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Arts of Love - Greatest Lovers

Ava Gardner * Mini Biography

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Amidst a sea of blonde-haired bombshells, Ava Gardner stood out as one of Hollywood’s true screen sirens, with her legendary beauty and rollercoaster love affairs. The stunning green-eyed brunette was often described as having the face of an angel and the body of a goddess, best known for playing Mara Vargas in “The Barefoot Contessa” (1954). The role that launched Gardner’s career, however, was that of ultimate femme fatale Kitty Collins in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers” (1946).

What was infinitely more interesting to fans, however, was her much chronicled off-screen life in which the wild child did what she wanted when she wanted; others be damned – whether it was dating married men, openly courting bullfighters or throwing back whiskey shots like a man.

Her complicated, passionate relationships opposite a wide spectrum of Hollywood’s leading men fascinated the public the most – from her odd hook-up with the diminutive king of the box office, Mickey Rooney, to living under the thumb of Svengali husband, bandleader Artie Shaw. But it was her tumultuous union to crooner Frank Sinatra which brought the actress the most chronicled pain and pleasure of her life, leading to obsession, abortion and suicide attempts. The fact that Sinatra could never control his real-life barefoot contessa would haunt him until the day he died, making the Sinatra-Gardner union one for the ages.

Courtesy of

Ava Lavinia Gardner (December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990) was an American actress.
She was signed to a contract by MGM Studios in 1941 and appeared in supporting roles until she drew attention with her performance in The Killers (1946). She became one of Hollywood's leading actresses, admired for her beauty, and highly regarded for her acting ability. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mogambo (1953). She appeared in several popular films during the 1950s, and received BAFTA Award nominations for her performances in Bhowani Junction (1956), On the Beach (1959) and The Night of the Iguana (1964).

Marriage and Relationships

Mickey Rooney

Soon after her arrival in Los Angeles, Gardner met fellow MGM contract player Mickey Rooney; they married on January 10, 1942 in Ballard, California. She was 19 years old. Gardner made several movies before 1946, but it wasn't until she starred in The Killers with Burt Lancaster, that she became known as a movie star and sex symbol. (Rooney and Gardner divorced in 1943, mainly because Rooney resisted giving up his partying ways). Rooney later rhapsodized about Gardner's performance in bed, though upon hearing this Gardner retorted "Well, honey, he may have enjoyed the sex, but [goodness knows] I didn't." She once characterized their marriage as "Love Finds Andy Hardy."

Artie Shaw

Gardner's second marriage was to jazz musician and band leader Artie Shaw, from 1945 to 1946.

Frank Sinatra

Gardner's third and last marriage (1951-1957) was to singer and actor Frank Sinatra. She would later say in her autobiography that of all the men she'd had - that he was the love of her life. Sinatra left his wife, Nancy, for Ava and their subsequent marriage made headlines. Sinatra was savaged by gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, the Hollywood establishment, the Catholic church, and by his fans for leaving his 'good wife' for this exotic femme fatale. However international hostess Elsa Maxwell revered Sinatra. His career suffered, while Gardner's prospered - the headlines only solidified her sexy screen siren image. The marriage to Sinatra was stormy - passionate fighting, jealousy, at least one alleged suicide attempt (by Sinatra), and numerous separations.

Gardner used her considerable clout to get Sinatra cast in his Oscar-winning role in From Here to Eternity (1953). That role and the award revitalized both Sinatra's acting and singing careers. Gardner said of her relationship with Sinatra, "We were great in bed. It was usually on the way to the bidet when the trouble began."  (This quote inspired the song "Frank and Ava" by Suzanne Vega.) During their marriage Gardner became pregnant twice, but she had two abortions. "MGM had all sorts of penalty clauses about their stars having babies," she said. She had always wanted children, but she said years later, "We couldn't even take care of ourselves. How were we going to take care of a baby?" Gardner and Sinatra remained good friends for the rest of her life.

Howard Hughes

Gardner began dating billionaire aviator Howard Hughes in the early to mid-1940s, a relationship that lasted into the 1950s.

Luis Miguel Dominguín

Gardner divorced Sinatra in 1957 and headed to Spain where her friendship with famed writer Ernest Hemingway led to her becoming a fan of bullfighting and bullfighters such as Luis Miguel Dominguín, who became her lover. "It was a sort of madness, honey", she said later of the time.

Final years

After a lifetime of smoking, Gardner suffered from emphysema, in addition to an autoimmune disorder (which may have been lupus). After two strokes in 1986, which left her partially paralyzed and bedridden, Frank Sinatra paid the cost of her ($50,000) medical expenses. Her last words (to her housekeeper Carmen), were, "I'm so tired," before she died of pneumonia at the age of 67.

