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Ava Gardner

Ava Gardner

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Also Known As: Ava Lavinia Gardner Died: January 25, 1990
Born: December 24, 1922 Cause of Death: pneumonia after long illness
Birth Place: Brogden, North Carolina, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

natra's goodwill within the public continued to slip. The scandal put an expected strain on their relationship early on, but after Sinatra was granted a legal separation in 1951, he and the woman he nicknamed "Angel" married 72 hours after the separation went into effect.While she was at her career peak, Sinatra was considered a has-been in Hollywood circles, so when a role in the prestige project "From Here to Eternity" (1953) came up, Gardner helped her husband land it - specifically, the role of doomed soldier, Maggio, for which he would win an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and set him on the path to legend. She became pregnant during their marriage, but the actress underwent an illegal abortion because she claimed they simply were not able or ready to take care of a child, later admitting she did it because she "hated Frankie so much" and wanted his "child to go unborn." To say the couple had a tempestuous union would be an extreme understatement. Sinatra's intense jealousy and mistrust of his wife, coupled with Gardner's substantial drinking habit, eventually lead to the actress' third failed marriage. At one point, Sinatra was so obsessed with his wife and wrecked over their fights...

natra's goodwill within the public continued to slip. The scandal put an expected strain on their relationship early on, but after Sinatra was granted a legal separation in 1951, he and the woman he nicknamed "Angel" married 72 hours after the separation went into effect.

While she was at her career peak, Sinatra was considered a has-been in Hollywood circles, so when a role in the prestige project "From Here to Eternity" (1953) came up, Gardner helped her husband land it - specifically, the role of doomed soldier, Maggio, for which he would win an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and set him on the path to legend. She became pregnant during their marriage, but the actress underwent an illegal abortion because she claimed they simply were not able or ready to take care of a child, later admitting she did it because she "hated Frankie so much" and wanted his "child to go unborn." To say the couple had a tempestuous union would be an extreme understatement. Sinatra's intense jealousy and mistrust of his wife, coupled with Gardner's substantial drinking habit, eventually lead to the actress' third failed marriage. At one point, Sinatra was so obsessed with his wife and wrecked over their fights that he would threaten to kill himself. Gardner would receive phone calls and a gun shot would go off mid-sentence or his cronies would find him with the gas on and his head in the oven. Whether these were serious attempts, no one knew for sure, but one thing was certain - Gardner had a hold of Sinatra like no woman ever had or would again. Despite the couple separating in 1957, they remained good friends for the rest of her life. In fact, Sinatra never stopped loving or obsessing over his ex-wife, even well into his later years.

Despite, the off-screen drama, Gardner maintained a solid acting career and pursued roles that attempted to vanquish the notion of her as a "femme fatale" - ironic, since she appeared to be just such a woman off-screen. Her performance opposite Clark Gable in the 1953 film "Mogambo" earned Gardner an Academy Award nomination, followed by a pivotal role in "The Barefoot Contessa," where her real life habit of walking around barefoot mirrored that of the character she played, opposite a miscast Humphrey Bogart. She also received critical praise for the films "Bhowani Junction" (1956), "On the Beach" (1959) and "The Night of the Iguana" (1964). In fact, it was her work on "Iguana" which garnered the often critically dismissed actress the best reviews of her career, as she washed off the makeup and allowed her true, vulnerable self to shine through. A longtime friend of author Ernest Hemingway - who could match him drink for drink - she acted in two more Hemingway films outside of "The Killers" - "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (1952) and "The Sun Also Rises" (1957).

After her third and final marriage ended, Gardner became fed up with Hollywood and moved to Spain. She became a fan of the country's culture, especially bullfighting and flamenco dance. The country fell in love with her, too. In the summer of 1998, a bronze sculpture of the actress was erected in her honor in the picturesque village of Tossa de Mar, Spain, where she filmed "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" in 1951. After 10 years in Spain, Gardner moved to London, England where she was able to slow things down. Her life had been a rollercoaster ever since she was discovered by MGM, and she continued acting up until her health weakened - no doubt brought about by living fast and hard for decades. In fact it was her bad habits more than anything else which contributed to her increasingly haggard appearance in which she looked much older than her age. Because of this fact, as well as her displeasure with an industry which turned its back on older screen sirens, she had smaller roles during the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the size and quality of the parts, she still had an undeniable onscreen presence. Gardner even appeared in five episodes of the TV show "Knots Landing" (CBS, 1979-1993) as Ruth Galveston. Her final film was the TV movie "Harem" (ABC, 1986); that same year, she suffered two strokes that left the actress partially paralyzed and bedridden. She would, in fact tell old friends like Gregory Peck and ex-husband Mickey Rooney that she often contemplated suicide post-stroke, frustrated at the loss of independence which had defined her all of her life.

