Is Ava Gardner more interesting today because of the men she married than for the movies she made?
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here to ponder that question considering that her three husbands were at the time she wed them among the most famous names on the planet.
Gardner’s screen career began in the early Forties when she embarked on one of the longest apprenticeships in the history of MGM. Although she was never formally trained, she was one of the most beautiful actresses on the studio lot.
Ava later recalled that after an early screen test, the unnamed director exclaimed, “She can’t talk! She can’t act! She’s sensational.”
She disliked her years at MGM because, as she put it, the studio “tried to sell me like a prize hog.” Her big break came in 1946 when MGM lent her to Universal to star as the femme fatale in The Killers, a huge hit which also launched Burt Lancaster’s career. Director Robert Siodmak’s thriller still stands as one of the best film noir dramas ever made.
Ava’s private life was by then known by all who followed movie news. She’d wed and divorced Mickey Rooney, a marriage that last all of 16 months.
She was pursued by Howard Hughes. She’d married and divorced the much married swing bandleader Artie Shaw, a union that lasted one year.
Ava’s final and most famous marriage to Frank Sinatra endured a bit longer, just under six years beginning in 1951. (It’s been calculated that Gardner’s trio of famous spouses married a total of 20 times.)
What gives these marriages some currency is the forthcoming publication of Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations by the late Peter Evans, which is previewed in the July issue of Vanity Fair. (Legal issues relating to Sinatra prevented publication earlier; Evans died in August 2012.)
Gardner had became more reclusive in her later years, settling in London with her prized pet Corgi and a longtime, dedicated housekeeper. A pair of strokes in 1986 left her partially paralyzed.
It was in January 1988 when the actress asked novelist Evans to collaborate on her memoirs to “put the record straight.” Gardner added, “I’m broke, honey. I either write the book or sell the jewels.”
More on Monday when we get down to quoting Ava and naming names. Stay tuned.