clark gable sylvia ashley

Continuing the saga of Clark Gable’s divorce from his fourth wife, Sylvia Ashley as detailed in the newspapers…

(Here’s Part 1)

Sylvia returned from her self-imposed exile and Clark wanted this marriage to end, and quickly.


From August 21, 1951:

Gable on Vacation

Glenbrook, Nev., Aug. 21—Movie Idol Clark Gable was in Nevada today on what he insists is a “vacation” despite rumors that he is seeking a “quickie” divorce from his wife, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley.


Same date:

Gable at Lake Tahoe; Divorce Plan Denied

Reno, Nev., Aug. 20—Actor Clark Gable, the latest in the string of Hollywood celebrities to visit Lake Tahoe this summer arrived unaccompanied Sunday and took a cottage a Glenbrook inn.

Immediately there was speculation that he might intend to establish Nevada residence in order to divorce Lady Sylvia Ashley.

But a spokesman for his studio MGM said Gable was in Nevada only for rest and some hunting and fishing.


This charade did not last long, as less than a month later Clark made his intentions known:

From September 13, 1951:

Gable Threatens To Sue If Wife Delays Divorce

Glenbrook, Nev., Sept. 14—Movie star Clark Gable has threatened to file for a Nevada divorce from his fourth wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, “unless she gets the ball rolling” on her California decree.

Lady Ashley, his twice-titled, ex-mannequin wife, has filed suit for a California divorce in Santa Monica, but things are not progressing fast enough to suit the sun-tanned star.

“Her lawyers won’t get off the dime,” Gable complained with annoyance.

Gable married Lady Ashley, widow of Douglas Fairbanks, in a surprise ceremony at a Solvang, Calif. Dude ranch on Dec. 20, 1949. It was also Lady Ashley’s fourth trip to the altar.

The handsome star said his six weeks residence period in Nevada will be up on Oct. 9.

He Poses in Sweater

Gable, clad in shorts when he greeted reporters yesterday on the shores of Lake Tahoe, refused to pose for photographers until he had put on his sweater.

“I’m not the cheesecake type,” he explained.

Glenbrook sources said Gable had been “spending a lot of time alone.” They described him as the most active of the divorce-bound Hollywood stars making the Lake Tahoe trek in recent weeks.

“He rides, swims, hikes, and plays tennis and golf constantly,” reporters were told.

Gable said he was sincere in his desire to establish a bona fide Nevada residence. He said he had been scouting around for a ranch to handle 100 head of cattle.

“No cheesecake photos”?? Tsk, tsk.

So on Oct. 1:

Movie He-Man Clark Gable became eligible to file a Nevada divorce action against his fourth wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, but he declined to say if he would do so immediately.

Tanned and rested at Glenbrook, Nev., Gable dodged questions about his divorce plans with a wide grin.

“Yeah,” he said, “I know I’ve been here six weeks now, but I’m still just enjoying a vacation.”

When would Gable begin his divorce case against Lady Sylvia?

“What case?” the husky movie star asked. “I’m looking for a ranch to buy this week. I’m just having a lot of fun.”

But whether he would admit it or not, it appeared more than likely that Gable would go into a Nevada court quickly—now that he has completed Nevada’s required six-week divorce residence.

Two weeks ago, he admitted he would seek a Nevada divorce unless Lady Ashley “gets the ball rolling” on a divorce action she filed in Santa Monica, Calif., several weeks ago.

There have been persistent reports from Hollywood that Gable was growing increasingly tired of his wife’s refusal to press her California divorce action and that he was anxious to win his freedom.

Gable has spent most of his six weeks at the fashionable Glenbrook Inn on the shore of Lake Tahoe playing golf and riding horseback. He has had only occasional dates and has never gone out with the same girl more than two or three times

He is expected to charge mental cruelty, the usual Nevada divorce ground.

And so, just a few days later…

October 5, 1951:

Clark Gable Files Suit for Divorce

Las Vegas, Nev.—Clark Gable filed suit for divorce Thursday from the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, amid reports she is planning to demand a big settlement from him in California.

Gable wasn’t present for the filing, although he already has established his necessary six weeks’ residence in Nevada at a Lake Tahoe resort. The complaint was simple, alleging cruelty, saying there are no children and is no community property.

Sylvia’s lawyer was having none of this Nevada-residency ploy and later that month:

October 24, 1951:

Santa Monica, Calif.—Attorney Jerry Giesler says he will make Clark Gable in the guinea pig in testing a California law on residence requirements in divorce cases.

