Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sean, The Myth or Reality

This has been such a time consuming, mind consuming act of mental circumlocution.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many newspapers I've read and believe me when I say I am not done yet!  I offer to you the very few things I've found plus my take on the whole situation of Sean.

The first thing I can say with some confidence is that he was born between October of 1949 and January of 1950.  If he is still alive he would be 62 or so years old.  The second thing I can tell you is that he was a redhead.  Every newspaper that mentions him states that he was a "firetop"  like Agnes and Robert Gist. In fact in the March 12th, 1953 edition of The Redlands Daily Fact it plainly says that Sean was a redhead.
I really scratched my head at that because what are the odds the you'd be led to a baby by your physician who was going to be put up for adoption that had red hair just like you?  In some papers, during the divorce between Gist and Moorehead, there is mention of a bitter custody battle.  How can you have a custody battle over a child that isn't even yours to begin with?

Agnes said much later in life in an interview that Sean was not adopted but rather she was a foster mother because she was single and they didn't allow single women to adopt.

"Do you have any children?"

"My foster son Sean."
"How did you find him? How old was he then?"
"He was a year and a half old. My doctor told me about him...He was a legitimate child with about 14 brothers and sisters. His mother had put six of them up for adoption. Sean was very anemic, his little eyes were crossed, he had bad teeth and a spot on his lung."

"A foster son....You didn't think of adopting him?"
"I couldn't. I was single at the time and single women then weren't permitted to adopt babies. But I took him into my home and raised him as my own son. He's grown now and has gone out somewhere on his own."
"You don't know where he is now?"
"No, I haven't heard from him in quite a while." There is no emotion in the things she says. Now, quite suddenly, she flashes a most unexpected and radiant smile. "But that's all right. That's the way boys are."

 Does any of this strike you as odd?  Well, it darn sure struck me as odd.  For one thing why make such a point of saying he was a legitimate child?  If he was fostered or adopted it should not have mattered whether or not he was legitimate.  I think Agnes was highly aware of who his parents were but we'll come to that later.  Secondly, Agnes wasn't even remotely single when she "fostered" Sean she was indeed married to Jack Lee and still very much a Mrs.  Some newspapers place the adoption in January of 1952:

Mansfield News
Mansfield Ohio
January 18th, 1952
Agnes Moorehead now has the final adoption papers on her two year old son.

January 23, 1952
Final adoption papers have been given to Agnes Moorehead for the two year old boy she has been caring for so he is now completely hers.

Here are my two suspicions on the table for all to see.  You remember my mentioning that Robert Gist had been married in Chicago to a Louise Van Dyke on February 8th 1943.  I think that either of these two scenarios is plausible:
A.  Sean is the child of Robert Gist and Louise Van Dyke.  We already know that he has a penchant for reproduction as evidenced by the slew of children he fathered.  What is to say that he didn't do that with Louise?  She may very well have put the child up for adoption or several of her children up for adoption once Gist dumped her.  She may have passed away and the children may have been put up for adoption.  The only thing I can prove with any certainty is that Louise Van Dyke disappears once Robert is on the screen in Hollywood and hooks up with Agnes.
B.  Sean is the child of Robert Gist or Jack Lee and Agnes Moorehead. It could happen.  She was only 48 when she met Gist and still living with her husband.  It could explain the confusion of whether Lee was involved in the adoption or not. It might explain her launching into a lengthy description of her labor with Sean.  Of the two theories I deem this the least likely, although, Loretta Young did get pregnant by Clark Gable.  Nobody knew it and further more, Young, a single woman adopted her own child.  So it is entirely possible that this could have happened, unlikely, but not impossible.

There's a secret lurking behind all of this. I can tell you that two different articles many years apart spoke of Agnes' intention to adopt children.  One article said that she and Jack Lee wanted to adopt 4 children and another speaks of she and Gist wanting to adopt 6 children, which is rather coincidental considering that Robert Gist had at least four children with two women before he was divorced from Agnes. 

