the legitimacy of the story, even to this day.
I don’t know why Clark never gave Loretta any money. I don’t know why he never tried to see Judy, even later in her life when she was an adult. I don’t know why Clark and Kay turned down the invitation to Judy’s wedding. Clark loved children and it seems very unlike him to turn his back on his own flesh and blood. My best guess is fear. Clark was always insecure about the public’s opinion and I think he was just too afraid. I don’t think that’s a grand excuse by any means, but that seems to be the case. Loretta and Judy were estranged for several years after Judy wrote her autobiography detailing her parentage, as Loretta was still so ashamed of her actions, even 50 years later.
It is a shame that Judy was denied by both her parents for most of her life. But I must say that she appeared to be a woman of both compassion and grace. An accomplished psychologist and author, she worked an actress and television writer as well, raising her one daughter. Despite never being acknowledged by him, Judy attended events at the Clark Gable Museum in Cadiz, Clark’s 100th birthday celebration in Los Angeles in 2001, and did interviews about him in documentaries. She never came across as bitter, just as a woman who struggled to know who she was and was thankful to finally have an answer.
Rest in peace, Judy. And as I said on the Facebook page yesterday, I hope you and Clark can have that long-overdue father-daughter chat now.
Here is Judy talking about Clark in a documentary in the 90’s:
This is a lovely video tribute to Judy from her brothers Peter and Chris, featuring home movies: