sylvia ashley divorce

We’ve recently explored Clark Gable and Sylvia Ashley’s Divorce Battle (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) and  Clark and Sylvia in the two years following their divorce.  What happened to Sylvia in the last two decades of her life?

When we last left her, it was December 1954 and she had just married Georgian Prince Dmitri Djordjadze. News blurbs pop up less and less about her as the years go on, but here’s what I found.

(Note: Some articles spell her husband’s name Dmitri and some Dimitri. I just type them as they are written.)

September 22, 1955:

(New York) Seen: Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Gable Djordjadze (once and English Lady, twice a Hollywood Queen, now a White Russian Princess) hailing a common cab on E. 55th.

Nice to know she still hails her own cabs.

December 9, 1955:

When Prince Dmitri Djordjadze received a tempting offer to manage a big hotel in the Dominican Republic, his beauteous bride, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, put her foot down like a ton of bricks. The chic and fun-loving Sylvia wants no part of settling down all year ’round on some old island.

Who could ask her to.

March 23, 1955:

The truth about the separation of Sylvia Ashley Gable and Prince Dmitri Djordjadze is that Sylvia is in London buying a house for herself.

She also writes that she is arranging about her re-entry permit. She’s still a British subject.

There is no trouble between her and the Prince and she will return to America after she tends to business. She will be joined in London by her sister, Mrs. Basil Bleck, and her niece, Loretta. Tim, her nephew, has gone into the American Army.

August 25, 1955:

Are Lady Sylvia Ashley and her fifth–the Russian prince–in a London fog?

Less than a year of marriage and already on the rocks. Fifth time is not the charm for some, it seems.

Skipping ahead to February 24, 1956:

If Kay and Clark Gable carry out their original plan to visit Dominican Republic next week, they’ll run into Princess Djordjadze (Sylvia Ashley) Clark’s ex,who is there for the polo matches.

Guess she went to the Dominican Republic after all! Clark and Kay didn’t.

July 18, 1956:

Hollywood–the former Lady Sylvia Ashley (Fairbanks, Gable, etc.) dining at the Luau with the Ronald Colemans and Bill Fry.

January 28, 1957:

Sylvia Ashley etc. Djordjadze, according to our London informant, is biding her time in London prior to starting divorce proceedings against her husband, Prince Dimitri Djordjadze who seems happy with his Texas oil venture and really couldn’t care less.

Barely made it a year. Good to hear her husband is so heartbroken over it.

August 14, 1957:

London is not confidential: Lady Sylvia Ashley, house-guesting on the Riviera, pulled every stop she knew to stop the fantastic series about her in the Sunday Express. Lawyers for the ex-Mrs. Doug Fairbanks and ex-Mrs. Clark Gable burned up the lines between London and Villfranche, but no soap. The series is running….

August 20, 1957:

Ironic that Sylvia Ashley Gable, recently divorced from her Russian Prince, is the subject of a series of articles in a London paper, since the editor was once one of her boy friends. The thing she minds most is having her real name, Edith Louise, revealed.

I must find these articles! MUST!

I don’t think they were divorced at this time, or ever.

September 24, 1957:

Lady Sylvia Ashley received an enviable jewelry collection from her husband, the late Douglas Fairbanks. She says it was sheer good fortune that she didn’t lose the jewels in the London blitz: “those things flying through the air–V-2’s, I believe you called them–they never hit anyone you knew, mind you, but they brought those dreadful looters. One night my home was hit, but I was at a party, and luckily it was ‘dress’–which meant I was wearing my jewels.”

Breathe a sigh of relief, folks.

October 2, 1957:

Jacques Sarlie of the International Set and the Princess Djordjadze (the former Sylvia Ashley-Fairbanks-Gable, etc.) are the most talked-about twosome in Monte Carlo.

Moving on already!

February 6. 1958:

While Sylvia Ashley Gable etc. Djordjadze busies herself with her new London townhouse, her estranged husband, Georgian Prince Dimitri “Mito” Djordjadze, is paying a Palm Beach visit to his former wife, Audrey Emery. They have remained such fast friends over the years that “Mito” was asked to be godfather when Audrey’s son, by Grand Duke Dimitri, Prince Paul Ilyisky, weldomed a little Prince into the family.

May 24, 1958:

Princess Dmitri Djordjadze (better known as plain Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Stanley Gable Djordjadze) snapped at the photographers who met the Queen Elizabeth in Southampton. “I don’t like being photographed in the morning,” she told them, as a result of which the observant British press noted that although the Princess was wearing a platinum mink she also had runs in her stockings.

Runs in her stockings!! The very idea!! Oh and can’t say I blame Syl. When I get off cruise ships in Southampton in the morning wearing mink I detest having my picture taken as well. Don’t we all.

Moving forward to 1961…

February 6, 1961:

It’s pomp but no circumstances in London where the gossips allege that if Princess Margaret becomes Governor General of Bermuda, her lady-in-waiting will be Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Stanley Gable etc. whose stepson “Sir” Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is no longer in the Princess Margaret set.

