clark gable

Fan letter from 1946:

It is wonderful to know that we will soon see Clark Gable again. He doesn’t make the femmes “swoon”–he makes them “tingle.”

Others have portrayed the adorable scoundrel but none can do it so effectively as Clark Gable; one wonders whether it is something provocative in his eyes or just that ironic grin.

Generally when a male star is popular with the ladies, he is hated by the men, so I think Clark Gable passes the supreme test in being popular with both sexes.

-Libby McEwen, Montreal, Quebec.

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!



clark gable carole lombard bob cobb gail patrick

From July 1941:

It’s kind of cute on Carole Lombard’s part. Because she is so happy living on a ranch, every time someone has a birthday she sends him or her a complete western outfit. Carole and Clark are looking for huge acreage in Northern California. The Fred MacMurrays are interested too. They may buy together and build on adjoining properties. The MacMurrays want to raise citrus fruit. Clark and Carole want to raise among other things, cattle.

clark gable kay williams

This new article was syndicated in The America Weekly, which was a Parade-magazine-like insert in newspapers. I actually was very surprised to find this printed in 1957. Clark had a very arms-length relationship with the press. He was usually cooperative but he never let them get TOO close. When they bought the ranch in 1939, Clark and then-wife Carole Lombard immediately instituted an ironclad rule that no pictures were to be taken inside. With the exception of this interview, which I absolutely adore and is as close as we’ll ever get to Clark being on Johnny Carson or the like, Clark’s answers about his personal life were usually guarded.

Knowing this, it has always bothered me to some degree that, less than a year after his death, his widow Kay released her book Clark Gable: A Personal Portrait–inside were interior pictures of the ranch, pictures of his baby galore, intimate details of his daily routines, likes and dislikes. I have always imagined, despite Kay’s intentions of serving his fans, that he would not have been pleased.

So I was especially surprised to find this piece that Kay wrote in 1957, while Clark was still very much alive and kicking. I actually recognized parts of this article as being the exact same as in Kay’s book, word for word. Got started on it early, I guess?

“Home” is a rolling ranch in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley. Mr. G. has lived here now for 17 years, and I know he loves it more than any place in the world. However, he is a wonderfully unselfish man. Several days after we returned home [from our honeymoon] he said, “We can sell the ranch, Kathleen. We can buy a house in Bel-Air or Beverly Hills. I want you to be happy.” I was touched and said, “You love the ranch, Pa. I love the ranch. It’s an ideal place to bring up children. Let’s not think of moving.”

The house is white brick. It is furnished in Early American with exceptionally fine antiques which Clark and Carole Lombard bought in the East many years ago. It’s a man’s house, full of pewter mugs, bronze, coal-oil lamps, sporting prints and sturdy furniture. I added gay draperies and flowers.

Mr. G. says I put flowers into everything that will hold a few drops of water. I have even made vases out of our old 10-gallon milk cans. I painted them white and put them in the corners of our lazy rocking-chair porch, which is my favorite part of the house.

The three bedrooms are upstairs, and downstairs are the kitchen, dining room (a sumptuous room with a huge fireplace and bar), a living room, Mr. G.’s study, and his gun-room. It hasn’t been the gun room since Clark discovered my young son inspecting the guns that used to be kept there.

The den, as we call it now, is where we gather in the early evening to be with the children while they have dinner on their little desks with Patches and Pretty, their lovebirds, sneaking crumbs, and Rip, the hunting dog Clark gave them, standing by impatiently for a handout.

The house is tucked in the midst of 22 acres of pepper trees, citrus groves, peach orchards, gardenias, camellias and two miles of red roses growing on the white fences that circle the various alfalfa paddocks. Mr. G. has a green thumb. Anything he touches seems to bloom overnight.

The stables have been closed ever since he enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. His friend, Howard Strickling, publicity director at MGM, takes care of his horses on his nearby ranch. But we do have two burros, Silver Blacky and Baba. Grace Kelly gave Baba to Clark on his birthday after they finished Mogambo.

There are two guest cottages on the ranch, complete with their own kitchens. My two children and their nurse occupy one of these. They entertain their little friends in the afternoons and on weekends.

I am very glad that Clark had this kind of tranquility in the last years of his life. Kay knew that one of the mistakes Sylvia made was trying to erase Carole and make over the ranch and Clark’s life completely to her tastes. She was not going to make the same mistakes! Even though Clark might have said to Kay that they could move, I do not see him happy living in Beverly Hills at all.

