Aug 8, 2006

The Adoption That Never Was

Loretta Young (1913-2000) was a movie star who made nearly 100 movies from 1927 through 1953. She hosted the very popular Loretta Young Show on TV beginning in 1953, and the series continued through 1961. She played the lead in 162 episodes of this drama anthology series. The Loretta Young Shows could be mostly relied on to emphasize faith and moral values.

Loretta Young was known for her religious faith and work on behalf of Catholic charities. Her scripts contained stories about family, community, and personal conviction, leading to the resolution of moral challenges. Every episode was summed up with a quotation from the Bible or some other recognized source. Her work was honored by numerous civic and religious groups. She was the first woman to win both an Academy Award and an Emmy Award.

I knew Loretta Young was a Catholic (but I'm not sure I knew she was divorced) when I looked forward to her TV shows in the 50s. She was well-known for being one of the two energetic nuns in the hit movie of 1949, Come to the Stable. After the end of her TV series, she retired but returned in 1986 to earn a Golden Globe Award for her performance in a made-for-TV movie, Christmas Eve, that was far above the secular movies of the time. Her last appearance was in another TV movie in 1990. She continued to be active in Catholic charities until she died in 2000 at the age of 87. Her TV shows are now being run on Sky Angel and are sold by Amazon.com.

Now, for the rest of the story.

Loretta Young was already a very successful young actress when she made a hit movie in 1935 with Clark Gable as her co-star. She was attracted to his famous masculine image. What happened next was that Loretta became pregnant by a married man not her husband.

She did what many Catholic girls did at that time, she hid her pregnancy to avoid the scandal and to prevent cancellation of her studio contract which prohibited immoral behavior. In those days, unmarried pregnant girls who did not marry the father of their child usually went to another town 'on vacation' or to 'visit an aunt' (Loretta and her mother went to Europe). Then the baby of the unwed mother was usually given up for adoption. In many instances, the girl returned home with no one the wiser.

Loretta Young decided to keep her new baby girl, a rarity in that age. But how? She announced that she was planning to adopt a baby that needed a home. In the terrible depression of the mid 1930s, Loretta's action was viewed as admirable. So Loretta's baby was "adopted," received the name of Judy, and lived with Loretta Young. After Loretta was married in 1940 to Thomas Lewis, the little girl took the name of Judy Lewis. Loretta's daughter continued to be told she was adopted as she grew. But she inherited her famous Dad's ears and these were surgically altered.

According to Judy's autobiography, she first heard that Clark Gable was her father from other children at school. But only after her first child was born did Judy Lewis definitely learn there was no adoption and that Loretta Young was her birth mother and that Clark Gable was her father.

Loretta Young committed a number of public sins during her lifetime, including divorce and remarriage, affairs with married men, and wearing low-cut dresses. Yet in an interview with Palm Springs Life magazine about four years before she died, she said Ingrid Bergman once asked her
"Do you really believe that there is anything after this life?" And I said, "Oh, I'll say. That's why to me every single solitary moment is so important. What I do here is going to decide whether I go to heaven or hell. And when I was 16 I decided I was not going to go to hell. And you can decide that. You may boo-boo 10 times a day. That's why we have confession. As long as you're sincere and trying to break the habits." Well we had a heartfelt discussion and I said I was preparing for the afterlife every day.
Marlene Dietrich, not the kind of famous actress a Catholic would like to imitate, nevertheless gave Loretta Young a remarkable compliment that I'll always remember, "Every time she 'sins,' she builds a church. That's why there are so many Catholic churches in Hollywood."


3 comments:

WOLFTRACKER said...

Where on earth did you get all of this inside knowledge, Dusty? What a great post. Loved the one on self-reliance too. But you made no mention of firearms and hunting, which are both important to that end.

W.

Dust I Am said...

Firearms are needed by good people to keep bad people at bay. Hunting for food is okay, or to kill pests, or for necessary culling of animal and fowl populations, e.g., deer and Canadian geese.

I've killed small birds and a badger--just to show I could shoot straight(when I used to have good eyesight!) However, killing for sport made me feel guilty and so I stopped that a long time ago.

WOLFTRACKER said...

I was speaking about the ability to feed a family during a depression and such, not shooting for sport, which I have never done.