Ava Gardner

Biography of Ava Gardner an American film actress. Without a doubt, she is one of the great stars of the seventh art in the 20th century.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

She was endowed with exuberant beauty and admirable elegance. She was contemporaneous with two other great actresses: Audrey Hepburn and Vivien Leigh.

Childhood and youth of actress Ava Gardner

Ava Gardner was born on December 24, 1922, in the small rural community of Johnston, in North Carolina.

Her family was very poor. Ava was the youngest of 6 siblings.

Her father, Jonas Gardner, was a Catholic, of Irish and Amerindian descent. He worked as a sawmill.

Her mother, Molly, was a Baptist, of Irish, English, and Scottish descent. She was a cook and a housekeeper at Brogden High School.

Shortly before Ava turned 13, the family moved to Newport News, in the State of Virginia.

Facing difficulties finding employment in Newport, they had to move to Rock Ridge, a suburb of Wilson, North Carolina.

In 1935, Jonas Gardner died of bronchitis.

Ava and some of her siblings enrolled at Rock Ridge School.

Later, Ava was able to attend Secretarial classes at the “Atlantic City Christian College“.

Ava Gradner college
Atlantic Christ College. Credit: web somerspoint.com

Ava Gardner’s beginnings in the seventh art

In 1940 Ava Gardner went to New York to visit her sister Beatriz for a few days.

Ava had grown into a beautiful young woman with green eyes and beautiful brown hair.

Beatriz’s husband was a photographer, and he asked Ava for permission to take some photos.

Later, her brother-in-law decided to hang the photos in the window of his Photographic Studio, which was on 5th Avenue.

By chance, a talent scout from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer saw the photos and decided it was a good “hunting” day. The talent hunter was called Barnard Duhan.

This talent hunter entered the studio’s store and got Beatriz to send information from Ava Gardner to the “MGM“.

Soon after, student Ava Gardner again traveled to New York to meet with MGM managers.

The film company offered her a seven-year contract.

In 1941 Ava Gardner dropped out of school and went to Hollywood with her sister Beatriz.

The first and most urgent thing was to go to drama and diction classes.

Her accent was from rural North Carolina, and practically incomprehensible.

Despite her stunning beauty, she had to wait until 1942 to start starring in movies.

Ava Gardner’s beginnings as an actress

In 1943, she starred in “The Haunted House,” a low-budget horror comedy.

The following year she acted with Van Johnson and Lionel Barrymore, in a tragicomedy that was about doctors.

Van Johnson
Van Johnson was one of the fashion heartthrob in the 1950`s. Credit: web dcine.org

Ava Gardner’s Golden Years 1946 to 1949

Her great opportunity came in 1946 with the thriller “Whistle stop“, in which she had a leading role alongside George Raft, an actor identified for his gangster performances.

In the film, an innocent young woman is caught by a charming nightclub owner.

Soon after, she showed off alongside a young Burt Lancaster in “The Killers“. A drama based on a story by Ernest Hemingway.

Ada Gardner’s magnificent performance in this film earned her the sympathy of the Hollywood industry.

From here, Ava Gardner began her great film career. The main directors continually required her and she made great performances.

  • The hucksters” (1947), film based on the novel “Seekers of illusions“. Ava Gardner starred in it with Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr.
  • Venus was a woman” (1948), inconsequential and sympathetic comedy. The argument begins when the person in charge of a showcase kisses the statue of Venus (Ava Gardner).
  • Bribery” (1949), great dramatic thriller directed by Robert Z. Leonard and Robert Mitchum. Ava Gardner starred opposite Robert Taylor, Vincent Price, and Charles Laughton.
  • The Great Sinner” (1949) a moral drama, with a sensational performance by Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck and Ethel Barrymore.
  • Opposite Worlds” (1949) where Ava Gardner worked alongside James Mason, Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin.

Ava Gardner conquered Spain. Spain conquered her

The movie “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” was partially shot in Spain in 1950.

The following year it was released in Madrid under the name “Los amores de Pandora“.

Pandora (Ava Gardner) was a cruel woman, of ravishing beauty; until she meets a mysterious man (James Mason).

They are the two main characters in this drama based on the novel “The Flying Dutchman“.

Ava Gardner James Mason
Ava Gadner and James Mason. Credit: web laguiago.com

Ava Gardner met the bullfighter Mario Cabré. She was able to visit beautiful places in Spain and fell in love with this great country and its people.

