Monday, September 12, 2016

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day: Ava Gardner

This is an updated version of a previous post.
Ava Gardner
Beautiful, shining star of the MGM studio, Ava was born in 1922.  She was the youngest of 7 children living on a cotton and tobacco farm in the rural southern town of Smithfield, North Carolina.

Her show business beginning began just as simply.  Her brother-in-law, a professional photographer took her photo in 1941 and displayed it at his studio.  A theater clerk saw her photo and told the photographer that she oughta' be in pictures, and the in-laws sent her information and photo immediately to MGM.

According to reports, when Gardner first arrived at the studio and did a screen test, Louis B. Mayer said "She can't sing. She can't act. She can't talk. She's terrific. Sign her." She got a 7-year contract with MGM.  The studio worked with her to remove her Carolina drawl and teach her to act.  Soon she had been in several films with little to no notice, but was gaining experience on set.  It wasn't until 1946 in the film "The Killers" that Ava rose her to sex symbol status and made her a big star.

Her movie and TV career is lengthy, but not as illustrious as her social life. She married three times: to Mickey Rooney when she was only 19-years-old, to big band leader and Hollywood bad boy Artie Shaw, and to the famous crooner Frank Sinatra. She also had affairs with Howard Hughes, George C. Scott, and a couple bullfighters.

Her dramatic romance with Sinatra made her most famous, as their affair began when he was still married. They constantly tried to create drama in their lives; Gardner flirted with Hughes as Sinatra feigned a couple suicide attempts to get her attention.  When Sinatra's career suffered, she paid for his expenses, and even flew him out to the set of some of her movies. Overall it is widely believed that Ava was Sinatra's one true love.  She was pregnant twice by Sinatra, but aborted both times -- probably due to her contract at MGM, which discouraged their female stars from having babies.

Due to smoking most of her life, Ava suffered from emphysema.  After a stroke in 1989, which left her partially paralyzed and bedridden, Sinatra paid all her medical expenses and even sent her to a specialist. Ava suffered a bad fall just a week before she died; she lay on the floor, alone and unable to move, until her housekeeper returned. At the age of 67 she was in her London home, suffering from pneumonia. Her last words (to her housekeeper) were reportedly "I'm so tired." She died at the age of 67 in 1990.

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