Requesting a tour of the institution, she examined all the children and studied their records of what was known of their parents. Finally, she happened upon a tow-headed, blue-eyed baby boy and immediately fell in love. The boy was known as Baby Wilson. “He’s healthy and cute,” said a representative from the orphanage.
Discovery of her plan to adopt a child and the resulting publicity annoyed Miriam and after adoption papers were signed she left the court declaring that she did not want to talk about it, or anything else for that matter.
“I hate all this publicity over a simple thing,” she told reporters. When asked why she wanted to adopt a baby, she said: “I don’t have to give any reasons. It is just a fact and we will live wherever I happen to be working.”
When Miriam returned the following week to pick up Michael, she had her friend, Dorothy Parker with her. Because Michael had blonde hair and blue eyes and closely resembled his adoptive mother, rumors arose that possibly Michael was her biological son.
“I was adopted in Chicago from the Cradle Society,” Michael said. “There was someone who wrote about a controversy that she went there to adopt a child that looked very much like her – blond hair and blue eyes, because at the time she was not married.”
Michael never knew for certain if the rumors were true – Miriam never said and he wasn’t interested in finding out. He also wasn’t told he was adopted until his late teens. “I didn’t find out that I was adopted until I had to go into the service and I needed my birth certificate,” Michael recalled. “She never mentioned that I was adopted. And no one ever said anything to me while I was growing up even though everyone in Hollywood knew it.”
Even though Michael grew up in Hollywood, he was rarely exposed to the Hollywood scene. Miriam bought John Gilberts house on Tower Road in Beverly Hills and had it remodeled. That is where Michael spent most of his childhood. “Tower place was nice because it had the amenities – a tennis court and swimming pool,” Michael recalled. Later in his life he returned to the place he grew up and was disappointed because it had been razed and was replaced by another house.
Regardless, Michael was treated well and educated in a series of private schools beginning with Arizona Desert School in Tucson, Arizona shortly after Miriam’s divorce from Litvak. His first day there, Miriam was helping him to get settled with his roommate. When she left the room Michael’s roommate asked, “Your mother’s a movie star, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Michael replied.
“Is she a good actress?”
“I don’t know,” Michael said. “She thinks she is.”
Michael’s schooling continued at Riverdale High School and Valley Forge Military Academy and culminated in four years atLawrenceville. In his youth, Michael dated Elizabeth Montgomery and Irving Berlin’s daughter, Linda.
After school, he enlisted in the military service during the Korean War. It was during this time, while stationed in Morocco, that he met and married his wife, Christiane Carreno. While they were dating, Michael had not told Chris who his mother was. One evening they went to a Moroccan theater where The Mating Game, starring Miriam and Gene Tierney was showing. Michael pointed to Miriam on the screen and said, “See that lady there? That’s my mother.”
Michael made a career in the Air Force and as is usual in the military, was assigned to several bases over the world during the next ten years. In 1955, he and his wife had a son they named Thomas, and who became the apple of his grandmother’s eye. In 1966 Michael was assigned permanently to March Air Force Base in Riverside, California where they made their home.
In 1972 Miriam died at age 69 and Michael took his mother’s ashes to her hometown cemetery in Bainbridge, Georgia, and had them interred next to those of her mother.
In recent years Michael suffered from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. He died on October 5, 2010 at the age of 78...