How Loretta Young’s Faith Became Part of Her Legacy
By Allyson Vannatta, Senior Writer
Note: This is part of our Miracles in Hollywood series.
Though she ultimately put her faith first, Loretta Young wrestled with priorities in the entertainment industry. Young explained the struggle to biographer Joan Wester Anderson, beginning with the actress’ teenage years.
As a young 17-year-old actress, Young eloped against her mother’s wishes. The marriage was brief; however, she still received a scolding from the family priest.
The priest told her she had to choose between her faith or her Hollywood career. He added that choices in her personal life would have a “profound impact” on the lives of the people around her. Young chose Hollywood.
Young was involved with several co-stars during the 1930s. While on the set of CALL OF THE WILD, though, Young was smitten with legendary actor Clark Gable.
The actress told Anderson that he “pressured her a lot.”
Young got pregnant and birthed Gable’s child. When media asked about the new bundle of joy, Young said she adopted her daughter.
The child, Judy Lewis, would go on to take the last name of Young’s husband Tom Lewis, whom she married in 1941. When Young got pregnant again, studio executives were livid.
Young told Anderson that studio executives told her she had to “skip [the baby] or turn in” her contract.
They ultimately fired Young because she refused to have an abortion. Still, she held the secret of her daughter’s birth father close, until Judy herself asked one day.
“I said, I really need to talk to you… she excused herself and went into the bathroom and she got sick to her stomach,” Judy recalls. “Then she came out, and I said ‘OK, Mama is Clark Gable my father?’ and she said ‘yes, he is.’”
Though Young made Judy promise to not reveal her real father, Judy broke the promise, leading to the mother and daughter’s estrangement.
Judy published the information in her book “Uncommon Knowledge” in 1994.
However, through significant prayer, Young ultimately forgave Judy, and the two reconciled in 1997.
By the end of her life, Young’s faith ultimately defined her legacy.
Her son, Chris Lewis, detailed how his mother very was devoted to her faith during her later years.
“She was very Catholic and would go to mass every day [in her later years]. Usually at 11 o’clock in Beverly Hills,” he told Fox News.
“The Desert Regional Medical Center even named its chapel after her because she would attend the mass there all the time,” he said while laughing.
He added that his mother was also good friends with John Wayne’s wife, and Bob Hope’s wife, who were both also Catholic.
Chris said the reason Young’s career was so successful was because of her moral compass.
“She had a moral compass. Growing up for us kids, you always respected everybody. We treated everyone equally. She knew she never wanted to play parts that were negative or brought people down. She fought the studios and got suspended several times because she refused to do the movies that the studio guys wanted her to do. That can ruin a career.
“But I think people sense that moral compass. She would take six months off and not get paid because she was suspended. But she would then come back and get her way,” he said.
Young died of ovarian cancer in 2000.
Young’s biography on IMDB reads that she “Remains a symbol of beauty, serenity, and grace. But, behind the glamour and stardom is a woman of substance whose true beauty lies in her dedication to her family, her faith, and her quest to live life with a purpose.”