sylvia ashley clark gable louella parsons

Sylvia Ashley, Clark Gable and Louella Parsons

From August 1950, Louella Parsons:

I went with Sylvia Gable to the MGM lot the very first time she lunched with Clark at the studio–and I’ve never enjoyed a round of the sets more.

Sylvia picked me up at my house and was all a-flutter and afraid we would be late.

“I’ve been to the studio only once, at night,” she told me, “but I’ve never had lunch with Clark when he is making a picture. I don’t want to be the kind of wife who hangs around when her husband is working.”

Clark was waiting for us in the commissary and every eye in the place was on those happy newlyweds. Sylvia looked like a fashion plate in her tailored suit and you could just see how proud Clark is of her. 

She constantly amuses him. He laughs affectionately at her British accent and mimics her, but he kept whispering to me, “Isn’t she wonderful? She is so gay and happy all the time.”

They weren’t quite ready for Clark immediately after lunch, so Sylvia and I went visiting on other MGM sets. 

“You are really in love with that big lug, aren’t you?” I asked the blonde beauty as we walked toward the Loretta Young set where she is making “Cause for Alarm” for her producer husband, Tom Lewis.

“Yes I am,” Sylvia said with real feeling. “I never hoped to know anything like this again. After Doug (Fairbanks) died, I married Lord Stanley principally because I was so lonely. But this is real love–Clark is so sweet, so kind and so thoughtful.”

If we had been visiting royalty we couldn’t have had a nicer reception than Loretta, Tom and Barry Sullivan, the leading man, gave us.

We felt guilty when they insisted on stopping for tea because this is Tom’s first fling as a producer, and every moment counted on his schedule.

We also visited Red Skelton on his “Watch The Birdie” set. Red had been with us at the Sanford’s party the night before and Sylvia couldn’t get over his pep.

“I got in at 4:00 this morning,” he confided, “and I was at the studio at 6:00!”

When we returned to Clark’s picture, and Sylvia told him that Red had stayed out until 4:00, King Gable laughed:

“Well, darling, he is younger than I am. I have to get my sleep!”

“Oh, I didn’t mean that,” gasped Sylvia–who I am sure, thinks Clark Gable is the youngest looking and best looking man in the word.

Yes, my friends, the Gables are very happy–and I’m betting they stay that way.


That’s a bet she lost! So interesting the new Mrs. Gable was on Loretta Young’s set….


clark gable sylvia ashley

Here is another article Modern Screen magazine ran just a few months after the article I posted yesterday. This one goes into more (fluffy fluffy fluffy) detail about Clark and Sylvia’s “great romance.”

For the actor he is, Clark Gable put on a bad performance these past few years. Loneliness stood out on him like a neon sign. The evenings he spent at his Encino ranch home, he’d wander from room to room, pick up a book and drop it, pick up a phone and decide not to call, sink into a chair and stare at nothing.

The nights he went out the newshounds followed him to parties and theaters and nightclubs for hot gossip about this man of the world. They got the gossip. But anyone with half an eye could see that Gable wasn’t happy.

Then, at one of the parties, he met Sylvia. He’d known her before, but this was different. He’d never married her before…

Everyone knows the story of their elopement and honeymoon. Only his friends know that Clark has changed, that for the first time in many years he’s come out of his shell. They can trace the change back to the beginning of his marriage, to Hawaii…

There were ten thousand people mobbing the dock at Honolulu to greet Clark and his bride. Time was when he would have faced a crowd like this black-browed and scowling. He’d have stalked straight through them, or slammed himself into a stateroom. This time he loved it. They couldn’t drape him with enough leis, he couldn’t shake enough hands or joke with enough people whom he didn’t even know.

No sooner did he hit the Islands than he blossomed out in South Sea shirts that would have made Bing Crosby jealous. He went overboard for every dreamy Island tune. He bought himself a ukulele and crooned off-key to Sylvia. He padded in sandals around Honolulu’s streets, and sunned his chest at Waikiki for the Royal Hawaiian hotel guests to see.

Everywhere he went he yelled, “Aloha!” until his voice cracked. He waved from his open flivver so much he got a charley-horse.

New Year’s Eve, when all of Honolulu practically blows up with fireworks, Clark and Sylvia sent rockets and Roman candles whooshing into the sky from midnight to dawn. They stood there like a couple of awe-struck kids watching the sky light up. Like the newlyweds they were, with a whole life before them, exciting and new.