On the other hand, the headlines of the Spanish press did not spare her praise.

Since then, she traveled to Madrid many times.

In this city she had sounded romances with the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín and with the actor Carlos Larrañaga.

In Madrid, she repeatedly coincided with the beautiful Spanish actress, Carmen Sevilla.

Then she acted in “My forbidden past” with Robert Mitchum (1951), with whom she had another of her affairs.

Other famous films with Ava Gardner

In 1952, she starred in the movie “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (produced by Darryl Zanuck and based on a Hemingway story).

Ava Gardner acted alongside Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward.

In the film, Gregory Peck represented a writer seriously injured in a hunting accident on Mount Kilimanjaro.

In his feverish attacks, the writer recalled his past and how he had lost the woman he loved the most (Ava Gardner).

Ava Gardner in Kilimanjaro
Gregory Peck the writer, and the woman he loved on Kilimanjaro, Ava Gardner. Credit: Wikipedia

Another film of unusual popularity, and directed by John Ford, was “Mogambo“. Released in 1953, and Ava Gardner acted alongside the beautiful Grace Kelly.

The leading actor was the imposing Clark Gable, a hunter who organized safaris in Africa.

Ava Gardner in Mogambo
The irresistible Ada Gardner, in the movie Mogambo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Also in 1953, “The Knights of King Arthur” was released, a classic of British cinema.

The luxurious Metro production brought together Robert Taylor and Mel Ferrer, with Ava Gardner and Anne Crawford.

It was a captivating medieval adventure film.

In Joseph Mankievicz’s “The Bare Countess“, 1954, the beautiful Ava Gardner played a Spanish dancer.

In this story, María Vargas the dancer, jumped from the flamenco tablaos in Madrid to the Hollywood sets.

There she sought a happiness that resisted her, despite the fact that the men fell prostrate at her feet.

Ava Gardner gave her best and achieved one of her best characterizations, accompanied by Humphrey Bogart.

The specialized critic affirmed “Few times did Bogart transmit such tenderness and cynicism at the same time, Ava Gardner was never so overwhelming“.

Ava Gardner established her residence in Spain

Around 1955 Ava Gardner began to reside regularly in Spain.

The Madrid press did not chase her as much as the American press.

A year earlier, she had bought a house in the exclusive neighborhood of La Moraleja, on the outskirts of Madrid.

In those years, from 1955 to 1959, she starred in some less successful films:

  • The romantic-adventure drama “Crossing Destinations”, with Stewart Granger.
  • The comedy of theatrical origin, “La cabaña”, with David Niven.
  • A film inspired by Hemingway, called in Spain “Fiesta“, in which Tyrone Power made one of his last performances.
  • The biography of the Duchess of Alba in “La Maja Desnuda“. With Tony Franciosa playing Goya.
  • Stanley Kramer’s drama “The Final Hour” about the consequences of a nuclear bomb explosion. Ava Gardner shot it with Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire.

Ava Gardner in the 1960s

In the 1960`s the performances decreased, because Ava Gardner was getting older, and because the tastes of the public changed.

In 1960, she starred in “The Angel Wearing Red” with her friend Dirk Bogarde.

This film had to be shot in Italy, despite being set during the Spanish Civil War.

Ava Gardner was finding it increasingly difficult to choose roles that suited her.

However, she successfully worked on three films that were among the best of those years:

  • 55 Days in Beijing” (1963), she makes a memorable incarnation of a ruined countess in the midst of an anti-colonial revolution. She worked with Charlton Heston and David Niven.
  • Seven days in May” (1963) is almost the best American film with a political background of the decade. It is also one of the most notable of its director, John Frankenheimer. Ava Gardner shared the bill with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Fredric March.
  • Iguana Night” (1964) (directed by John Huston and based on the play by Tennessee Williams). In this film, Ava Gardner stands out alongside Richard Burton and Deborah Kerr.

Two other of her films did not have such a good commercial result.

They were also not received with interest, despite the attractive actors of the cast:

The Bible” (1966), superproduction directed by John Huston.

Mayerling” (1968), directed by Terence Young. Ava Gardner played Empress Sissí in a cast with Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve.

Ava Gardner left Spain in 1968

In 1968 Ava Gardner partially retired from the cinema and decided to install her London residence.

