clark gable sylvia ashley

(Here are Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series)

Soon after the divorce decree was handed down, Clark hit the high seas for Europe.

May 7, 1952:

Clark Gable Sails for Europe, Denies Romantic Thoughts

New York–Clark Gable sailed for Europe Tuesday for six months of picture making.

“I’m not thinking of any romantic attachment yet,” Gable said aboard the liner Liberte. “I’m still married.”

The screen star explained that the divorce obtained by the former Lady Sylvia Ashley last month at Santa Monica, Cal., does not become final for a year.

Here’s a piece that came out around this time about the girl everyone thought would marry back in 1949–Virginia Grey. I’m sure she just loved being known as “Gable’s Ex-Girlfriend” in headlines…

May 22, 1952:

Gable’s Ex-Girl Friend Makes Comeback Via TV

Hollywood–Beauteous Virginia Grey sighed today that her long romance with Clark Gable has scared other prospective suitors away.

The red-haired actress’ picture career is soaring these days since Hollywood discovered her all over again as a New York television star. But her love life is just drifting along.

The local swains figure she still carries a torch for the big-eared actor whom she dated until right before he eloped with Lady Sylvia Ashley nearly two years ago.

“Men are afraid to call me now. You can imagine!” she laughed.

Heartbreak Story

“Someone finally tipped me off. Men are afraid to follow Gable, I guess. Except for Robert Taylor–bless his heart! I dated him.”

The friendship of Gable and the gray-eyed actress is one of Hollywood’s heartbreak stories. They met when Virginia was under contract to MGM. For six years she was his steady companion.

Then one afternoon a columnist called to tell her the “king” of matinee idols had run off to marry the titled English socialite.

“Yep, that’s the way I heard about the wedding,” she shrugged.

No Pining for Her

“Then I was asked what I thought about it. That takes plenty of intestinal fortitude to think of something to say at a time like that.”

At that time she told how her romance with the movie he-man “was off again, on again. He’d go away for months and then come back and expect to find me waiting.”

Instead of pining, the glamour girl has steamed ahead on her career.

Her TV “comeback” stirred the cinema factories into action. She has three major studio offers on the griddle now.

“That’s human nature,” she said. “if they think they’ve lost something, they want it back.”

I’ve always thought Virginia was the one that got away for Clark. If he’d married her in 1949 instead of Sylvia, maybe they could have settled down together, possibly even had children that he would have lived to see. Too bad, really. Sounds to me like he didn’t treat her right. Virginia never married.

Ok, so now that the fourth Mrs. Gable has become a (pending) ex-Mrs. Gable, what’s she up to?

Trying to sell her stuff, first of all.

June 12, 1952:

Lady Sylvia Ashley’s Auction is Dull–Nothing But Furniture For the Public

Mrs. Clark Gable’s furnishings are selling at auction–but the auctioneer bemoaned that the event is the quietest in Hollywood history because “she wants to keep it refined.”

The former lady Sylvia Ashley decided to auction off $250,000 worth of her antique furnishings, paintings and dishes after she bid farewell to Gable in a divorce court. Every night for two weeks, collectors and dealers will jam the American Art Galleries to bid happily on such items as an English Mahogany washstand and an antique Georgian solid silver kettle.

But the disappointed curiosity seekers found only a handful of Lady Sylvia’s mementos  from her string of famous husbands, including Gable and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

“She wouldn’t let us have any personal things to sell,” said auctioneer Art Goode. “She wants everything on a high plane. She’s the only celebrity who’s ever refused us mementos for an auction.

“I put two of her pictures of Fairbanks in the window. Two hours later she heard about it and phoned. I had to take them out. She won’t even let me tell which marriage the furniture came from.”

Auctions are a part of Hollywood and along with searchlights, snappy foreign cars and suntans. An auction is held in the Cinema City when a luminary swaps mates, dies or gets the urge to redecorate, which is often around here.

Past auctions have featured John Barrymore’s girdle (sold for $35 to a butcher), Rudolph Valentino’s armor, Jean Harlow’s boudoir furnishings, Hedy Lamarr’s nightgowns and four wedding rings. The late Carole Landis’ ankle bracelet and the bed for gambler Mickey Cohen’s dog.

But the only interesting items the Chic Lady Sylvia would sell were a going that Fairbanks banged in ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ [sic],  two of his guns and the shield and helmet he wore in another picture.

“Even her books don’t have inscriptions in them,” Goode mourned.

It cost $900 to collect Lady Sylvia’s furniture from the Gable home in Encino, her home at Santa Monica and warehouses all over town.

“Gorgeous stuff, but that’s all. Nothing interesting for publicity,” said the auctioneer. “Oh, well, we may get Sally Rand’s auction. That’ll be pretty good.”

Well a refined auction it is then. I found it interesting she sold the stuff at all.

Let’s see if Sylvia was at home knitting after her divorce decree…

June 22, 1952:

Just Friendship Ring

Hollywood–The ex-Lady Sylvia Ashley, who also is the ex-Mrs. Clark Gable, is wearing a ring given to her by Stuart Symington Jr.

August 6, 1952:

Sylvia Ashley and Carl Neubert dating.

November 15, 1952:

There’s a bit of secrecy about it, but I’m told that Lady Sylvia Ashley, the former Mrs. Clark Gable, is on the verge of her fifth marriage, so her friends understand. She has refused to divulge his name, but has admitted, they say, that he’s an American, and he will follow her to Europe next month.

December 9, 1952:

New York–Friends understand Sylvia Ashley Gable (Clark’s ex-wife) will join her real love in France before very long–perhaps to become a bride for the fifth time.

February 15, 1953:

Lady Sylvia Ashley, ex-wife of Clarke [sic] Gable, previously the wife of the late Douglas Fairbanks, is head-over-heels in love again. This time it’s Anthony Havelock-Allan, a British lawyer and playwright.

March 6, 1953:

British producer Tony Havelock is the newest victim of Lady Sylvia Ashley’s devastating charm.

Same date:

Trade Journal writer: “Lady Sylvia Ashley Gable and wealthy producer Anthony Havelock-Allen are the talk of Mayfair.” It is not unusual, if I remember rightly, for Lady Ashley to be in the midst of romantic gossip, whether in London or Hollywood.

My, oh my, she doesn’t waste much time, does she? Sylvia has her fans and her detractors, but one thing I have always wondered is WHAT was so fantastic about this woman that men just flocked to her? It appears the lady was never alone! She was pretty, but I wouldn’t call her a knockout. She definitely followed the money and went from rich husband to richer husband. Well whatever she was doing, it certainly was working!

June 22, 1953:

Recently Mrs. Walter Lang received a letter from Clark Gable, saying he would be home in the fall.

Speaking of Clark, I had a funny letter from London saying that Sylvia Ashley, his ex, is doing a real burn over the fact that Clark is staying in Europe so long. Seems she can collect only on the money he earns in the United States.

I keep hearing on all sides that Clark’s latest picture, “Mogamgo,” [sic]  is the best he’s done. His next at MGM is “Green Fire,” the story of a search for emeralds. He reports to Producer Armand Deutsch November 1. Writers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts are already at the studio.

Mrs. Walter Lang was “Fieldsie,” Carole Lombard’s former secretary and close friend. The Langs and Clark remained close over the years.

Clark had fled the United States after the divorce to film Betrayed, Mogambo and Never Let Me Go in Europe and Africa over the course of  2 years, for the sake of saving on income taxes and I think saving on alimony was part of the deal, although Sylvia ultimately got her fair share.

“Green Fire” never came to be, wonder what happened there.

Oh and don’t worry, Sylvia wasn’t alone all summer….

sylvia ashley woolworth

October 17, 1953:

Dual Arrival on Same Ocean Liner Regarded by Chums as No Accident

New York–Glamourous Sylvia Ashley Gable just arrived back in the United States on the same liner that brought in millionaire Woolworth Donahue, and chums doubt if it was just a coincidence. Woolie was her favorite playtime partner of the European summer.

October 21, 1953:

Once again Woolworth Donahue is beauing Sylvia Ashley Gable around New York.

October 22, 1953:

New York–Local society expects Woolworth Donahue to follow Sylvia Ashley to the coast.

Well, well, it seems that “Woolie” will be husband #5! Oh wait, never mind…

November 17, 1953:

Lady Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks’ next may be millionaire Miles Lowell of Calif.

December 22, 1953:

Italian Vice Consul Filiberto Ribolla’s pals hear he is maaad [sic] about Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Gable.

How does she keep track of them all?

February 5, 1954 (Hedda Hopper):

‘King’ Clark Gable Returns to Hollywood Without Job or Girl

Hollywood–Clark Gable has returned to Hollywood after 2 1/2 years, but he’s a man without a job or even a girl friend.

The “king” of MGM revealed Wednesday he will abdicate. He will not renew his studio contract when it expires March 3 “because I think it’s better for the studio and better for me.” After 23 years at the big studio, he said, he wants to freelance.

Gable made his “no ties” resolution complete by not bringing French model Suzanne Dadolle home from Europe as his bride. “She’s a nice girl,” hedged Gable with the famous grin that has sent female fans into sighs for two decades. “But marriage I just haven’t thought much about it one way of the other.”

He also hasn’t given a thought, he went on, as to what movies he’ll work in after his contract expires.

