The Fourth Mrs. Gable
Unknown publication, April 7, 1950
Nobody thought Clark Gable would ever marry again. Hardly anybody ever thought about Lady Ashley at all. People knew of her rather vaguely as a wealthy and attractive woman whose picture often appeared in newspaper. She was usually shown getting on or off the Queen Mary looking as though she wore Molyneux gowns, expensive perfumes, and had millions of dollars and millions of husbands. She looked like some royal lady who had slept on embroidered satin sheets all her life and had tea on a brocaded chaise lounge. She wasn’t at all. She was Sylvia Hawkes, a manicurist in London and she didn’t get into the satin and perfume atmosphere until one day when she filed Lord Ashley’s nails. He became very fond of this lovely young innkeeper’s daughter and decided, much to the amazement of London society, that he’d marry her, which he did. Pretty soon, Sylvia was charming everyone. She wore her elegance gracefully and before long, she was emanating regal taste and attracting all sorts of royalty—namely Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., who was at that time the King of Hollywood. He made frequent visits to Lady Ashley in England while his wife Mary Pickford was in America planning to divorce him. So Sylvia divorced Lord Ashley and became Mrs. Fairbanks. It was a truly happy marriage but Doug died suddenly and Sylvia was inconsolable. She tried to forget her grief by traveling and after five years of restlessness, married Lord Stanley of Aderley in 1944. This marriage to a member of one of England’s most aristocratic families lasted for two years. She later admitted it was a mistake. During all these years, when the details of Lady Ashley’s life were just some misty business to the American public, the details of Clark Gable’s life were common knowledge. People knew all about that guy who had practically every woman in the country taking long bus rides after his first big hit in It Happened One Night. They knew about his first two wives, Josephine Dillon and Ria Langham, women much older than he. They knew about his third wife, Carole Lombard, and the tragedy of her death after only two years of one of the happiest marriages in Hollywood. Gable, they said, would not marry again. But when the news of his sudden marriage to Lady Ashley broke on December 20, everyone, even Louella Parsons, who knows what the stars are going to do before they know it themselves, was a little more than surprised. Pictures and headlines were spread all over every newspaper in the country, obscuring even the much awaited marriage of New York’s Mayor O’Dwyer. And it wasn’t really Mr. Gable that people wanted to see now. It was Mrs. Gable. They wanted to see what she looked like, what she wore, how old she was, how tall, how thin or how fat, how she wore her hair, how she looked at Clark. “They’re a wonderful couple,” friends announced. And all those pictures of Clark and his bride honeymooning in Hawaii show a mature, attractive bride and groom looking quite wonderful. They both exude a very special glow of warm feeling and peace, and everyone is, after all, delighted to meet the fourth Mrs. Gable.