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Sylvia Ashley
Born Edith Louisa Hawkes
April 1, 1904(1904-04-01)
Paddington, London, England
Died June 29, 1977 (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California, U.S
Other name(s) Sylvia Hawkes
Lady Ashley
Princess Sylvia Djordjadze
Spouse(s) Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1927-1934)
Douglas Fairbanks (1936-1939)
Edward John Stanley (1944-1948)
Clark Gable (1949-1952)
Dimitri Djordjadze (1954-1977)

Sylvia Ashley (April 1, 1904 – June 29, 1977) was an English model, actress and socialite, who was best known for her marriages to British aristocrats and American movie stars.


Early life

She was born Edith Louisa Hawkes in Paddington, London, England, a daughter of Arthur Hawkes and Edith Florence Hyde. (Although she preferred giving her year of birth as 1906, the England and Wales Civil Registration Index, Vol. 1a, Page 26, shows it was recorded during the June quarter of 1904, District of Paddington.) Her sister (Lillian) Vera Hawkes (March 6, 1910-January 1, 1997) married the British film producer Basil Bleck.


Taking the name Sylvia, she worked as a lingerie model and became a Cochran Dancer, the British equivalent of a Ziegfeld Follies girl. After this brief career in the chorus line of musical comedy, she went on to appear in a number of West End plays. She made her debut in Midnight Follies. She appeared in Primrose in 1924. In 1925, she acted in Tell me More at London's Winter Garden Theatre, and in The Whole Town's Talking.

On March 1, 1941, Sylvia, her sister, Vera Bleck, Constance Bennett, and Virginia Fox Zanuck, as directors, filed articles of incorporation for an organization known as the British Distressed Areas Fund, with headquarters in Los Angeles, with the purpose of soliciting funds to provide food, clothing and medical aid for refugees of World War II.

Primrose audition

In their joint memoir Bring on the Girls!, P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton relate the story of Sylvia's audition for George Grossmith Jr. for the 1924 musical Primrose:

"Must I sing, Mr Grossmith?"

"Yes, Sylvia, you must. All of you have to sing if you want jobs as showgirls in Primrose. The Gershwin score demands it."

"Oh very well," she replied petulantly, and, going down to the floats she handed over a piece of music to the pianist in the pit. The piano struck a chord.

"God save our gracious King,
Long live our noble King,
God save the King."

Grossmith, a strict observer of ritual, rose and stood at attention. His minions rose and stood at attention. Guy, on his way to announce his arrival, stood at attention.

As the anthem came to the normal stopping point, George started to sit down, but there is more, much more of the fine old choral than is generally known. James Carey is credited with a three-stanza version; in another version John Bull... has expressed the same sentiment in his own way; while James Oswald... also got into the act. A printing is extant giving them all. Sylvia Hawkes sang them all. The pianist stopped playing, but that didn't stop Sylvia. They wanted her to sing, did they? Well, sing she would. Of course no one dared to call a halt. The national anthem is sacrosanct – especially if you're an actor-manager clinging to the hope of a belated knighthood.[1]

Personal life and death

She had five husbands:

Princess Sylvia Djordjadze died of cancer at age 73 in Los Angeles. She is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood; her grave is not too far from that of her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.


  1. ^ Wodehouse and Bolton, Bring on the Girls! (1953), Chapter 13, section 3

External links

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