“After I finish this present picture, I think I’ll take a little holiday,” he reflected. “I won’t make any plans until after that. I’m leaving the studio because I think I’ve been here too long. There’s not a chance I’d sign with MGM again. I want to work when I feel like it. If MGM comes up with a good story, well, I’ll come back here for a picture. I also like the idea of making pictures overseas in the locale where the plots occur. If a good story comes up with a European background, I’d be glad to go overseas again.

“I’m not going to form my own movie company. But perhaps one of these days I may try at directing a movie.”

Gable has reopened his suburban Encino home “because I haven’t seen it for more than two years and it’s my home to come back to.” Friends say he had the furnishings taken out that his ex-wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, installed during their unhappy marriage.

Gable is winding up final scenes for his last picture under his MGM contract, “Betrayed,” which was filmed mostly overseas. Though the husky actor is a familiar fixture at MGM, he still caused a flutter even among other players when he strode into the commissary for lunch.

But the graying Gable, who turned 53 Monday, hasn’t dated any of the local beauties since his return.

In fact, two weeks ago he bought a new white Lincoln convertible with red leather seats and I won the privilege of being the first female to ride in it. But we rode only half a block on the MGM lot and it was daytime.

This was a period in his life where he was rather restless and unsure of what his next steps should be. He thought of retiring altogether.

March 24, 1954:

Clark Gable is selling the big San Fernando Valley home and its memories of Sylvia Ashley. He’ll resettle in Arizona.

One of the many times the ranch went on–and then off–the market. I think it had more memories of Carole Lombard than Sylvia Ashley!

Let’s see what Sylvia was up to in the summer of 1954. Probably sitting poolside by herself, right?

June 8, 1954:

A dinner twosome attracting attention is that of Sylvia Ashley and George Sanders. They’ve dined quietly not once, but several times.

And by fall…

October 16, 1954:

Lady Ashley May Wed Bruce Cabot

Hollywood–Clark Gable’s ex-wife, Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Stanley Gable, is reported ready to marry another Hollywood he-man, Bruce Cabot.

No word has come from the English blonde and former showgirl, but Cabot’s estranged wife, Francesca De Scaffa, said he had telephoned to tell her he wants to make a settlement because he loves Sylvia and wants to marry her, Francesca said.

The first of Lady Sylvia’s four marriages was to an English aristocrat. After he divorced her, she married Douglas Fairbanks and they had a happy marriage until he died. In 1949 she astounded the world by nabbing Clark Gable at the altar.

Gable stuck it out more than  a year before he went to Nevada for a divorce.

Cabot has been married three times and during his single days has been a great friend of Errol Flynn.

First I had ever heard of Sylvia with Bruce Cabot! Again, I cannot help but be fascinated by the circles this lady ran in. Well Bruce was no competition for a real life prince, because just ten days later:

October 26, 1954:

Lady Sylvia Ashley to Wed Georgian Prince

Los Angeles–Lady Sylvia Ashley, whose former husbands include actor Clark Gable and the late Douglas Fairbanks Sr., plans to wed Georgian Prince Dimitri Djordjadze, probably before Christmas, her sister said today.

Mrs. Vera Bleck said Lady Ashley telephoned from new York to tell of plans for her fifth marriage.

Her other husbands were Lord Ashley and Lord Stanley of Alderly. Lady Ashley said the prince is in the hotel business in New York.

Same date (Louella Parsons):

Former Wife of Clark Gable to Marry Prince Djordjadze

Hollywood–The former Mrs. Clark Gable is getting married in two weeks, but not to Bruce Cabot. She is marrying Prince Dimitri Djordjadze, a man whom she has known many years.

Sylvia introduced me to her bridegroom-to-be, who is Serge Oblensky’s assistant at the Sherry Netherlands and the Ambassador Hotel in New York. He recalled to me that he had met me at a dinner party in New York. I remembered him then as tall, and handsome.

Prince is 50

The prince was formerly married to an American, Audrey Emery. She had been the wife of the Grand Duke Oblensky and is very social.

The dashing prince is 50 years old and he told me that he owns racing cars as well as racing horses. He told me that head raced one of his thoroughbreds at Santa Anita last year.

Sylvia, who had married two titles, now takes on a third, and a Georgian prince at that. I might have known she would not have married Bruce Cabot, who is penniless as well as title-less, even though he did tell his estranged wife, Francesca de Scaffa, that he wanted to make a settlement so he could marry Lady Sylvia Ashley.

Visits in London

When Sylvia was in London she visited Lady Bailey, and it was there that she and the prince renewed an old friendship that blossomed into this big romance. She knew the prince before she married Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Vera says she has known him for a long time and he and Sylvia have many tastes in common.