However, in 1969, she acted on the orders of actor / director Roddy McDowall in the film “The Ballad of Tam Lin“. The co-producer was Alan Ladd Jr.

Ava Gardner represented a beautiful rich woman, who used her witchcraft arts to manipulate her young lovers.

This film was reissued and released in 1972 under the title “The Diabolical Widow“.

In 1972, she worked on John Huston’s “The Gallows Judge“.

In the cast, accompanying  Ava Gardner were Paul Newman, John Huston himself, and Jacqueline Bisset.

As early as 1974, Ava Gardner starred in “Earthquake,” with director / producer Mark Robson.

The cast included: Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Geneviève Bujold and Victoria Principal.

It was a very successful film and in which Ava Gardner, 52 years old, made a magnificent performance.

In this film, she had a chance to show off her splendid physical maturity.

She also had an outstanding performance in a 1975 thriller.

It was a co-production of the United Kingdom, Austria and USA: “The man who decided death“.

The attractive Ava Gardner shared the limelight with Dirk Bogarde and Timothy Dalton.

From 1976 to 1982, she worked on some films, which were not exactly glorious and worth remembering.

The Blue Bird” (1976), along with Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda and Cicely Tyson. It was the first co-production in the middle of the cold war between the USA and the former Soviet Union. It had a resounding commercial failure.

In 1977, Ava starred in the film “The Bridge of Cassandra“.

There she worked alongside Sofía Loren, Burt Lancaster, Richard Harris, Martin Sheen and O.J. Simpson.

Also in the interesting horror film “The Sentinel“, next to Christina Raines and Chris Sarandon.

Emergencia” (1979), a drama of intrigue where she was already playing a very minor but still interesting role.

The Kidnapping of the President” (1980), where actor Hal Holbrook played the role of President.

She also acted in the biographical film by the writer D.H. Lawrence, “The Priest of Love” (1981).

Her last film job was in 1982 on “Regina” opposite Anthony Quinn. Ava Gardner represented a possessive and tyrannical “mamma“.

This film was not released in theaters; It was known through the VHS.

After this last film, she appeared in some television series.

Her name and her legendary beauty and elegance never ceased to attract and captivate viewers.

Ava Gardner’s sentimental life

Ava Gardner was obsessively pretended by the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes whose marriage proposals she always rejected, although she never returned his splendid gifts.

She was married three times. Her first marriage was with the very popular actor Mickey Rooney.

They met the day Ava, recently hired by MGM, was walking around the studios to meet them.

Mikey Rooney was captivated by her beauty. They were married in January 1942, at the Ballard Presbyterian Church in California.

There was no white wedding dress. Both were in simple tailor suits.

This marriage was an absolute failure, due to the immaturity of the two. Therefore, the following year they divorced.

Out of the various divorces Mickey Rooney had, Ava Gardner was the only one who never asked for compensation.

The second husband of Ava Gardner was jazz clarinet player Artie Shaw. The wedding was in the fall of 1945.

Artie turned out to be a disgusting snob, continually reproaching his beautiful wife for not having enough culture.

He forced her to enroll at the California Distance University. He was determined to drag her to meetings and cultural events.

All she did was that Ava ended up in psychiatric treatment and that she began to get drunk because she felt insecure about herself.

Ava Gardner’s marriage to this culture genius lasted barely a year.

Her third husband was legendary singer and actor Frank Sinatra. They were both madly in love. The wedding was celebrated in style in Philadelphia in November 1951.

Ava Gardner Frank Sinatra
Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. Credit: Daniel Bates. Daily Express.

Ava Gardner was married to Sinatra for six years, between 1951 and 1957; their relationship ran rivers of ink, in newspapers and entertainment magazines.

It was Frank Sinatra who said of her that she was the “most adorable animal in the world“.

Surely Ava Gardner was for Frank Sinatra the love of his life. And, the reciprocal also seems to have been so. In fact, they always kept their friendship.

Death of the great actress Ava Gardner

In 1988, while in London, Ava suffered a stroke. Sinatra paid for her transfer and treatment in the United States.

Also, when she recovered from the stroke, Frank Sinatra paid for her flight back to London.

Two years later, on January 25, 1990, Ava Gardner died in London of pneumonia, at the age of 67.

Ava Gardner is buried at the Sunset Memorial Park in Smithfield, North Carolina.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

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