In 1990, an unrepentant Gardner wrote an autobiography titled Ava, My Story before dying of pneumonia - a result of having smoked all her life - on Jan. 25, 1990. Sinatra - who had quietly paid for Gardner's medical expenses while she was alive - also paid for her funeral, despite being married at the time to wife, Barbara Sinatra. It was a final tribute to the woman who had inspired his song "I Am a Fool to Want You." She was buried in the Sunset Memorial Park in Smithfield, NC, next to her parents and other family members. The Ava Gardner Museum opened in 1981 with the most extensive memorabilia collection dedicated to the movie star. Even in death, Gardner's legend continued to loom large. Marcia Gay Harden effectively essayed the actress in the 1992 miniseries, "Sinatra" (CBS), and in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic, "The Aviator" (2004), British actress Kate Beckinsale portrayed Gardner. On playing such an interesting real-life woman or "broad" as she was affectionately called by her many male friends, Beckinsale described the star as feisty, fiery, warm, deeply feminine, and tough. "She had a very unique spirit and I really found that appealing." "Whistle Stop" (1946), but it made little impression on audiences. Sadly, with the exception of a few select roles, it would be her love life which would hold more fascination than anything she did on the silver screen. And it was not just actors who were enamored with Gardner's voluptuous curves. Billionaire and recluse Howard Hughes - who collected women like trophies - pursued the star, culminating in a battle royale in which she famously conked him on the head with a heavy candlestick, knocking him out cold. Despite the violence and her refusal to be yet another of his conquests, the two remained close friends for the rest of his life. More disastrous emotionally to Gardner was her second marriage to bandleader Artie Shaw, the legendary "King of Swing" who was married eight times between 1932 and 1957. Gardner was his sixth wife amongst a group of women that included actresses Lana Turner, Doris Dowling and Evelyn Keyes. The marriage lasted exactly one year, partly because he was very critical of her lack of education, thus allowing him to play the Svengali, molding and shaping her like a pet project. They divorced in 1946, the same year Gardner was about to leave her thoughtless exes and mediocre film roles in the past for much greater glories.

Loaned out to Universal for the Ernest Hemingway-adapted noir film "The Killers," Gardner - breathtaking in her iconic black satin gown - purred and sparked with co-star Burt Lancaster, owning every scene she was in. Her onscreen presence was powerful, yet she also exuded a hint of vulnerability which caused men to fall head over heels for her and women to relate to her. Now a full-fledged star, she delighted audiences with her role as love interest to MGM's "King," Clark Gable, in "The Hucksters" (1947), as a goddess come to life in "One Touch of Venus" (1948) and the exquisite Julie LaVerne in the musical "Show Boat" (1951). But by this time, it was her real life that again fixated. Gardner had found the love of her life in crooner-turned-actor Frank Sinatra, who, at the time of their first meeting, was on a downward career spiral. In fact, she was the bigger star, but that was the least of their problems. Sinatra, who was still married to wife Nancy and had two children with her, was unable to get a divorce due to his Roman Catholic upbringing. So Gardner was not unexpectedly labeled a homewrecker and Si

