“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Prince Alexis Mdvani & Barbara Hutton’s 1934 China Honeymoon

Posted: July 13th, 2017 | No Comments »

In the 1920s everyone had heard of the “Marrying Mdvani’s” – the sons and daughters of a super wealthy Georgian family who fled the Bolsheviks in 1921. By 1934:

  • Serge Mdvani had married the actress Pola Negri, but dumped her after she lost all her money in the Wall Street Crash and married the opera singer Mary McCormic;
  • David Mdvani married the actress Mae Murray, bankrupted her, got divorced and took up with the French actress Arletty;
  • Isabelle Mdvani married the Spanish painter Jose Maria Sert;
  • Nina Mdvani married a Stanford professor and later a son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle;
  • but perhaps Alexis Mdvani did best – he Louise Aster van Alen of the Astor family but, in 1931, divorced her to marry Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress. They travelled a lot and in February 1934…

Prince Alexis Mdvani and Barbara Hutton, 1934

They arrived in China on their honeymoon tour…to much fanfare from the celebrity spotting China Coast press….

It was a good time for Alexis to be out the country as his brother Serge and David were in court accused of embezzling $8,000 from the fraudulent Pacific Shore Oil Company.  The Mdvani’s sailed from Kobe to Tientsin (Tianjin) on the small steamer the Choko Maru (Below)

From Tientsin they headed straight to Peiping (Peking), but only one journalist was at the train station to intercept them…the journalist, rather like one of today’s hack pack in Beijing, found little of interest except to vulgarly mention money….

They obviously decided not to give the journalist the story he might have wanted most – and which they did announce from Peiping a few days later…

But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet – fake news, 1934 style!!

And so onto Shanghai…here they are, in resplendent furs, arriving at Shanghai North Railway Station just off the Peking Express. The young man on the left is Jimmie Donahue, Barbara’s cousin.

I think we can assume at the Cathay – this article interestingly shows just how wealthy Hutton was…

And then, after a couple of weeks (of fairly low key sightseeing and visiting) they decamped for Hong Kong….though (as so often I fear) time in Shanghai seems to have done their fledgling relationship no good at all…quarrels on-board the Conte Verde from Shanghai to Hong Kong are reported by fellow passengers…

From Hong Kong the couple boarded planes and got to Europe – Venice, Paris…all beckoned as the honeymoon continued. But China was not past…

Married in June 1933 the couple divorced in March 1935.

24 hours later she married Count Kurt Heinrich Eberhard Erdmann Georg von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow.

Alexis was killed in a car crash in Spain in August 1935.

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