This article was published in March 1950, one in a sea of articles heralding Clark Gable’s fourth marriage to Sylvia Ashley.
They sat opposite me at Amelio’s, one of those restaurants in San Francisco where the steaks are tender and titanic. I tried not to stare.
Clark and Sylvia Gable had been married only 48 hours. In another two, they would head for pier 32, and board the S.S. Lurline for Honolulu and their honeymoon.
As I say, I tried not to stare. But after all, I’m a woman with a woman’s curiosity, and I couldn’t help myself. There, sitting opposite me was Clark Gable, the King, the most celebrated screen lover of modern times, and there next to him, was his fourth bride, the blonde and beautiful Lady Sylvia Stanley of Alderley, widow of Douglas Fairbanks, Senior. She was dressed in a simple black-and-white checked sports dress and she wore flat-heeled pumps. Over her shoulders was draped a silver blue mink coat.
These two world-famous celebrities did not look like newlyweds. They spoke very sparingly during the meal, and as any waiter will tell you, that’s a sure sign a couple is married. When they’re in the courting stage, they talk a blue streak.
Clark and his bride, however, were both in a happy, anticipatory mood, and when the waiter brought their food, Gable slapped his hands in relish and said, “This is our first square meal in three days.”
What I wanted most to do was to go over to their table and interview them right there and then, but I knew two things for sure: One, I had no right to invade their privacy at a time like this; and two, if I did, the management would toss me out on my ear.
So I got up and drove to the Matson pier. I boarded the Lurline and went down to C deck and suite 245, the quarters reserved for Mr. and Mrs. William Clark Gable. The suite consisted of two bedrooms, sitting room and a private deck.
The boat was scheduled to leave at midnight. It was jammed with hundreds of visitors, all of whom, it seemed, knew the location of the Gable rooms. The corridor leading to the suite was packed with women and bobby-soxers, all anxious to get a look at Clark and his bride.
A little after 11 o’clock, the Gables drove onto the pier escorted by two motorcycle policemen. As Clark and his blonde bride, surrounded by police officers, stepped off the gangplank, the crowd moved in. Ten police officers made a flying wedge and after 15 minutes of shoving, succeeded in getting the Gables into their suite. A crowd then formed outside and began beating on the door.
In a few minutes, the door was opened slightly to permit the entrance of a few of us reporters, and a Modern Screen photographer, Ken Cheney. We dove in.
First thing, our photographer spoke up. “Would you mind please standing a little closer together?” he asked Gable. Clark smiled—so, too, did his tall bride. “Look,” said Clark, as our lensman kept motioning him closer, “you run your romance and I’ll run mine.” We all laughed.
“How did you pop the question to Lady Stanley?” I then asked.
Clark grinned. “I was scared to death,” he said, “that she’d say ‘no’—but she came through all right with a big ‘yes.’”
“I said it as fast as I knew how,” Mrs. Gable added. “Wouldn’t give him any time to change his mind.”
There was another round of flashbulbs, and then the ship’s warning whistle sounded. As we left, I looked back Visible on the newlyweds’ faces were looks of profound relief. They seemed to say, “Alone at last.”
The Lurline pulled out at midnight, and the Gables were below decks as it did.
Here’s what struck me as interesting in this piece: these slight comments that indicate that already the Gables weren’t exactly in newlywed bliss. They hardly spoke over lunch, as “married people” do? They’re newlyweds! And the photographer had to ask them to stand closer together? I don’t think any photographer had to ask Clark and Carole to get closer together in their post-wedding news conference–their hands are intertwined in every photo and you couldn’t stick a pin between them! Just an observation…
Much of the article goes over their wedding day and Sylvia’s history of marrying up with each marriage. To skip to the end:
Three months ago, she and Gable began going to a few parties together. No one thought anything of it. Gable had first met her 15 years ago when she was married to Fairbanks. They were considered old acquaintances—nothing more.
Most of us had long been convinced that Gable would marry again, but we always thought he would choose someone like his third wife, Carole Lombard—very witty, very down-to-earth, very American. None of us ever thought he would marry a titled Englishwoman.
Clark, as everyone knows, has been married three times previously, once in 1924 to Josephine Dillon, a dramatic coach, once to Rhea Langham in 1931, and once to Carole Lombard in 1938. His marriage to Carole was called “the perfect union,” and when she was killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas, three years later, Clark went into seclusion at his Encino ranch. His hair turned white at the temples, his face became lined, and he ordered that Carole’s room remain just as it was when she left it—clothes still hanging in the closets, perfume bottles in the bathroom, hosiery rolled up into tight little balls.
It’s been no secret that for the past nine years, Clark has been carrying the torch for his dead wife, subconsciously comparing her to every girl he went out with—and always having the escort fail to reach the Lombard standard.
About a year ago, a girl who had dated Gable occasionally was asked if she thought Clark would ever forget Carole Lombard. “I don’t know,” she said. “He’s certainly tried. He joined the Air Forces; he turned intensely to hunting, fishing, and boating. He threw himself into his work. But my own opinion is that there’s only one way in which a man like Gable can forget a woman he’s loved. That way is by falling in love with another one. I’m not that woman.”
She wasn’t, either. But the whole word now knows who was.
I don’t think anybody ever met his Lombard standard–he just gave up trying and decided to attempt to be happy.
You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.
Another article about the newlywed Clark & Sylvia coming up tomorrow…