Judy Lewis, therapist for troubled teenagers, actress and screen writer, has died in Pennsylvania at the age of 76. The cause was cancer, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
As a young actress, Lewis worked in TV dramas and soap operas such as General Hospital. For several years she played a recurring character on the serial, The Secret Storm. She produced and wrote scripts, and once appeared on Broadway, according to BroadwayWorld.
Judy Lewis in 1959.
Judy Lewis in 1959.
However, she radically changed careers in the 1980s. She returned to college, earning an advanced degree in clinical psychology and starting work with children in the California foster care system. In the 1990s, she obtained additional certifications and opened her own psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles.
Lewis could connect very well with children who'd been abandoned. Her own childhood history is complicated. She was brought up by the Oscar-winning actress Loretta Young, who adopted her as a toddler. But in reality, Lewis was her mother's biological daughter. Years earlier while working on a film, Loretta Young had had a very short affair with leading man Clark Gable, who was older and married. As the Los Angeles Times notes,
"The rest of their story unfolds like a B movie: The unmarried, devout Catholic known for playing wholesome roles discovers she is pregnant as she is set to star in legendary director Cecil B. DeMille's religious-themed film "The Crusades," goes abroad to avoid gossip, and returns to Los Angeles to give birth in secrecy. Then she turns the infant over to a home run by nuns, retrieves her daughter before she turns 2, fakes the adoption and raises the child under a cloud of lies."
The baby was Judy.
Lewis says in her memoir, Uncommon Knowledge, she didn't learn who her father was until she was 23, when her prospective husband broke the news. Although her parentage was known by others, to Judy Lewis it had been a surprise. She wasn't able to confront her mother for years. When Lewis published her book, Loretta Young did not speak to her daughter for several years, says the L.A. Times.
Although Young admitted the truth to her daughter, she would not do so publically. She finally allowed her biographer to reveal the matter, but wouldn't allow the book to be published during her lifetime, according to the New York Times (paywall). Loretta Young died in 2000. Clark Gable died in 1960.
Lewis is survived by a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.