And isn’t it nice the kids get their own house with their nurse. Well, good thing the nurse was there in case one of them had a bad dream in the middle of the night and called out for mommy. Anyway…

Life on the ranch is leisurely. When Clark is working he gets up around five-thirty. When he isn’t working he’ll stay in bed until six thirty or seven. His breakfast varies little month in and month out: coffee and grapefruit. He limits himself to one cup of coffee a day and has that cup for breakfast.

After breakfast he reads the newspapers and confers with his executive secretary and friend, Jean Garceau, who has been with him 20 years. The children drop in to say good-by on their way to the school bus. Mr. G. then checks with his two gardeners and spends the rest of the morning with them, plowing, planting, pruning, watering, and painting fences, I gave him a new tractor the Christmas after we were married and you would have thought I had presented him with Fort Knox.

We lunch on trays around two o’clock, by the pool, or on the lazy rocking-chair porch. The afternoons, while I am arranging flowers or working on my scrapbooks, he spends in his study making business phone calls, discussing films with his writers and directors, or reading scripts.

At five thirty we gather with the kids in the den. And while they have their dinner we have our cocktails and nibble on cheese and crackers. While I work on petit point slippers for Clark and the kids (they’re loaded with them) they watch television. Usually we have a game of bingo with Joan and Bunker and the nurse before they leave for their cottage. Before we have dinner we walk over to their cottage and listen to their prayers. After dinner we look at fights or special programs on our color TV set. Sometimes, but not often, I can persuade Mr. G. to run one of his old pictures on his projection machine.

After the picture I always try to tease him into telling me some tasty morsels about his former leading ladies, but I might as well bang my head against a stone wall. He simply refuses to gossip. He’ll break into that schoolboy grin that I (and 50 million other women) find irresistible and say, “She’s a fine girl. A fine girl.” That’s the only thing I don’t like about my remarkable husband, for I’m a gal who likes a bit of gossip, now and then. One of these days I’ll break him down.

He has absolutely no conceit about his acting. “Make like a great lover,” I’ll say, and he’ll give me a nauseating smirk. I’ll never forget the time a magazine writer asked him, “How does it feel, Mr. Gable, to be the screen’s Great Lover?” Clark gave her a quizzical look to see if she was kidding, and answered, “It’s a living.”

It’s funny, for decades it was said that Clark really never ate a big breakfast. Only exception is this 1934 article, which describes his love for pancakes and sausages.

Jean Garceau, who was originally Carole Lombard’s personal secretary, was not around too long after Kay moved in.

I do love that last paragraph. “It’s a living” indeed…

You can read the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.

ann sothern

From 1948:

Ann Sothern couldn’t have looked more surprised when Clark Gable, stopping by to see her on the “Words and Music” set, casually remarked: “Oh, by the way, I just left your ex-husband!” Sure enough, Bob Sterling, who once asked to be released from MGM, is back in that all-male stellar cast of Clark’s “Command Decision.” A living’s a living–but Ann and Bob would still be just as pleased if they could avoid running into each other.

clark gable sylvia ashley

As I have been documenting on the site’s Facebook page, my office is a mess. I moved nearly two years ago. This move meant that finally I have an office of my own–a space that is completely mine, that I can make a classic film haven from one end to the other. But as is the case with most wives and mothers I imagine, everyone else’s spaces and the neutral spaces took precedent. And so here we are nearly two years later and my classic film haven still looks like a bomb went off.

Going through piles and piles of items is aggravating, but it is also exciting. “Oh yeah! I forgot I had that!” I have exclaimed so many times. Magazines, random clippings, vintage slides, audio recordings…there is just so much stuff. I now have a rather large box that is filled with nothing but newspaper clippings, lovingly kept over the years by Clark Gable fans and acquired by me various ways over the years. Finally they are being organized and I’ve been quite intrigued reading them all. So I’m starting some “In the News” features to outline events as they were chronicled in the newspapers.

I’m going to start with the fourth Mrs. Clark Gable, Sylvia Ashley, because as far as clippings go I have the most on her and the fifth Mrs. Gable.clark gable sylvia ashley

Sylvia absolutely fascinates me to no end. She had five husbands–two of them distinguished titled Englishmen, two of them Hollywood royalty, and one a bonafide Georgian Prince. Quite impressive. It’s fairly obvious that the poor chorus girl from Paddington made up her mind early on to find herself a rich husband so that she could live the glamorous life she felt she was meant to have. And boy did she, five times over.