Well that didn’t happen. Interesting that Sylvia was “in” with Princess Margaret though.

February 21, 1962:

Hollywood–Lady Sylvia Ashley, once wed to Clark Gable and more recently to Prince Dimitri Djordjadze, is in town visiting her sister. She was having dinner at Don the Beachcombers with Peter Howard.

October 5, 1962:

Princess Djordjadze, the former Sylvia Ashley, explains her black eye as the result of an accident when the car she was riding in with some relatives skidded and crashed into a wall. Would have been much more interesting if it were over a love affair.

May 29, 1963:

Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Gable Djordjadze, who has spent decades picking up rich, handsome, famous and/or titled gentlemen with honorable intentions, breezed into London the other day to arrange for the sale at Sotheby’s of a magnificent 17-carat diamond ring. No word on which husband gave her that jewel, but all the boys contributed nicely as they made their way through her colorful biography.

I know one thing: sure as heck wasn’t Clark.

I found the following piece interesting. One of the many irritants in Clark’s life with Sylvia was her nephew, who was always around looking for a handout. He often stayed in the guest house for extended periods of time, which drove Clark nuts. Well, here’s what happened to the nephew:

June 12, 1967:

$1.5 Million Awarded Injured Man

Santa Monica, Calif.–A 34-year-old former mortgage company executive has been awarded $1.5 million for injuries suffered when a tree fell on his car, leaving him paralyzed form the neck down.

The judgement for Timothy M. Bleck, a bachelor who had been assistant vice president of Pacific Western Mortgage Co., was believed to be the highest ever awarded in a personal injury suit.

Bleck, who lives now with his aunt, Lady Sylvia Ashley, the former wife of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Clark Gable, had asked for $1 million in general damages and $60,309 in medical expenses. A jury returned the higher verdict.

Defendants were the city of Beverly Hills and builder Herbert J. Kronish and his wife, Hazel. City Atty. Allen Grimes said he will recommend that the city appeal the verdict.

What a nasty thing to have happen. Poor fellow. Timothy died as a result of his injuries just two years later.

Skipping ahead to 1973:

January 19, 1973 (in a Hollywood Q&A column):

Q: Could you tell this old-timer the whereabouts of Lady Sylvia Ashley? She was the actress who was married to both Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Clark Gable.

A: The 68-year-old former actress, a princess after her last marriage to Prince Dimitri Djordjadze, divides her time between Los Angeles and a luxurious rented yacht off Monte Carlo. She has not been home to England in years because of the British law requiring that dogs be held in quarantine for six months. Now that her beloved chihuahua is dead, Lady Ashley is planning a trip to London this spring.

She was never an actress–a showgirl at one time, not an actress.

June 14, 1973:

Former Mrs. Gable Sells Diamond Ring

London–Princess Djordjadze, onetime wife of Clark Gable, today sold a diamond and got $62,160 for it.

The single stone ring figured in a jewelry sale at Sotheby’s, the London auction rooms where sales of impressionist paintings broke world records during the past two days. Princess Djordjadze, now married to Prince Dmitri Djordjadze, a White Russian, formerly was Lady Sylvia Ashley, Lady Stanley, Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Mrs. Clark Gable.

Lady Sylvia Ashley died on June 30, 1977 but the news was not revealed to the press until September:

September 15, 1977:

Lady Ashley dies at 73

Los Angeles–Lady Sylvia Ashley, an English chorus girl who married two Hollywood kings as well as three European titled men, has died of cancer at the age of 73, her family reported.

Lady Ashley, who was Clark Gable’s fourth wife and the woman who broke up Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s [sic] marriage to Mary Pickford, died June 30 in her Pacific Palisades home.

Geez, called a homewrecker in your obituary. Harsh.

September 21, 1977, Liz Smith’s column:

A Lady Passes: Not a word have I seen in the papers about the July death of Lady Sylvia Ashley, who was the sort of woman known in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s as a true femme fatale. She chalked up both Doug Fairbanks Sr. and Clark Gable as two of her husbands, yet in recent years she had become something of a recluse after contracting a bone disease. She was buried quietly last month next to her favorite nephew somewhere in California.

Lady Sylvia was one of those fragile blondes, and men just couldn’t resist her but twice she arranged her romances so that she had a hard (impossible) act to follow. Hollywood blamed her for busting up the perfect marriage of America’s sweethearts Mary Pickford and Doug Fairbanks. Later, she made the mistake of trying to pick up the shattered pieces for Clark Gable after the death of the one and only Carole Lombard. Gable couldn’t forgive Sylvia for not being Carole, and their marriage flopped.

Once I met Lady Sylvia in the handsome living room of a flat owned by man-about-the-world John Galliher. She was a real charmer and it was easy to imagine what men always saw in her. If you’d like to read more about the whispy Sylvia, you might try Lyn Tornabene’s bio of Gable, “Long Live the King.”

Sylvia is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, next to her nephew Timothy and sister Vera (who died in 1997).

Hope you’ve enjoyed this five part series following Sylvia around in newspapers from 1951-1977.


The fifth Mrs. Gable, Kay Williams, coming up soon.