The lawyer obtained for his client, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, a court order yesterday for Gable to show cause Monday why he should not be restrained from obtaining a Nevada divorce.

Giesler said he will take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary “to prevent these so-called quickie divorces.” He added that under a 1919 law California courts will not recognize divorces obtained in other states if the party seeking the divorce lived in California for 12 months prior to the decree. There has been no test of this law as yet, Gielser says.

Same date:

Gable Thwarted In Plan to Obtain Hurry-Up Divorce

Hollywood—Lady Sylvia Ashley today won a court order forbidding Clark Gable from snagging a hurry-up Nevada divorce.

The delicate blonde socialite fired another round in her marital battle with the movie idol by asking Superior Judge Orlando Rhodes to block any decree Gable might pick up in Las Vegas.

Judge Rhodes signed an order that stymies temporarily any plans the actor has for giving his fourth wife a quick legal heave-ho.

Ordered to Appear

Gable was ordered to make a legal appearance on Monday, October 29, to give his arguments on why the injunction should not be made permanent.

What it all boils down to is a sizzling battle over which one’s going to get the divorce. Lady Sylvia filed for a California decree last May. Three weeks ago Gable counter-attacked with his own suit in Las Vegas.

Tired of Waiting

He said he just got tired of waiting for her to “get off the ball” and decided to get the divorce himself.

“The next move,” he said then, “is up to Sylvia.”

Sylvia made it today. Through her attorney, the famed Jerry Giesler, she charged any Nevada divorce her about-to-be ex-husband picked up in Las Vegas would be illegal because he is a resident of California and would keep her from collecting her share of alimony.

And so this cat and mouse game continued…

October 29, 1951:

Lady Ashley Seeks to Halt Gable Divorce

Hollywood—The former Lady Sylvia Ashley goes into Superior Court in Santa Monica Monday, seeking an injunction to keep Clark Gable from divorcing her in Nevada.

Gable, in Nevada for the last two months, has not been served with papers in the action, but Mrs. Gable’s attorney, Jerry Giesler, said that that was not necessary.

He said:

“We have already served Mr. Gable’s attorney, William Gilbert, Jr., and under the law that is the same as if Gable had been served in person.”

$1 Million Reports

Mrs. Gable is suing for a divorce of her own–in California–and she is trying to block Gable’s Nevada divorce to bring him to terms on alimony and a property settlement.

There have been reports she wants $1,000,000, payable at the rate of $100,00 a year.

When she and Gable broke up last spring she declared all she wanted from the star was her clothes and her driver’s license.

Gable has asserted his estranged wife, who has been married to two titled Englishmen and two top-bracket film stars, is wealthy in her own right and would fight any attempt on her part to get alimony.

Well, Clark lost that battle.

From November 1, 1951:

Hollywood–Superior Judge Orlando Rhodes of Santa Monica granted an injunction today to Lady Sylvia Ashley to prevent Actor Clark Gable from securing a Nevada divorce, or make such a divorce invalid in California if it is granted.

From November 2, 1951:

Santa Monica, Calif.—Clark Gable’s lawyer said today that the actor’s divorce battle with Lady Sylvia Ashley will be waged in the California courts.

Gable has been forbidden from obtaining a Nevada divorce by a court injunction issued here yesterday. The injunction was ordered despite Gable’s contention that he now is a legal resident of Nevada.

Clark going to Nevada to establish residency to get his own divorce suit doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. It wasn’t common for the man to try to get residency to file a divorce suit; it was considered a courtesy to let the woman file for divorce (hence all those woman catching trains to Reno). Clark was so tired of all the delays, he wanted it done and done now, never mind chivalry. Unfortunately this tactic of his had the opposite effect and delayed things quite a bit.

November 7, 1951:

Gable Divorce Action Lapsed

Las Vegas, Nev.–Screen star Clark Gable can obtain a quick Nevada divorce any time he wants it, but the actor apparently has decided to let his wife, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, make the next move in their two-state divorce battle.

Gable became eligible for an uncontested divorce late Monday when his wife failed to file an answer to his suit by a 5pm deadline.

Mrs. Gable obtained an injunction in Santa Monica, Calif., last week prohibiting the movie star from going through with his plans for a Nevada divorce, but Nevada courts customarily ignore such orders.

If Gable obtained a divorce, however, he could be cited for contempt of court when he returned to California to make pictures.

Gable’s attorney, William Coulthard, said the actor did not intend to g into divorce court here now “or in the near future” to conclude his divorce action.

