Judy Lewis, 76, psychotherapist, daughter of Loretta Young and Clark Gable

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Judy Lewis.

Judy Lewis, 76, of Palm Springs, Calif., an actress, writer, and psychotherapist who was the daughter of the actors Loretta Young and Clark Gable, died of cancer Friday, Nov. 25, at Waverly Heights, a retirement community in Gladwyne.

In her 1994 best-seller, Uncommon Knowledge, Ms. Lewis reported that she was conceived in 1935 when Young and Gable were filming a Yukon adventure, The Call of the Wild.

Gable was married to his second wife, Maria Langham, and Young was single. Because she had a morals clause in her contract with 20th Century-Fox, Young hid the pregnancy and birth, and 19 months later told the public she had adopted a daughter. When Young married Thomas Lewis in 1940, her daughter took his name, but he never adopted her.

In an interview published in The Inquirer in 1994, Ms. Lewis said: "It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted . . . by my mother, who to this day will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child."

In an authorized biography published after her death in 2000, Young confirmed that Ms. Lewis was her daughter with Gable.

Ms. Lewis met Gable, who died in 1960, only once, when she was a teenager and he dropped by her mother's house. They spoke for hours, she later said, but Ms. Lewis did not discover until several years later that he was her father.

Ms. Lewis grew up in Los Angeles. In Uncommon Knowledge, she wrote she was teased because of the ears that she inherited from Gable. At 7, she had an operation to pin them back.

Her mother loved to sew and insisted that Ms. Lewis take sewing lessons. Ms. Lewis later wrote in a tribute to Young, "I inherited my mother's love of clothes . . . I made some beautiful prom dresses, suits, coats, even hats. My mother and I would leaf through the pages of Vogue magazine and then I'd copy the dress that I admired. I made my own daughter's clothes when she was small - and loved doing it - thanks to Mom."

After graduating from Marymount High School, Ms. Lewis pursued an acting career in New York City. In the early 1960s, she appeared on Broadway in Mary and Mary, and began to have featured parts on daytime serials, including General Hospital, Kitty Foyle, The Brighter Day, and The Doctors.

Her longest-running role was as Susan Ames Dunbar on The Secret Storm from 1964 to 1971. She had guest-starring roles in The Blue Angels, The Outlaws, Airport 1975, The Streets of San Francisco and Police Woman.

Behind the camera, Ms. Lewis produced the soap opera Texas, a spin-off of Another World. Her script work on Search for Tomorrow earned her a Writer's Guild Award in 1991.

During the 1980s, she fulfilled a lifelong dream by earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in clinical psychology from Antioch University, said her daughter, Maria Tinney Dagit. Ms. Lewis then counseled teenagers for California Foster Care and St. Annes Hospital in Los Angeles.

After earning a marriage and family/child counseling license in the early 1990s, she was a practicing psychotherapist in Los Angeles until several months ago, her daughter said.

Ms. Lewis was married for 14 years to Joseph Tinney, a television producer and director who was a Philadelphia native. They divorced in 1972. He died in 1999.

Every year, Ms. Lewis spent a month around Christmas in Gladwyne and a month in the summer in Longport, N.J., with her daughter, son-in-law Dan Dagit, and the couple's two sons. "She played an active and vital role in their lives," her daughter said.

Besides her daughter and grandsons, Ms. Lewis is survived by three half-brothers and her longtime partner, Steve Rowland.

A Memorial Mass will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at St. John Vianney Church, Youngsford Road and Route 23, Gladwyne. Friends may call from 11 a.m.

 


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.