I don't know if we will ever find out the myth behind Sean.  I know he was a troubled boy.  He robbed Agnes on at least two occasions.  He insisted that his friends call him Eric, perhaps his real name.  He ran away from at least one prestigious English boarding school.  He simply walked out of Agnes' life without so much as a by your leave.  He knew, just as anyone who picked up a newspaper knew, that she was being treated in the Mayo clinic in 1972 first as an inpatient and then as an outpatient.  Generally signifies a serious illness and/or surgery when that happens and still he chose not to get in touch with her.  He was a man by then between 22 and 23 years old.  Something ate at him.  Perhaps her absences when he was a child.  Perhaps her harsh standards, not uncommon at all for a woman of her age.  Perhaps it was shame on his part for having used her so blatantly.  Perhaps it was a complete lack of concern.  He did have a habit of using older women for support.  After he left Agnes' home he went to Switzerland where he lived under the roof of Paulette Goddard.  Sounds like someone else we've all read about doesn't it?  Robert Gist, who, like Sean used older women as a stepping stone.  I'm just saying.

After he leaves the home of Paulette Goddard Sean became another face in the crowd and most impossible to track but trust me when I say I won't quit until I find him and know what happened to him.  That I promise you.


margo7468 said...

To be honest, I've always wondered about Sean- as a lot of us do. I agree, I think there was definitely something a bit 'off' about the whole situation. . .perhaps the second option is a bit far-fetched, but it could definitely be true. I mean, my mother had me when she was 47...And when you have kids later in life, they are often born sickly and whatnot. . .as it appears Sean was. And he had red hair (!?) Wow, that is quite a coincidence... Hmmm, good luck with the research! Thanks for taking the time to write these posts! :)

tamela757 said...

My great grandmother had her last child at 49 so it's possible. I couldn't believe it when I found out he had red hair...blew me away because honestly the first things that popped into my head were he was really hers or he was definitely Roberts. Thank god for newspapers with weird little tidbits of news otherwise I would have never known the hair color at all.

RHIANNON said...

I've always wondered about Sean too. But if he really was Agnes' why would she say he was her "foster" son or "adopted" son and not just her son?

tamela757 said...

Who knows, honestly, it is all very odd. Her detachment, his detachment, their detachment. All in all it seems that both folks had too much damage to forgive and forget.

Anonymous said...

I went to high school with Sean, he seemed pleasant enough but you could just sense he was unhappy about something. I never saw him after that, hope he is OK.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege of doing an interview with Agnes Moorehead when I was a high school student. She mentioned her "son" Sean who was out of the state, in school at the time. She was preparing to go abroad for filming and the interview took place at her home. She was gracious, forthcoming, and I felt like I was in the midst of royalty. A lovely, giving and gifted actress took the time to speak with me, a student of all things theatre. I've wondered about her "son" for years and was glad to see the information given here. Still a mystery.

Anonymous said...

I was at Llandovery College,Wales with Sean from about 1963 to 1965, when I left.
He asked me to go out to Beverly Hills for a holiday but I declined-not one of my
better decisions ! I lost contact then but have often wondered about him.
I definitely don't remember him as having red hair,but dark and wiry.

Anonymous said...

If it helps with any of your research. I was told by Joan Cohn (Harvey) that her adopted daughter Cathy was Sean sister. Harry Cohn made the arrangemants. Last I heard Cathy Cohn was living in Montanna estranged from the family.

Tamela Thornes said...

Anonymous Bless you, bless you, bless you!!!!

Anonymous said...

Based on what I've read, Agnes came across as very rigid, strict, judgmental and rather intolerant-not the best qualities in a mom. Her rigid personality coupled with long absences filming/touring made for a bad combination in raising a child. I think in her later interviews, she was trying to save face and thus minimized her relationship with Sean-very sad. I hope he found a measure of peace in his life.

BillyBareBlu said...

I understand Agnes was good friends with Debbie Reynolds, if you could get in contact with her it may turn up some clues since Debbie is something of a historian.

amazed said...

Still a mystery in 2016....

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