Today, Anne Helen Petersen, a writer for Buzzfeed, published an article that aims to, after so many decades, bring a clearer understanding of the long gossiped about and heavily misunderstood (by myself, included) “relationship” of Loretta Young and Clark Gable.
I encourage everyone to read the article before continuing any further, as some of what I say might not make a darn bit of sense, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Last week, I composed a very angry open letter to an author who used the term rape, as if it was just a simple, but forceful, act of love. In response, it was proposed that rape, in the 1930’s, is just what we would call rough sex, today. I want everyone to take a good, long look at Loretta Young. At 22 years old, a man with whom she had only a working relationship came into her room and would not take no for an answer. A child, Judy, was conceived, and for the remaining 65 years of Loretta’s life, she would, with grace that I cannot fathom, endure being called a hypocrite, the sinning saint, and worse. I know this because I was one of her detractors for many, many years. For 65 years, she had to live with guilt, with the burden of thinking she was solely responsible for her fate, that she had to atone for a sin. For Loretta and for everyone who survived, not knowing for years that they were not to blame for what happened to them, I will never apologize for going on the attack, and I will never, ever forget or forgive the people who seem to think that a 1930’s rape is justifiable.
As you can see from posts spanning the last few months, this story wasn’t my “come to Jesus” moment. I’m not above admitting that it didn’t even take this kind of revelation for me to admit that I was wrong. And the funniest part of all is that I don’t actually have a really clear moment of when I knew that I had been being a giant, judgmental jerk for so many years, but I remember reading Loretta’s first quote in Joan Wester Anderson’s authorized biography and thinking, “Oh hell, this woman sounds exactly like me.” I mean, clearly I don’t have fans, not even decorative ones, but the general idea of what she was saying is exactly how I’d viewed religion since I was a wee thing, rebelling in Christian Elementary School. I sincerely hope that I’m not breaking any laws quoting this-
Our human connections are guided by God, and ultimately all of us are linked through His love. Thus, we have all already met, not as actress and fan but as His children, and we can never be lost to each other. (Loretta Young)
I’ll be honest- I think I was partially going in to this book just looking for ammo. Just that foreword reeled me in, though. The simple story of just how, for lack of a better word, regular and down to earth she was reminded me of at least one other lady I initially thought was a joke. The further I went on, the more something struck me as odd- Loretta seemed to be totally open about mistakes, brutally honest about her feelings, and genuinely a delightful human being. Now, where was this seductress, this oversexed nymph that I’d been told about?
And that’s it. That woman was not there. To even think of her as such seems entirely laughable, now.
The continuation of my story and my weird, trippy connection to a lady who died 15 years ago seems like a waste of space, so I’ll spare you any more of that. What I’m trying to get at, here, is that all it took was for me to give her a chance. I learned so much of what kind of person she truly was, and that throwing caution to the wind while having a fling with Gable was so totally out of character that it didn’t make any sense, whatsoever.
Now, we learn the truth, and it comes with shocking implications not only for Clark Gable, but I feel for us as a society, too. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and responding to comments on Buzzfeed, today, and even with this revelation, the people who are hell bent on hating Loretta will not even take a step back to look at what they’re saying about themselves, by saying all things short of having her burned as a witch. It is 2015, and there are still people out there who demand that Loretta, a victim of rape, be held accountable for her actions. She had her child, raised her to the best of her ability, in such strange circumstances, but people still make these insane demands of her memory. It’s as if they want her family to get her kicked out of the Catholic faith, or something. You know, that faith that was a big reason for Judy having been born, in the first place? What, exactly, did we ever want Loretta to do? Mistakes were made, sure. Could she have been more open with Judy? I’m sure of that, too. Do I absolutely agree with how everything went down? Nope. Honestly, though, in those shoes, with that hand of fate, damn it all if I wouldn’t have lost my marbles. Yet there are many people who feel like they’re taking up some noble cause, on Judy’s behalf, without ever knowing that she and her mother eventually reconciled. Judy Lewis’ life was not easy, from the beginning. Neither was her mother’s. We need to stop blaming Loretta, stop wanting her to be different, stop applying what we would do in that situation, to her, because we can’t change her. Now that we do know a little bit more of her story, I can only hope that many of us can apologize to her. Her faith kept her going, and she tried her level best to be a good role model. She didn’t want this to be the focus of her life, and she certainly never wanted anyone to say, “Loretta Young had a baby out of wedlock, so why can’t I?” She thought she was to blame, and now we know she was not. Step back, think about that, and stop asking Loretta to crawl through the mud to gain your approval. She did the best with what God gave her.
Another question I have is this- where has our outrage ever been, over Gable being a known womanizer? We never asked him to apologize. We never said, “Holy shit, he got a girl pregnant then acted like it was all her fault!” (Okay, I think I might have said that a few times, but I’m not pulling any punches on my own guilt or excusing my own stupidity.) The huge flaw in many comments today, and through history, have been this very thing. No, Gable was not openly religious, but is it that alone that gives him a pass? Of course not. His pass is that, historically it’s been nothing more than a game for men to make conquests out of women. I’ve honestly never cared for him, and many times I’ve said that and heard, “But he was a war hero!” Well, let me just sit my ass back down because clearly that makes him a saint. People love to make excuses for him and his behavior. Granted, he was a product of his time, but his cavalier attitude toward bedding women is still embraced, to this day.
I guess the whole point of this is simple. If you’re going to get mad at Loretta, I suppose I can’t stop you. After all, it took an inexcusable amount of time for me to not have that ignorant beef with her. But if you want to be mad at her, you need to be even more pissed off at Gable, a serial adulterer. Loretta’s mistake was being too nice. Gable’s mistake was being a predator.
My complete and total respect to Linda Lewis, Loretta’s daughter in law, for her amazing work in keeping Loretta’s name alive, and helping to clear it. These situations are never easy, and I, for one, am so damn proud to know her, even if only online. xoK