Nobody who knows Clark or Sylvia well was really surprised by the Gable who came back from Honolulu, the Gable who dropped ten years by saying, “I do,” the Gable with the frequent, boyish grin.

The press back then, I think, was as startled by this sudden and unlikely marriage as the American public. But instead of writing “why in the HELL did he marry HER?” and “no way this lasts!” like they probably wanted to, they had to spin this into a great romance and the answer to all Clark’s fans’ prayers. By all accounts he seemed very happy on their Hawaiian honeymoon, but once the honeymoon was over, their differences were too great.

His friends knew that a guy like him is no good, rattling around alone and lonely as he’d been since Carole Lombard died. But he needed the sort of woman who would understand him, who would be able to interest him in life again.

The new Mrs. G. is not only social but sociable-plus. She liked people and people like her. She’s lived all her life in a world of conviviality, and one Hollywood prediction is practically unanimous: the old recluse Gable is a man of the past. If anyone can warm up his home and bring him back to the life of friends and fun that he really loves, it’s Sylvia. Already in the past two months she’s had more dinner parties at Encino that Clark himself bothered to stage in the past two years, including a surprise forty-ninth birthday party for Mr. G. himself.

These two paragraphs are funny, saying that his friends knew he needed the sort of woman who would “understand him, who would be able to interest him in life again,” then delving into a paragraph about all the dinner parties she’s thrown–more than Clark’s thrown in two years. Yeah, that sort of thing was what made the marriage NOT work out. In more than one article during the Lombard marriage, you will read Clark and Carole stating how they didn’t like to throw big formal dinner parties in their home.

Of course Sylvia has changed things at her new home. Clark expected her to, and he’s delighted with the results.

Already there are flowers and plants inside where nobody ever thought of putting them. The few prize pieces Sylvia had at the ocean-front house Doug Fairbanks left her are on their way from England and New York. The guest house—two rooms and a bath—is fully furnished to her taste. Sylvia’s bedroom was done over again in the soft greens and yellows she loves. The living room furniture’s been shifted around, and recovered. And the unfamiliar scent of lavender drifts out of the wardrobe closets, packed now with the beautiful clothes which were back in New York when Sylvia needed them most—for her trousseau.

Clark was hardly delighted by Sylvia’s changes; he had the guest house redone as soon as she moved out. I’d often heard that Sylvia had redone Carole Lombard’s old room (which was powder blue) in pink, which was Clark’s least favorite color. Here they are saying green and yellow.

The ending of this article is really eye-roll inducing:

And they know that, fate willing, they’ll get the wish they made that Hawaiian night in December 1949. With the Pacific surf in the background, and the moon glistening on the sand, Clark and Sylvia sipped champagne on the lanai, and Clark made a toast: “To us,” he said, “and to our new life in the days and nights ahead. May they all be as swell as this.”

So far they’ve got their wish, and it looks as if it will keep, for on that night when love walked in and claimed Clark Gable’s life, loneliness took one lingering, frightened look and drowned itself off the shores of gay Hawaii.

What a last line!!! Wow. You can read the entire fluffy piece in the Article Archive.


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…

clark gablesylvia ashley hawaii

From June 1950:

December 31, 1949 was our last vacation day in Hawaii, and some friends and I decided to make it one we’d never forget. At 1:00am, after seeing the New Year in, we took one last spin along Waikiki Beach, hoping to meet some celebrities we could talk about back home. Suddenly a sparkling 1950 car drive up alongside ours, and a handsome person stretched out his head and yelled, “Happy New Year!” Surprised as we were, we quickly answered, “Happy New Year Clark Gable…Happy New Year, Mrs. Gable!”

Winifred Chinem

Ann Arbor, Michigan

clark gable sylvia ashley married wedding

From March 1950, Louella Parsons:

I can tell my readers that the lovely blonde Lady Sylvia Ashley Fairbanks Stanley had no idea that she was going to marry “King” Clark Gable 48 hours before she did on Tuesday, December 20.

The previous Saturday she and Clark had lunched with Minna Wallis, who’d re-introduced them at a dinner months ago. That night they had dinner with Charles Feldman and agreed to dine with him again Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, the telephone rang and Sylvia said to Charlie, “Something has happened. We cannot have dinner with you, but you’ll hear from us later.” That “something” was her elopement with Gable! Charlie didn’t know a thing about it until he heard it over the radio. 

