In 1960 shortly before he died, Clark Gable signed his last will and testament. In it he pointedly disavowed any living children. Thus he disowned and disinherited his only living child, a daughter named Judy that he fathered with Loretta Young in 1935. (Subsequently, a son, John Clark Gable, was born to his widow Kay Gable five months after Gable's death.)
Judy's half-brother, Christopher Lewis, told her that Tom Lewis, once asked Clark Gable if he was Judy's biological father. Gable denied it, saying that he would love to have a child and adding, "Do you think I would let anyone else bringing up my only child?". But he did. Tom Lewis was bringing up his only child.
Clark Gable was among those invited by Loretta Young to Judy Lewis' wedding in June of 1958 just as he had been invited to her high school graduation as few years earlier. He declined both invitations and didn't send a gift. And Gable, who once told an interviewer that his one real regret in life was that he never had any children, completely ignored the granddaughter that Judy soon bore. (Ironically, Gable died on her first birthday.)
Judy Lewis only knew Clark Gable through his films. "Call of the Wild" and "Gone With the Wind" were two of her favorites. Enthralled by his megastar image, for years she blamed her mother for her estrangement from him. Loretta Young's response was published posthumously in an authorized biography, Forever Young. Loretta acknowledged Clark Gable was Judy's father but stated that his estrangement from her was beyond her control. She said that Gable simply never showed any interest in Judy. He never contributed a dime to the bank account Young set up for her nor did he accept any of her invitations to events in her life.
Perhaps in search of the father she never knew, Judy became a close friend of Cammie King Conlon, who played Bonnie Blue Butler, the daughter of Clark Gable’s character Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. (At the time they met and became friends Conlon was unaware that Judy was Gable's daughter.)
Judy describes lovingly in her book Uncommon Knowledge a chance meeting Clark Gable at her parents home while he was filming Key to the City with her mother. In her memory Gable acts much as Rhett Butler might. He is kind and inquisitive about her. Loretta Young however states clearly in her authorized biography that no such meeting ever took place. See Forever Young, Page 265.
Judy has since acknowledged that her vision of her father may not be realistic. "I've tried to make my peace with the past, and I'm now happy to think of Gable in my own idealised way. I've purposefully made that choice, because I never was given the chance to know him and ask: 'Where were you?' " As to the Gone With The Wind scene where Gable plays affectionately with his fictional daughter, Lewis is quoted that "I like to think that he was thinking of me when he was playing those scenes". But she added that "perhaps the famous 'Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn' was a truer reflection of his feelings towards me".
J. LEWIS: The first time I met him was at a film of "Gone With The Wind," and I knew who he was. But he didn't know who I was. And the second time we met, we had dinner, and I gave him the book. And that was it. I have never heard from him since.
Judy Lewis and Loretta Young, the mother who was there for her all along, if not always in the way that Judy wished her to be, circa 1980.
Judy Lewis died of lymphoma on Friday, November 25, 2011 at the age of 76.