Here’s the backstory on old Syl:

She ran away from home at the age of fifteen and became a lingerie model and soon after, a chorus girl. She was dancing in a revue in London when she met Lord Anthony Ashley, the Ninth Duke of Shaftesbury and married him soon after. She became the subject of great scandal when, in 1934, her husband filed for divorce and named Hollywood heavyweight Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (then the husband of “America’s Sweetheart “Mary Pickford) co-respondent. For nearly three years the drama dragged on until their divorces were final. Sylvia met great resistance in Hollywood as the new Mrs. Fairbanks, as Douglas and Mary were Hollywood’s royal couple. After Douglas died of a heart attack in December 1939 (at the young age of 56), leaving Sylvia the bulk of his estate, Sylvia split her time between London and Hollywood, counting among her friends Norma Shearer and Loretta Young. In 1944, she married Lord Stanley of Alderly and he filed for divorce a year later. After much mudslinging and lawsuits back and forth, they were finally divorced in 1948.

Clark and Sylvia first locked eyes at a party at his agent Minna Wallis’ house in the summer of 1949. HeLady Sylvia Ashley had arrived at the party with socialite Dolly O’Brien as his date, but spent most of the evening dancing with Sylvia. They dated off and on for a few months but nobody thought much of the relationship because Clark was also dating Dolly and Virginia Grey, among others.

Clark called his pal and MGM publicity man Howard Strickling and told him he was getting married and to arrange a private wedding. Howard, like all of Clark’s friends, said, “Married? To who?” and was surprised at the answer. Clark and Sylvia were married in the living room of one of Howard’s friends homes in Solvang, near Santa Barbara. Sylvia’s sister and brother-in-law, Clark’s personal secretary Jean Garceau and Howard (the best man) attended. The quick ceremony was performed by Lutheran minister Reverend Aage Miller and afterward the newlyweds cut their tiered wedding cake with an antique sword. They took off on a two week honeymoon to Hawaii, where the press followed them and took shots of them planting a palm tree together and smooching on the beach.

Lady Sylvia Ashley
Upon their return from their honeymoon, Sylvia promptly took it upon herself to redecorate Clark’s beloved ranch, which had not been altered since Carole had decorated it years before. A crystal chandelier was added to the entryway, her English antiques were spread around the house, two new rooms were constructed and, most surprisingly, she received no complaints from Clark when she replaced all the furniture in Carole’s bedroom and painted the walls pink (his least favorite color). He called her “Bird” or “Ducky Doodle” and confided in friends that she was a “wildcat in the sack.” But it didn’t take long for Clark to tire of Sylvia’s extravagant ways. She had weekly salon appointments, was constantly shopping for clothes, required her own personal maid and was frequently giving money to her teenage nephew whom Clark couldn’t stand. In sharp contrast to Clark, she liked to throw lavish formal dinner parties and attend Hollywood social events. She had no respect for his privacy and would invite her relatives and friends to be guests at the ranch, sometimes for weeks on end. Sylvia accompanied him on hunting trips, but proved only to be an embarrassment to him. She refused to hunt, she couldn’t fish well (especially not with all the jewelry she refused toLady Sylvia Ashley remove hanging from her wrists and fingers) and Clark’s attempts to show her how to cook over a campfire failed. His friends referred to her as “her ladyship” and laughed at Clark carrying around Sylvia’s little terrier and buying it a diamond collar.

Friends noticed Clark had become increasingly irritable and tense as the months wore on. He became very distant toward Sylvia and started drinking heavily. She soon started spending more and more time in her native England. After she returned from one trip and was in the bath soaking in her tub, he came in, said “I want a divorce” and walked out. She later recalled, “At first I couldn’t believe Clark was serious. I stayed on at the house for several weeks, during which time he rarely spoke to me. When he did, he was very sullen. I tried everything I knew how to get him to change his mind. Ultimately, I had to give in.” After she finally moved out, Clark promptly fired any help she had hired, changed all the locks, and started to undo her renovations to the house.

Here’s where our newspapers catch up:

May 28, 1951:

Gable and Wife Living Apart

Hollywood, May 28–Clark Gable and his wife, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, were living in separate houses today, and Hollywood buzzed with renewed reports that their 18-month-old marriage is over.

Neither the actor nor his wife would comment, but some movie colony insiders said Mrs. Gable might make an announcement “very soon.”

Right they were, as, just a few days later…

June 1, 1951:

Gable is Sued for Divorce

Former Lady Sylvia Ashley Wed to Movie Star Less Than 18 Months

Santa Monica, Calif., May 31–Clark Gable was sued for divorce today by his wife, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley.

The widow of Douglas Fairbanks Sr., charged Gable, her husband of less than 18 months, with mental cruelty. She specified no particular instances.