Minna said she was never so surprised in her life. She said that Clark and Sylvia hasn’t been with each other very much since their meeting because Sylvia had been in Europe most of the time. She slipped back into town about two weeks before the wedding and then the romance started again.

How did Clark happen to marry the three-times-married Sylvia, called one of the most handsome women in the world and named on every best dressed list? Well, I’ll tell you:

Sylvia, I think, reminds me a little of Carole Lombard. When he first married Carole, she didn’t like to fish, hunt and was not an outdoors girl. But she adapted herself to Clark’s ways, and I think Sylvia will do the same.

After all, she is English and enjoys outdoor life, even though she seems to be a hot-house plant and looks so fragile.

Let me tell yo a cute little story about the elopement you may not have heard:

The morning of the day they secretly planned to drive up to San Luis Obispo and get their license, Clark called his bride-to-be. “Honey,” he said, “We are going to have to use your car. Mine was sideswiped driving home from your house last night, and the whole side is smashed in! And that little English car of mine is too conspicuous–they’ll spot it!”

So King Gable had to borrow his Lady’s automobile to rush off and get married.

Howard Strickling, head of MGM publicity and Clark’s best friend, who was best man, told me: “During the ceremony, tears came into Sylvia’s eyes and started to run down her face. When Clark turned to her after the ceremony and started to take her in his arms, he first kissed her eyelids–and if you ask me, that big lug’s eyes were moist, too. But happy! I haven’t seen Clark that happy in years and years.”

The whole thing was so sudden, they haven’t made up their minds whether they will live in his house, or her house on the beach, or whether they will buy a new place in Beverly Hills.

But before he left, Clark left word that the master bedroom suite in his house was to be completely redecorated while they are gone. His instructions were, “Get my hunting and fishing things out of there, make it more–frilly and feminine!”

All I can add is– wish them worlds of happiness and joy and I sincerely believe they have found it.


There’s typical Louella Parsons, making sure that the point gets across that NO ONE KNEW THEY WERE GETTING MARRIED–IT WAS SO SECRETIVE! So she doesn’t look bad for not having the scoop.

There was no “master bedroom suite” in the ranch. Carole’s room was redecorated after Sylvia moved in. Can you imagine Clark telling anyone to make a room more “frilly and feminine!” ??


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.

Clark Gable, Sylvia Ashley and Adrian at his show

Clark Gable, Sylvia Ashley and Adrian at his show

From April 1950:

The invitations to Adrian’s spring fashion show read, “So many men have asked me, ‘Why can’t we come to your fashion show and see what our wives are buying?’–that he invited the gents. 

Even so, seeing Clark Gable sitting beside his bride, Sylvia, who carefully marked all of Adrian’s best numbers down, was something I thought I’d never live to witness! Yes, there was king Gable, looking as interested as all get-out–and seeing him was worth paying admission for. At first I thought Clark was blushing, but it was only a  deep sunburn!

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!


sylvia ashley clark gable

Finally the end is near and as 1952 arrived, it looked like the divorce would finally be settled between Clark Gable and Wife #4.

(Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of their divorce battle)

sylvia ashley clark gable

February 7, 1952:

Mrs. Clark Gable (Lady Sylvia Ashley) has been ambulanced to Doctors Hospital. I know Gable visited her in her ninth-floor suite. But they tell me that’s only a manifestation of a gentleman’s courtesy and that he plans to fly to Florida and Dolly O’Brien, though other friends expect him to return to, perhaps marry, Virginia Grey, in Hollywood. These are rumors with no substantiation that I could rivet down.

February 15, 1952:

Are Gables Ready to Kiss, Make Up?

New York–The New York Journal-American said today that Clark Gable is “reported to have rehearsed a kiss-and-make-up scene” with his estranged wife, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley.

The story, by Dorothy Kilgallen, said: “According to close friends, Gable has seen her almost daily at Doctors hospital…despite divorce suits..Those sources report Gable’s calls weren’t just ‘hello-goodbye’ affairs, but that he stayed longer than would have been expected of an ‘estranged’ husband suing and being sued.”

Mrs. Gable is recovering from a fractured ankle suffered in an automobile accident in Nassau.

