Like most of the people on the Internet, we here at Flavorwire spent yesterday wondering if Ronan Farrow really was really fathered by Woody Allen. It’s hard not to suspect that the Farrows, plural, are just screwing around with the media, who they probably knew would love this rumor; a thousand art directors no doubt spent yesterday trying to find pictures of Ronan and Sinatra with their heads held at similar angles. Sure, the tabloids were not abuzz with a possible affair, but that means little, and then there’s the fact that in her memoirs, Sinatra’s last wife recounts having to persuade Frank to take a painting of Mia out of the master bedroom. Clearly some kind of flame was still alive, paternity or no.
This sort of inquiry is fun and diverting from a soul-crushing job — so fun and diverting, in fact, that you can quickly forget that not so long ago, paternity was a deadly serious business. In the pre-TMZ age, it was a lot easier for celebrities to conceal their comings and going, and we didn’t have Google image search to help the public conduct their wild speculations. But being born a “love child” was more of a source of shame and worry, not a thing to be joked about. Here are five stories of love children of that prior era, before everybody could find out everything about everybody with the aid of cheap facial recognition software and Facebook.