This will be the second marriage for Prince Djordjadze, and Sylvia’s fifth.

“I might have known she would not have married Bruce Cabot, who is penniless as well as title-less…” Louella Parsons, calling Sylvia out. Of course this surprised nobody. As for Clark? As 1954 neared its end, he was still not interested in marriage.

November 14, 1954:

Gable to Remain Single a While

Hollywood–Is Clark Gable going to get married again?

“Nope,” he replied, “I think it will be a good idea for me to stay single a while. I got out of one marriage not long ago, you know. And say–I understand she’s getting married again.”

He referred to his fourth wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, who has been reported on the verge of her fifth marriage. He flashed his famous grin, revealing that such an action would let him off the alimony hook. The 1952 divorce gave her 10 percent of his earnings for one year, 7 percent for the next four.

I mentioned that the gossip columns seem intent on marrying him off.

“I know it,” he laughed. “Whenever things get dull, they try to stir me up again. It keeps them busy for a spell. Who’s the girl now?”

I told him she was Kay Spreckels, with whom he has been seen lately. Does he intend to marry her?

“I have no plans. Gosh, I’ve know Kay 15 years; she’s an old friend. She dates other people and so do I.”

Gable sat in his dressing room at 20th Century Fox Studios and talked unusual frankness. In fact, it was unusual for him to talk to a reporter at all. In recent years he has enjoyed his independence, and that means freedom from interviews.

He was getting ready to leave today for Hong Kong, where he will film his first freelance picture in 23 years, “Solider of Fortune.” Still the king at 53, he looked great. He stripped to change from his picture clothes into his own outfit, and he still has his muscular build. His face is as handsome as ever, his mustache and hair becoming a  distinguished gray.

How does he feel about being away from MGM after more than two decades?

“Great,” he said. “It was a struggle, but I got one good picture before I got out of there–‘Mogambo.’ I only wish I could have had a share of it. An executive over there told me it was headed for an 11-million-dollar world gross!

“Sure, they wanted me to stay. They even offered me a cut of the profits on my pictures. But by that time I was so fed up that it didn’t interest me.”

That appears to be the only time MGM has offered a share of the profits, which shows how badly the studio wanted him to stay. Gable chose to remain independent.

Gable said he’d continue to scout film stories by himself. What is he looking for?

“Good stories without a message,” he said.

He was married to Kay less than a year later, so something changed!

$11 million gross—today that would be a huge flop, not adjusted for inflation. Funny. In these interviews after leaving MGM, he doesn’t hesitate to tell everyone that he is glad he’s out of there and that he feels they ripped him off. Lots of bitterness. I cringed at “Gable said he’d continue to scout film stories by himself.” He did not do a good job at picking his own stories. Look at what he starred in after leaving–Soldier of Fortune, Run Silent Run Deep, Band of Angels….Teacher’s Pet was the only good one in the next two years. Clark was like one of those zoo animals that stayed in captivity so long that he didn’t know how to survive on his own in the wild.

Back to see what Sylvia’s up to…

December 10, 1954:

Sylvia Ashley is Wed Again for Fifth Time

Fort Lee, N.J.–Lady Sylvia Ashley, divorced wife of actor Clark Gable, recited the marriage vows for the fifth time at a civil ceremony today with thrice-married Prince Dimitri Djordjadze.

They were wed in the office of the Board of Health by Magistrate I. William Aronsohn after their three-Cadillac entourage arrived from New York.

Lady Ashley signed the register as Sylvia Edith Louise Gable, 44, and gave her address as Brentwood, Calif. She was born in London.

44? I think not.

Same date:

Seems to be some confusion as to the matrimonial career of Lady Sylvia Ashley. Note Clark Gable referred to as her fifth husband. He was her fourth. Sylvia’s spouses in the order of acquiring same and years of weddings were: 1. Lord Ashley, 1927. 2. Douglas Fairbanks, 1936. 3. Lord Stanley, 1944. 4. Clark Gable, 1949.

Lady Sylvia recently said, “My marriage to Douglas Fairbanks was perfect. He was ideal, gay, intelligent and charming. My other husbands? It would not be dignified to discuss them.”

Yikes, what a quote. Sylvia never would discuss Clark. After he died and reporters dug her up for quotes, she refused all interviews concerning him, often saying “It was a bad period in my life and I don’t wish to discuss it.” Well then.

And hey, they may have gotten married in the office of the Board of Health, but apparently Sylvia was well dressed for the occasion:

December 13, 1954:

Lady Sylvia Ashley’s wedding gown is a $3,000 job.

Sylvia’s married off and Clark’s alimony-free, but what happened to her in the last two decades of her life? Coming up next!