So, he COULD get the divorce in Nevada, but then he’d be held in contempt and it’d be thrown out when he returned to California. His Nevada residency was all for naught but hey, at least he got some fishing in. Turns out he was in Nevada a bit too long…

November 10, 1951:

Gable’s Salary Has Been Halted By Movie Firm

Clark Gable’s salary at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has been cut off because he refuses to leave Nevada and go to California where he would be subject to California court action in his wife’s divorce, an MGM spokesman revealed yesterday in Hollywood.

His large–but undisclosed–income from the studio was cut off “a few days ago” under a “friendly agreement,” the studio disclosed. “There definitely is no suspension involved,” a spokesman said. “Any time Gable returns and makes himself available for work he’ll go back on the payroll.”

Gable’s wife, British socialite Lady Sylvia Ashley, a few days ago obtained a superior court order restraining him from obtaining the Nevada divorce he has filed for–or making that divorce invalid in California even if he does get it.

His return to California would make him subject to services or papers and other legal moves in his wife’s counter suit. Her enjoinder action is based on attorney Jerry Geisler’s contention that Gable still is a bonafide resident of California under a new state law and therefore unable to obtain a divorce in another state.

Gable is currently staying at the Flying M-E Ranch south of Reno and has indicated his intentions of becoming a permanent resident and citizen of Nevada by moving personal possessions ad property here and by negotiating for the purchase of a ranch.

“Mr. Gable is out of the state and does not want to return immediately,” the MGM spokesman said, adding that the matter came up a few days ago when Gable was asked to return to the Culver City studio to begin a picture.

“Therefore, we informed him that since how could not return to work he would be temporarily off salary. He is on leave of absence.”

“There definitely is no rift,” the spokesman said. “We understand his problem and he understands ours.”

Can you imagine tightwad Clark being okay with being on a leave of absence without pay? Regardless of what this MGM spokesman said, Clark must have been with white hot with rage at what this divorce was costing him.

So much for rushing things along…

November 15, 1951:

Clark Gable Must Wait

Santa Monica, Cal.—Clark Gable will have to wait five months for the trial of his wife’s divorce suit.

He wanted to hurry matters by getting a divorce in Nevada, but was barred recently by an injunction in which California courts claimed jurisdiction.

Then he asked for an early trial here, and was informed yesterday there will be no room on the docket until April or May.

Mrs. Gable is the former Lady Sylvia Ashley.

November 28, 1951:

Gable Divorce Case Set

Santa Monica, Calif.—The divorce trial of the former Lady Sylvia Ashley against Clark Gable was set tentatively today to start next St. Patrick’s day–March 17.

And then it was again delayed…

December 9, 1951:

Gable Attorney Will Set Divorce Suit Date

Santa Monica–Attorneys for actor Clark Gable and his wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, were ordered to appear in court here December 28th to set a date for Lady Sylvia’s divorce suit.

The trial originally was scheduled for March 17th but Gable’s attorney, Henry Low, protested yesterday to Superior Court Clerk Robert Rogers that his associate will be engaged in another trial at that time.

Ok, it appears that Clark has a new attorney every month!  It’s getting nastier folks…

December 29, 1951:

Gable is Filing A Complaint Too

At Santa Monica yesterday Clark Gable’s attorney announced that the big-eared movie star will file a cross-complaint to Lady Sylvia Ashley’s divorce suit, indicating a possible bitter legal battle.

Attorney Frank Belcher made the announcement as he requested the Superior Court to set Mrs. Gable’s suit for April 21 instead of March 17. Gable earlier was warned by the court not to proceed with his own divorce suit in Nevada, holding that he had submitted to the jurisdiction of California courts by filing an answer to Lady Sylvia’s original action.

Although Lady Sylvia reportedly demanded $200,000 cash and $100,000 a year from Gable, her fourth husband whom she married only two years ago, her attorney, Henry Low, told the court today “there still is possibility of an agreement whereby Mrs. Gable’s suit may not be contested.”

December 30, 1951:

Gable, Lady Sylvia May O.K. Divorce Terms

Santa Monica, Cal.–Lady Sylvia Ashley’s attorney said today “there still is possibility” of an agreement whereby her divorce suit against Clark Gable “may not be contested.”

Although Lady Sylvia was reported demanding $200,000 cash and $100,000 a year from Gable, her fourth husband whom she married only two years ago, Attorney Henry Low said there was a possibility of an agreement between the interested parties.

And so Clark would still be a legally wedded man as he rang in 1952…


To be continued!