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 That's Entertainment! III (1994) Song Performer
2.
 Priest of Love (1981) Mabel Dodge Luhan
3.
 Kidnapping Of The President, The (1980) Beth Richards
4.
 City on Fire (1979) Maggie Grayson
5.
 The Cassandra Crossing (1977) Nicole Dressler
6.
 Sentinel, The (1977) Miss Logan
7.
 Blue Bird, The (1976) Luxury
8.
 Permission to Kill (1975) Katin Petersen
9.
 The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) Lily Langtry as
10.
 Tam Lin (1971) Mrs. [Michaela "Micky"] Cazaret
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1935:
Family moved from Grabtown, North Carolina to Newport News, Virginia (date approximate)
:
Family returned to North Carolina
1940:
Gardner's photo in brother-in-law Larry Tarr's photographic studio window spotted by messenger in Loews legal department; Tarr sent photos to MGM; Gardner given audition with Marvin Schneck in MGM's New York headquarters (date approximate)
1941:
Went to Hollywood with sister Bappie; signed 7-year contract with MGM
1941:
Short film acting debut in "Fancy Answers"
1942:
Feature film debut (unbilled walk-on), "We Were Dancing"
1942:
Had first speaking role in film in "Calling Dr. Gillespie"
1943:
Recieved initial screen credit for "Ghosts on the Loose"
1946:
First leading role, "Whistle Stop"
1948:
Starred in the musical "One Touch of Venus"
1951:
Played Julie in the remake of "Show Boat"
1953:
Received sole Academy Award nomination as Best Actress in "Mogambo"
1955:
Moved to Spain
1957:
Cast as Lady Brett Ashley in the film version of Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"
1958:
Left MGM
1963:
Settled in London
1964:
Delivered a fine turn as the blowsy hotel owner in "The Night of the Iguana"
1968:
Moved to London when Spanish tax authorities claimed Gardner owed $1 million in back taxes
1972:
Portrayed Lillie Langtry in "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean", opposite Paul Newman
1974:
Appeared in "Earthquake" opposite Charlton Heston
1976:
Traveled to the USSR to co-star in George Cukor's "The Blue Bird"
1981:
Played Mabel Dodge Luhan in "Priest of Love"
1983:
Final film "Regina/Regina Roma", a direct-to-video release
1985:
Appeared on the CBS primetime serial "Knots Landing"
1985:
Portrayed Agrippina in the NBC miniseries "A.D."
1985:
Acted in the NBC TV remake of "The Long Hot Summer"
1986:
Final TV role in the ABC miniseries "Harem"
1986:
Suffered a stroke which precluded any further acting roles
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Education

Smithfield High School: -
Atlantic Christian College: Wilson , North Carolina -
Rock Ridge Teacherage: Rock Ridge , North Carolina - 1939

Notes

According to Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, Ava Gardner was once voted the world's most beautiful woman.

There is an Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina. The website address is www.avagardner.org

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Mickey Rooney. Actor. Married on January 10, 1942; divorced on May 21, 1943; met during Gardner's first week in Hollywood; couple had to ask Louis B Mayer for permission to marry.
husband:
Artie Shaw. Musician. Married on October 17, 1945; divorced in October 1946; born in 1910 in New York; his third of eight marriages; marriage lasted one year and one week.
companion:
Howard Duff. Actor. Together c. 1947.
companion:
Robert Taylor. Actor. Met while making "The Bribe"; relationship lasted four months during 1949.
husband:
Frank Sinatra. Singer, actor. Married on November 7, 1951; separated in 1954; divorced in 1957.
companion:
Dominguin. Bullfighter. Together c. 1953-56; four years younger than Gardner; met in Madrid; died in 1996 at age 69.
companion:
Walter Chiari. Actor. Italian; together 1956-59; co-starred in "The Little Hut" (1957).
companion:
Anthony Franciosca. Actor.
companion:
George C Scott. Actor. Had relationship while filming "The Bible" (1968).
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Family close complete family listing

father:
Jonas Bailey Gardner. Ran country store, sharecropper, farmer. Died c. 1949.
mother:
Mary Elizabeth Gardner. Boardinghouse landlady. Was 39 when Gardner was born; died on May 21, 1943.
brother:
Raymond Gardner. Died at age two as result of accidental dynamite explosion in fireplace.
sister:
Beatrice Gardner. Eldest sister; companion throughout Gardner's Hollywood career and in Spain; married second husband, Larry Tarr, who ran Tarr's photographic studio in NY and put Gardner's photo in window which was seen by MGM employee; third husband was Charlie Guest (a Howard Hughes employee).
brother:
Melvin Gardner.
sister:
Inez Gardner.
sister:
Myra Pearce. Born c. 1915.
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Bibliography close complete biography

"Ava's Men"
"Ava Gardner: My Story"
"Ava Gardner: A Bio-Bibliography" Greenwood Press
"Grabtown Girl: Ava Gardner's North Carolina Childhood and Her Enduring Ties to Home" Down Home Press
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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