Clark Gable has been accused of raping co-star Loretta Young, in what was previously believed to have been a consensual affair.

Did Clark Gable Rape Loretta Young?

Gable and Young, two Hollywood legends, co-starred in the 1935 film The Call of the Wild, and allegedly engaged in an affair – Gable was married at the time. Rumors of the affair circulated Hollywood for years, but it wasn’t publicly confirmed until Young’s daughter, Judy Lewis, released her memoir, Uncommon Knowledge in 1994, in which she claimed to be the biological daughter of Young and Gable.

According to Lewis, she was conceived during the affair, and her unwed mother left to Europe to hide her pregnancy. She eventually returned to Hollywood claiming that she had adopted her then one-year-old daughter, Judith. It wasn’t until 2000 – six years after Lewis’ memoir was published – that Young confirmed that Lewis was Gable’s child in her own memoirs, released after her death.

Now, 15-years after the initial confirmation, Young’s daughter-in-law, Linda Lewis, has revealed that Young once claimed that Gable had raped her. Lewis, who married Young’s son, Chris Lewis, revealed that Young came to her one day in the late ‘90s, when the actress was 85-years-old, and asked her what the term “date rape” meant. After Linda explained the term, Young allegedly responded, “That’s what happened between me and Clark.”

According to Linda and a report published by BuzzFeed News, Young and Gable did not engage in a lengthy affair during the production of The Call of the Wild, as was popularly believed. Young reportedly insisted that the two simply flirted, but their relationship became physical on the night production returned from location, when Gable entered her sleeping train compartment and allegedly raped her.

The morning after, Young reportedly resolved to continue on as if nothing had happened – in 1935, Young’s options for recourse were few and the term “date rape” had not been popularized. “She was so humiliated and what she would do when she was humiliated was just ‘on with the show.’ Because she had been trained since the age of 3, you put a good face on it, and you go forward. She knew she’d have to continue working with him, Linda told Anne Helen Petersen, who authored the article for BuzzFeed.

Young discovered she was pregnant after she finished shooting with Gable, and devised a plan with the help of her mother and sisters to have the baby in secret. At that time, Hollywood studios had much more control over performances, including strict morality clauses that forbid any kind of ‘indecent’ behavior. As time went on, Young and her daughter grew apart after Lewis learned the truth about her parentage, and it wasn’t until after ’ memoir was published that Young learned of the term “date rape” and approached Linda.

“We talked about it, and it didn’t make her angry at him [Gable], it just gave her a new frame that I think lifted a lot of her guilt,” Linda recalled.

Young did not inform her daughter of her newfound realization, and Linda did not begin talking about her belief that Gable raped Young until after both Young and Lewis had died – Young died in 2000 at the age of 87, and Lewis died in 2011. Linda did not say exactly what motivated her decision to come forward with Young’s story, now four years after Lewis’ death and 80 years after the alleged rape took place. She did, however, suggest that she was moved to speak out given the prevalence of rape and the wave of people willing to discuss it. “But, then I realized that it’s almost every day, all these rapes, and the men just keep getting away with it,” she said.

Clark Gable And Rape: Film Historians Take Sides

The story of Young’s alleged rape by Gable, one of classic Hollywood’s most beloved actors has somewhat shaken film lovers and historians, especially in light of the recent controversy over Bill Cosby and the many rape allegations made against him.

Film historian Robert Matzen dismissed Young’s claim, arguing that The Call of the Wild director William A. Wellman once wrote that he had to ask Gable to stop the “monkey business” going on between him and Young on set and that Young had willingly worked with Gable again years later in Key to the City. (Though, it is important to note that neither of these facts disprove any allegations of rape.)

“So, this sophisticated woman has to ask for the definition of date rape? This new story makes her sound sort of like an idiot. Loretta was no idiot. She was a Hollywood survivor capable of engineering the whole adoption thing, and she also steadfastly denied Gable’s paternity through the course of her life,” Matzen told The New York Post.

After Matzen’s opinion became public, Peterson, who authored the BuzzFeed piece, took to Twitter to point out that Matzen’s suggestion that any sexual encounter between Gable and Young was consensual because of reported “monkey business” was “questionable at best.”

Other film historians believe that Young’s version of events is entirely plausible, but concede, as do Linda Lewis and Peterson, that the truth will never be known.

“[The allegation against Gable] is not only conceivable, but was acceptable. Millions of women wanted to be in Loretta Young’s position. If you look at Gable’s films that precede [The Call of the Wild], there are films where he manhandled women and they love it,” said David Stenn.

Stenn added, “If the story is true, there’s something deeply poignant about her only understanding what happened many decades later. It shines a light on an ugly period of Hollywood and its treatment of women.”

While film historians will now be forced to consider this revelation now that the allegation of date rape has become public, other Hollywood figures and institutions appear to be taking sides. The official Twitter handle for the Golden Globe Awards tweeted a photo of Gable on July 16, four days after the BuzzFeed article was published. Along with the photo, The Golden Globes tweeted this quote: “It is an extra dividend when you like the girl you’ve fallen in love with. – Clark Gable.”