“I was nice enough not to kick their asses. This is Hollywood after all, and if you are smart you never burn bridges. I just smiled and said I am keeping the baby.”
That’s the opening entry in a remarkable blog from mid-2005 called “Pregnant Actress” (http://pregnantactress.blogspot.com/). Said actress soon discontinued the blog five weeks later, after her guy persuaded her to stop for fear her identity would be revealed. We never discovered who she was, and for this entry -– see title above -- it’s rather irrelevant.
These days, pregnant celebs are no longer shocking, as they were in 1991 when Demi Moore flaunted her pregnant body on the cover of Vanity Fair; there’s even a blog dedicated to them (http://celebritypregnancy.sheknows.com/). But had our pregnant actress been in that condition 75 years ago, she not only would have been encouraged “to get rid of the baby,” but might have had to if she wanted to stay under contract.
Actresses of today are a big deal; actresses of Carole Lombard’s day were substantially bigger (and that’s no pregnancy pun). There was no television to speak of in those days, and radio had some impact, but relatively little compared to the movies. And in those days, women had far more influence on the film industry –- both as viewers and as performers -– than they do today.
The battle to become, and remain, “box office” was considerable, and actresses were understandably fearful about the physical effects pregnancy, and childbirth, could have on bodies that were enlarged several times life-size on screen.
Also, keep in mind that the public morals of three-quarters of a century ago were vastly different than today (although, believe it or not, sex outside of wedlock was probably just as frequent then as it is now). If a married actress found it difficult to publicly have a child, a pregnant unmarried actress was really behind the 8-ball. Not only couldn’t she work because of the obvious physical aspects of her condition, but she would have been labeled a pariah and her career would be over. (It was especially true during that era of Hollywood, when studios had actors under long-term contracts and few, if any, freelanced.)
It’s understandable, then, that several decades before Roe v. Wade, abortion was a fairly common, if unspoken, practice in the film industry. Kay Francis had several abortions; Myrna Loy admitted to having one in her autobiography, “Being And Becoming.” It is believed that Jean Harlow underwent two abortions, including one during her relationship with William Powell that she aborted with much reluctance. (And, to be fair, this wasn’t restricted to actresses; in her frank autobiography “High Times, Hard Times,” jazz singer Anita O’Day admitted to having numerous abortions.)
If a movie star found herself with child and refused to abort -– for religious reasons or otherwise –- she could find a way to have the baby, but it wouldn’t be easy. The most famous example is Judy Lewis, daughter of Loretta Young and fathered by Clark Gable while he and Young were on location in the Pacific Northwest filming “Call Of The Wild.”
Young, a devout Catholic, managed to hide her pregnancy while filming “The Crusades,” had the child in private (Lewis turns 75 Nov. 6), then staged an adoption to cover up what she had done. Young denied being Lewis’ birth mother, leading to an estrangement for some years, until admitting it not long before her death in August 2000.
As it turns out, there may be another example of a movie star who discreetly had a daughter sired by a famous father, one that was kept under wraps for many years.
It was no secret that Marion Davies was the mistress of William Randolph Hearst for several decades. What wasn’t known was that Davies may have bore him a daughter -– Patricia van Cleve Lake, reportedly born June 18, 1923 in Paris. The child was said to have then been given to Davies’ sister Rosemary, whose own child had died in infancy, which would mean Marion’s child grew up as her niece.
As was the case for most of the Davies family, Patricia spent much time around San Simeon, and may have met Lombard during her numerous visits to the Hearst castle. Patricia, who acted on both radio and television, married actor Arthur Lake in the summer of 1942. The wedding took place at San Simeon, and before she died in 1993 she said that at the time of her marriage, Hearst secretly told her he was her father.
Lombard, of course, never had a child, and it’s uncertain whether she was ever pregnant. Some believe she may have learned she was just prior to her death, while others contend she may have earlier miscarried during her marriage to Gable. She supposedly wanted children, and it may have been screenwriter Robert Riskin’s refusal to have them that prevented them from marriage in the mid-thirties. (He changed his mind on the subject some years later, marrying and having children by actress Fay Wray.)
To close, a few more thoughts from the blog of our anonymous pregnant actress:
“Women in Hollywood are supposed to wait until a certain 'point' in their career to have kids. And when you do you are supposed to gain 12 lbs., all in your tummy, work out with a personal trainer everyday and be back to your size 0 no more than 2 weeks after the baby is born.
“To heck with that. Actresses are real women. Yeah, some still work out during their pregnancy...Gabby Reece looked fantastic at the end, and some look great not working out. But some say to hell with it and they just enjoy eating 'real' foods and they put on weight. I will always love Kate Hudson after she gave an interview and said she gained 60 lbs., was the happiest fat lady out there, and that it bothered the people around her much more than her. I'm sure it did, I'm sure her agent and next director were calling daily to see how quickly she was losing the weight.”
“So as tough-skinned as you have to be in Hollywood, you have to be even tougher to be pregnant in Hollywood.”