Jack Nicholson needs no introduction. The 82-year-old veteran actor has made us laugh, made us cry, and even scared us to death. From classics like The Shining and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, his talent is renowned, but perhaps the details of his personal life may not be as well known.
For Nicholson himself, a shocking family secret revealed itself when the actor was 37-years-old. It was that his sister was actually his biological mother.
The Oscar-winning actor was born on April 22, 1937, and was raised by Ethel and John Nicholson, whom he believed to be his biological mother and father, according to Newsner.
He was told that June Nicholson was his sister who actually turned out to be his biological mother. Lorraine Nicholson was June’s sister and genetically Jack’s aunt. Confusing? While growing up Jack was made to believe that Lorraine and June Frances Nicholson were his sisters. But June was his mother. Lorraine was his aunt. Ethel was his grandmother.
According to an interview with Rolling Stone in 1986, it was revealed that Nicholson had never met his biological father. Ethel’s (his grandmother) husband was an alcoholic who was never around either. Nicholson turned to Lorraine’s husband for a father figure in his life.
He said, “Well, I had Shorty. I had Smith around. He was married to Lorraine. That, believe me, is as good a father as anybody’s ever going to get or need. I can be as hard on my family or friends as anybody — I’m fairly objective — but there’s nobody much that’s impressed me as much as Shorty.”He also told Rolling Stone that he went to California at the age of 16, knowing that June was living there, saying, “Since my only relative in the world was June, who was out here, I came out to look around.”
His grandmother whom he called Mud passed away in 1970 and June passed away in 1963 when Jack was 26. He said, “By now Mud had come to California; she had contracted a fatal disease. She was sort of nursed by June, and then in the middle of it, irony had it, June got cancer and died before Mud did. I went away on Ensign Pulver, and June died while I was flying to Mexico. And the day I got back from that job, six or seven weeks later, was the day my daughter was born.”So how did Nicholson find out about the family secret? At age 37, years after both women had died, a journalist from TIME magazine discovered the information that June was 17 years old, unmarried and uncertain of the father’s identity at the time of Nicholson’s birth.
Her parents decided to raise Jack as their own son and never reveal his true identity, according to Biography. One of June’s ex-boyfriends, Don Furcillo-Rose, had claimed to be the father, but Nicholson decided not to have paternity testing performed.
According to Today I Found Out, Nicholson called Shorty to find out the truth after the journalist made this discovery. Shorty called Nicholson back after a few hours.
He said, “Jack, it’s Shorty, I’m gonna put Lorraine on the phone. I just want to say one thing – she’s been crying all night. Here she is.” And she confirmed the truth. The family had kept it a secret because they wanted June to continue pursuing a career in dance.
Biography further reports that Nicholson did not hold any resentment or anger towards his family for keeping this secret. He handled it with utmost maturity.
“I’d say it was a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn’t what I’d call traumatizing,” Nicholson said. “After all, by the time I found out who my mother was, I was pretty well psychologically formed. As a matter of fact, it made quite a few things clearer to me. If anything, I felt grateful.”
He went on to tell Rolling Stone he owes his life to these two women. “My only emotion is gratitude, literally, for my life,” said Nicholson. “[If June and Ethel had been] of less character, I never would have gotten to live. These women gave me the gift of life… They trained me great, those ladies. I still, to this day, have never borrowed a nickel from anybody and never felt like I couldn’t take care of myself. They made the imperative of my self-sufficiency obvious.”