After her death, one of Frank Sinatra's daughters found him slumped in his room, crying, and unable to speak. Gardner was not only the love of his life but also the inspiration for one of his most personal songs, "I'm a Fool to Want You," which Sinatra (who received a co-writing credit for the song) recorded twice, toward the end of his contract with Columbia Records and during his years on Capitol Records. ("It was Ava who taught him how to sing a torch song," Sinatra arranger Nelson Riddle was once quoted as saying. "She was the greatest love of his life, and he lost her.")

Reportedly, a lone black limousine parked behind the crowd of 500 mourners at Ava's funeral. No one exited the vehicle, but it was assumed that the anonymous mourner was indeed Frank Sinatra. A floral arrangement at Gardner's graveside simply read: "With My Love, Francis."

Read more of Ava Gardner’s complete biography, courtesy of

Who Dated Ava Gardner:


Quotes from Ava Gardner

After my screen test, the director clapped his hands gleefully and yelled: "She can't talk! She can't act! She's sensational!

Because I was promoted as a sort of a siren and played all those sexy broads, people made the mistake of thinking I was like that off the screen. They couldn't have been more wrong.

Deep down, I'm pretty superficial.

I don't understand people who like to work and talk about it like it was some sort of goddamn duty. Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.

I have only one rule in acting - trust the director and give him heart and soul.

I suffered, I really suffered, with all three of my husbands. And I tried damn hard with all three, starting each marriage certain that it was going to last until the end of my life. Yet none of them lasted more than a year or two.

I think the main reason my marriages failed is that I always loved too well but never wisely.

What's the point? My face, shall we say, looks lived in.

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Other Quotes from Ava Gardner:

"I've certainly never taken the care of myself that I should have. On the contrary. I've done a lot of late nights without enough sleep and all that. But I've had fun. Whatever wrinkles are there, I've enjoyed getting them."

"I married three exciting men, all very talented, and fascinating to the ladies, and, I might add, vice versa."

"Apparently, I'm what is known as a 'glamour girl.' Now that's a phrase which means luxury, leisure, excitement, and all things lush. No one associates a six A.M. alarm, a thirteen-hour workday, several more hours of study, housework, and business appointments with glamour. That, however, is what glamour means in Hollywood. At least it does to me. "
"Being a film star is still a big damn bore. I do it for the money, that's all. After all these years I don't know a damn thing about movies. I was never an actress."
"I never see the sun. I sleep during the daylight. The night is company. It clarifies my mind."
"I've never received as much love as I've given."

"Being a movie star in America is the loneliest life in the world. In Europe they respect your privacy."

"Not MGM, not the press, not anyone can tell me what to do."

"All I have going is my looks. When my beauty goes, I'm through."

"I wasn't meant to act. I was meant to have babies."

"I'm one Hollywood star who hasn't tried to slash her wrists, take sleeping pills, or kick a cop in the shins. That's something of an accomplishment these days."

"I can't imagine why anybody would want to have an interview with me. I'm such a dull subject."

"I guess you think that mad love can cure anything. Well, it can't. You have to have more in common for marriage to work."

"I was never an actress -- none of us kids at Metro were. We were just good to look at."

"The truth is that the only time I'm happy is when I'm doing absolutely nothing."

"My philosophy, for better or worse, has always been, "If I'm in love or having an affair, I stop working."

"MGM promoted me as The World's Most Beautiful Animal, a label I couldn't shake."

"When I lose my temper, honey, you can't find it anywhere."

"Fame and fortune does not mean anything if you don't have a happy home."

"I don't mind growing old. If I have to go before my time, this is how I'll go-- cigarette in one hand, glass of scotch in the other."

"Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect."

"If I had my life to live over again, I'd live it the same way. The truth is, honey, I've enjoyed my life. I've had a hell of a good time ..."

"I shot enough sultry looks around the MGM photo gallery to melt the North Pole."

"I married three exciting men, all very talented, and fascinating to the ladies, and, I might add, vice versa."

"Everybody kisses everybody else in this crummy business all the time. It's the kissiest business in the world."

"I made it as a star dressed, and if it ain't dressed, I don't want it."

"What I'd really like to say about stardom is that it gave me everything I never wanted."

Courtesy of - Find other Divas Quotes there too!

Cinema Credits

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Ava Gardner The Films of the Beautiful Ava Gardner
If you want to discover Ava Gardner (1922 - 1990): A list of 29 items by ... see classic SF movies made before Star Wars (Pt 2): A guide of 37 items by ... - Cached - Similar

Ava Gardner - Classic Movies
Jan 23, 2009 ... Classic Movies (1939 - 1969): The SuperStars: Ava Gardner. - Cached - Similar

The Biography Channel - Ava Gardner Biography  Find out more about Ava Gardner Biography on The Biography Channel.  In 1953, John Ford cast her in 'Mogambo'.  BIO has pulled together a list of outstanding films which we still love to talk about years later- Similar

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