But, she issued a statement through her attorney, Jerry Giesler, which said in part:

“I am taking this step with the deepest reluctance and under severe pressure, and only after it became evident that all of my efforts for a reconciliation were fruitless.”

Giesler said that doctors have advised her she needs a complete rest, and that she will leave tomorrow on an expedition to the south seas with Mr. and Mrs. George Vanderbilt.

Doctors said she needs a rest so she must leave immediately on a luxury cruise! The poor dear! In another paper on the same date:

June 1, 1951:

Clark Gable’s Wife is Suing For Divorce

Sails on Scientific Fishing Expedition to Quiet Her Nerves

Hollywood, June 1–Mrs. Clark Gable sailed for Honolulu today after filing suit for divorce yesterday.

Described as “a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” the former Lady Sylvia Ashley boarded a schooner yacht last night and immediately secluded herself below deck.

“She’s positively heartbroken,” said her brother-in-law, Basil Bleck, who acted as her spokesman.

Her breakup with the 50-year-old screen he-man came less than 18 months after their marriage, the fourth for each. She charged mental cruelty.

“I am taking this step with the deepest reluctance and under severe pressure,” Mrs. Gable, 40, said yesterday in a statement. “All of my efforts for a reconciliation were fruitless.”

A spokesman for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where Gable is making a picture, reported: “Mr. Gable has nothing to say.”

The schooner, a 192-footer, will cruise along the Polynesian Islands for six months to gather deep sea specimens for two museums. George Vanderbilt, son of the late Alfred G. Vanderbilt, heads the expedition.

Mrs. Gable probably will sail only as far as Honolulu, her brother-in-law said. That leg of the trip is expected to take about 20 days.

Married in 1949

She and Gable eloped to Santa Barbara, Calif., in December. She was known then as a laughing, lovely blonde remindful of Gable’s great love, the late actress Carole Lombard, his third bride, killed in a plane crash seven years before.

Mrs. Gable’s attorney, in a statement said: “She is asking for no community property or support. In the event she changes her mind she can file and amendment.”

I find it odd that she chose to mourn the demise of her marriage at their honeymoon location! Also I just cannot understand why anyone said that she was reminiscent of Carole Lombard. I do not see that at all, certainly not in personality. And as far as looks were concerned, they were both small blondes and that’s about it.

Clark didn’t take this laying down for long.

June 6, 1951:

Gable Fights Wife’s Suit

Los Angeles–Clark Gable yesterday turned his fourth wife’s divorce suit into a court battle.

He filed an answer denying her charges of cruelty and contesting her claim to community property.

The actor said the former Lady Sylvia Ashley has a fortune of more than $1,000,000 and needs no financial aid from him. In their brief marriage, Gable said, all community funds were spent or pledged for payment of community indebtedness.

Community funds are those earned by either party during the marriage.

Mrs. Gable, one-time London Showgirl and widow of Douglas Fairbanks, sued for divorce last Thursday. They were married December 20, 1949.

Another paper, on that same date:

Gable Pleads No Alimony For Socialite

Hollywood, June 5–Clark Gable asked a divorce court Tuesday not to award his wife any alimony because, he said, she’s a “millionaire.”

Besides, he added, they spent most of his money during their year and a half of marriage, anyway.

Gable filed an answer in superior court to the former Lady Sylvia Ashley’s divorce suit, which she entered last Thursday. The blonde socialite didn’t ask for alimony, but left that matter open so she could add a money demand to her suit later.

Spent Earnings

But the movie profile pointed out that the earnings they accumulated since they were married in 1949 “have been spent or are obligated for community indebtedness.”

Otherwise, the actor admitted, the charges in her divorce suit are true. She accused him of mental cruelty but did not elaborate on the charge.

Bound for Hawaii

The titled socialite, the daughter of an English saloon keeper, beat it to Hawaii on a yacht early Friday morning after her lawyer dropped off her mate-shedding papers in the Santa Monica court.

But brother-in-law, Basil Bleck, announced that she took the action “with deepest reluctance” after futile attempts to patch things up with the king of MGM movies.

Lady Sylvia inherited the widow’s share of a vast movietown estate when her matinee idol husband of a past generation, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., died of heart attack in 1939.

This was Gable’s first acknowledgement of the suit since he issued a snappy “no comment” the day it was filed.

One of the things that I believe drew Clark to Sylvia was that she had her own money. Clark liked his women to be independent and not rely on him for things. Well, Sylvia had money but it was apparently not all liquid. He was not pleased when it was his money being spent for her furniture, clothing and other extravagances. So it is no surprise that Clark was going to fight her over community property.