Both have been married three times previously.

Friends of Clark’s said it was amazing, that he visited her at the hospital and they laughed it up like there was no divorce suit. There was never really any chance of reconciliation, it seems, but at the very least this re-connection inspired Clark to not contest Sylvia’s grounds for divorce.

February 18, 1952:

Studio Says Gable Will Not Contest Divorce Action

Hollywood–Clark Gable won’t contest his wife’s divorce suit, his studio says.

Gable returned yesterday from New York, where he had several “very friendly” talks with Mrs. Gable, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, an MGM spokesman said.

Hollywood, after hearing reports the pair couldn’t agree on a property settlement, had been expecting Gable to fight his wife’s suit, filed last May.

The studio spokesman said he did not know if a property agreement had been reached, but added that a settlement presumably is no obstacle to an amicable divorce.

February 19, 1952:

Hollywood, Calif.–Lady Sylvia Ashley and her movie star husband, Clark Gable, have “ironed out all their differences” and he will let her get an uncontested divorce, her attorney said today.

Jerry Giesler, the attorney, said he understood the “differences” ironed out meant the couple had settled the “squabble on alimony and property settlement”–previous stu,bling blocks on the heretofore bitter battle between the two.

If you’ve ever wondered where Sylvia was living while all this divorce battle was going on, turns out it was Fairbanks’ place in Santa Monica (right near Norma Shearer). Sold it at a bit of a loss…

March 7, 1952:

Fairbanks Home Costing $200,000 Sells for $37,000

Santa Monica, Cal.–The seaside cottage and guest house built by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. at an estimated cost of $200,000, were sold today by his widow, Mrs. Sylvia Gable, for $37,000.

The purchases was the International Rolling Mill Products Co. of Chicago. Leroy Listug, general manager, said the property was purchased for use of one of the company executives.

Mrs. Gable, the former Lady Sylvia Ashley, has a divorce suit pending against Clark Gable, actor. She has been living there alone, except for servants, since their estrangement last year.

Finally a hobbled Sylvia walked out of court with her divorce decree:

sylvia ashley

clark gable sylvia ashley divorceclark gable sylvia ashley divorce

April 22, 1952:

Clark Gable Gets Freedom But It Costs Him Plenty

Santa Monica, Cali–Clark Gable now has the matrimonial freedom his heart desires.

His fourth wife won a divorce Monday after testifying that he told her “I don’t wish to be married to you or anyone else.”

Under a settlement the former Lady Sylvia Ashley gets a sizeable chunk of the actor’s estimated $500,000 yearly earnings–10 per cent the first year and 7 per cent for the next four.

Gable, long-time king of Hollywood’s leading men, didn’t contest the case and was not present in court.

clark gable sylvia ashley divorceclark gable sylvia ashley divorce

Same date:

Lady Ashley Gets Divorce

Aided by her attorney, Jerry Giesler, Lady Sylvia Ashley hobbled into court at Santa, Monica, Calif., to win a default divorce from screen he-man Clark Gable. The blonde lady Sylvia, still recuperating from a broken foot suffered at Nassau four months ago, received a sizeable property and alimony settlement reported to be in the neighborhood of $138,200.

She arrived in court in a white blouse, a yellow straw hat, a sandle [sic] on her good foot and an oxford on her broken foot. She testified nervously under questioning by Attorney Jerry Giesler:

“The first indication that anything was wrong came when Clark quite suddenly said he wanted to be free and that he didn’t wish to be married to me or anyone else. At first I could not believe he was serious,” she said, her hands shaking as she talked in a low, almost inaudible voice. “I stayed on at the house but he scarcely spoke to me; when I asked for a fuller explanation he said there was none.

“I did everything I know to hold the marriage together, but he insisted he was just not happy to be a married man.”

Close friends of the he-man actor said the trouble was Gable’s inability to forget the late Carole Lombard, the honey-blonde actress and his third wife who was killed in a tragic plane accident in Nevada in 1942.

Lady Sylvia’s testimony was corroborated by Rufus Martin, negro butler in the Gable home.

“After dinner Mr. Gable would go directly upstairs, Mrs. Gable would just sit there all alone, looking at TV. He wouldn’t even talk to Mrs. Gable and he became very moody.”

The marriage was the fourth for both.

Next up: Mr. and Mrs. Gable move on with their lives…

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!