Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Adopted Not-Adopted Child

The New York Times publishes the obituary of Judy Lewis, biological child of Loretta Young and Cary Grant, but who was passed off as the adopted daughter of Loretta Young.
Ms. Lewis, a former actress who died on Friday at the age of 76, was 31 before she discerned the scope of the falsehoods that cast her, a daughter of Hollywood royalty, into what she later described as a Cinderella-like childhood. Confronted by Ms. Lewis, Young finally made a tearful confession in 1966 at her sprawling home in Palm Springs, Calif.
Young was 22 and unmarried when she and Gable, 34 and married to Maria Langham, had their brief affair. She spent most of her pregnancy in Europe to avoid Hollywood gossip. Ms. Lewis was born on Nov. 6, 1935, in a rented house in Venice, Calif. Soon she was turned over to a series of caretakers, including St. Elizabeth’s Infants Hospital in San Francisco, so that Young could return to stardom.
When Ms. Lewis was 19 months old, her mother brought her back home and announced through the gossip columnist Louella Parsons that she had adopted the child.
Ms. Lewis grew up in Los Angeles, cushioned in the luxury of her mother’s movie-star lifestyle even as she endured what she later described as an outsider’s isolation within her family and the teasing of children at school.
I found this snippet particular poignant for an adopted not-adopted child:
In a 2001 interview on CNN with Larry King, Ms. Lewis recalled speaking to her mother about her early life.
"I was also asking her about being adopted,” she said, “as adopted children do. They say, ‘Where are my ... ’”
Mr. King interjected, “‘Who’s my mother?’”
“Yes,” Ms. Lewis said. “‘Who’s my mother? Who’s my father?’ And she would answer it very easily by saying, ‘I couldn’t love you any more than if you were my own child,’ which, of course, didn’t answer the question, but it said, ‘Don’t ask the question.’"


Dawn said...

I shared this over at First Mother Forum already but there's a book by Laura Hobson that is a novelization of her doing this, too. (She also wrote Gentleman's Agreement.) It's called The Tenth Month and in it a single woman during the 30s/40s (can't remember) gets pregnant, has the baby and hides him in an apartment with a nurse, and then adopts him. Laura Hobson did this, too, four years after adopting a child that was NOT hers biologically. She kept the secret from both sons until they were adults. So apparently there was less stigma for a single, professional woman to adopt than to give birth.

Susan M said...

Wow. I'm continually amazed at the havoc wreaked by shaming women's sexuality and reproductive decisions. Sad that it continues, for mothers, for adopted children and, apparently, for not-adopted adopted children.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, is this were an adoptive family keeping a child's adoptive status secret the comments would be scathing.

So let me just say that his poor woman was lied to, deceived and denied a vital part of her history by the very people who should have loved and protected her best.

Her bio. Mom was nothing more than a liar and her bio. father even worse as an absenti parent.

To me her mother had ample opportunity to share "the truth" free of public scrutiny as the years wore on and chose not to; she also denied this woman a chance to know half siblings and extended family. Denied her a birthright through her fabricated deceptions.

Wow. I will call it as I see it. Not a statement of one privileged woman's societal induced shame, but rather one woman's cowardice and lies.

Sad and pathetic.