|Intro||English model, actress and socialite|
|Was||Actor Model Socialite|
|Field||Fashion Film, TV, Stage & Radio|
|Birth||1 April 1904, Paddington|
|Death||29 June 1977, Los Angeles (aged 73 years)|
Sylvia Ashley (1 April 1904 – 29 June 1977) was an English model, actress, and socialite who was best known for her marriages to British aristocrats and American movie stars.
Ashley was born Edith Louisa Sylvia 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 (6 March 1910 – 1 January 1997), married British film producer Basil Bleck.
Hawkes was married five times:
- Major Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Lord Ashley (married 3 February 1927 – 28 November 1934; divorced)
- Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., American actor (married 7 March 1936 – 12 December 1939, his death)
- Edward Stanley, 6th Baron Stanley of Alderley (married 18 January 1944 – 1948; divorced)
- Clark Gable, American actor (married 20 December 1949 – 21 April 1952; divorced)
- Prince Dimitri Djordjadze, hotel executive and race-car driver (married 1954)
Using her middle 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. In 1924, she made her debut in Midnight Follies. She appeared in Primrose. In 1925, she acted in Tell me More at London's Winter Garden Theatre, and in The Whole Town's Talking.
On 1 March 1941, Lady Ashley filed articles of incorporation to establish an organisation known as the British Distressed Areas Fund. Organised along with her sister, Vera Bleck, Constance Bennett, and Virginia Fox Zanuck, as directors the Fund focused on soliciting financial support to provide food, clothing and medical aid for refugees of World War II. The headquarters of the organisation was located in Los Angeles.
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.
Death and burial
Lady Ashley died of cancer at age 73 in Los Angeles. She is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood; her grave is 680 feet north of that of her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., at the north end of the "Garden of Legends", aka "Section 8".
Titles and styles
- 1 April 1904 – 3 February 1927: Miss Sylvia Hawkes
- 3 February 1927 – 28 November 1934: Lady Ashley
- 28 November 1934 – 7 March 1936: Sylvia, Lady Ashley
- 7 March 1936 – 12 December 1939: Mrs Douglas Fairbanks
- 12 December 1939 – 18 January 1944: Mrs Sylvia Fairbanks
- 18 January 1944 – 1948: The Right Honourable The Lady Stanley of Alderley
- 1948 – 20 December 1949: Sylvia, Lady Stanley of Alderley
- 20 December 1949 – 21 April 1952: Mrs Clark Gable
- 21 April 1952 – 1954: Mrs Sylvia Gable
- 1954 – 29 June 1977: Her Royal Highness Princess Sylvia Djordjadze of Georgia