June 13, 1951:

Gable’s Lady Forgets on Hawaiian Vacation

Honolulu, June 13–Clark Gable’s wife was on a quiet Hawaiian holiday today, attempting to “forget” the breakup of her short-lied marriage to the handsome movie star.

Mrs. Gable, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, arrived yesterday aboard George Vanderbilt’s yacht, “Pioneer.” She left Southern California May 31 immediately after filing suit for divorce.

She refused to talk directly to reporters when the gleaming white yacht docked, but the authorized Vanderbilt to act as her spokesman.

“Gable evidently just didn’t want to be married any longer,” was the way Vanderbilt explained the divorce action.

Two months in Hawaii would surely cure anyone’s nerves. Sylvia returned in August:

sylvia ashley divorce clark gable

August 8, 1951:

Maps Divorce Plans

Hollywood, Aug. 7–Lady Sylvia Ashley returned to Hollywood from a Hawaiian vacation Tuesday to map plans for what is expected to be a stormy divorce battle against film star Clark Gable.

The four-times married honey blonde shrugged off reporters and photographers at the airport, refusing to say whether she found “peace and solace” in Hawaii. She snapped: “I never answer questions.”

She tried to duck behind her sister, Mrs. Basil Bleck, who accompanied her from Honolulu, whenever a photographer poised his camera or flashbulbs popped.

Sylvia’s back and Clark wants this divorce over and done with, so he takes matters into his own hands. To be continued…


clark gable spencer tracy

From 1948:

That “feud” continues between those good friends, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. If plans work out, both are supposed to be in Europe at the same time. Spence hopes to “frame” Clark with a gag cable from Esther Williams. It will request him to personally select for her a dozen of those daring diaper French bathing suits! If Clark falls for it, wouldn’t you love to be in on that shopping tour?

 Parnell is widely known as Clark Gable’s worst film. I have always disagreed. While the script could have used some work and is far from historically accurate, there is great chemistry (as always) between Clark and Myrna Loy. It is said that the film was a failure because Clark didn’t play his usual smirking rogue, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Sure, his character is lacking that Gable sass, but hey he can’t just play the same character every film, can he? Hmmm….

Some beautiful portraits with Myrna:

clark gable myrna loy parnellclark gable myrna loy parnell clark gable myrna loy parnell clark gable myrna loy parnell clark gable myrna loy parnell clark gable myrna loy parnell clark gable myrna loy parnell clark gable myrna loy parnell


Some great on the set pictures:

clark gable parnellclark gable parnellclark gable parnellclark gable parnellclark gable parnell

And of course the screenshots:

clark gable myrna loy parnell Parnell 2 Parnell 3 Parnell 4 Parnell 4 Parnell 4 Parnell 10 Parnell 12 Parnell 12

This little photo spread appeared in LOOK magazine in 1955.

clark gable kiss

Breathes there a girl who, at some time or other, has not dreamed of being bussed by that master, Clark Gable? A reasonably true-to-life dream might go like this:

The young lady is visiting a Hollywood sound stage, where a Gable picture is in the making. Suddenly the leading lady is taken ill. Consternation grips the studio. But wait. Our heroine steps forward.

“If I’m not intruding,” she says demurely, “may I suggest that you try me in the role?”

The director agrees and she falls into Gable’s arms. But alas, there’s a sad ending to this promising reverie. Girls, Gable eats onions!

He likes ‘em fried. He likes ‘em boiled. But most of all he simply dotes on them raw. Look! P.S. One gal didn’t mind—the new Mrs. Gable.

clark gable fishing onions

clark gable fishing onionclark gable fishing onions

Sometimes he was known to add a smear of mustard to the bread as well. Sounds appetizing, yes? He tended to like onions on just about everything–on steak, on hamburgers, in baked beans and in his potato salad.   I don’t know where Clark’s affinity for onions came from, but he sure did love them!

clark gable carole lombard horse

From January 1938:

Hollywood’s cut-ups and the most mysterious people, when they want to be, are putting up a swell “whodunnit” all of their own. Naturally, I’m speaking of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. One day, a horse named “Clarcarol” appeared from nowhere on the listings. It only took about half a guess to find out who owned this animal. As yet, the proud hope of Lombard-Gable Inc., hasn’t had a real tryout, but if it has half the spirit of its co-owners, who somehow can’t talk about “Clarcarol,” the little beastie is sure to go places. Of course, Clark is no newcomer to the game, for he had “Beverly Hills.” After dismal attempts to get the horse to win or even place once in a while, Clark decided to turn her into an actress. But before he had time to put her into the picture, “Saratoga,” she was with foal and had to retire.