Ava Lavinia Gardner came into this world on December 24, 1922 in a little southern town of Grabtown, North Carolina. Born to a farmer and his
wife, Ava grew up on a tobacco farm deep in burley country of North Carolina. She was the last of seven children and being from a large family, the clan was dirt poor because farming was tough in the 20's and 30's,
especially with so many mouths to feed. Being a rural farm girl, Ava loved going barefoot and playing with the boys. By the time she was 18 years old, her beauty was already apparent. Her brother-in-law ran a
photography studio in New York, where he put a photo of Ava in the window. Someone with MGM saw it and made inquiries as to it was. One thing led to another and Ava was signed to a contract. Her first 17 roles were with
bit parts with WE WERE DANCING being her first picture in 1942. That year would prove somewhat busy for a bit part actress with appearances in also THIS TIME FOR KEEPS, SUNDAY PUNCH, and REUNION IN FRANCE. This included
a line or two and that was it. Ava, no doubt, wondered when her "big break" would come. Finally her first starring role came in 1946 in WHISTLE STOP, a grade-B western. MGM loaned her out to Universal Studios
in the big hit THE KILLERS that same year. Back at MGM, the studio execs kept her in the usual run of the mill films. Actually, few of her best movies were even made by them. She had arrived in Hollywood with no acting
experience whatsoever and now she was beginning to doubt she could make it. It was the great director, John Ford, who saw the true talent in Ava, when he put her in his 1953 hit MOGAMBO. George Cukor then snatched her
up for his big film, BHOWANI JUNCTION in 1956. In between she was in the hit THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA in 1954. After three failed marriages to three of the biggest names in show business, Mickey Rooney 1941-1943, Artie
Shaw 1945-1946, and Frank Sinatra 1948-1957, Ava started to become disillusioned with the film community in Hollywood. She moved to Spain in the late 50's, where she made her subsequent films, and later to London. Her
last decent movie was called NIGHT OF THE IGUANA in 1964. Her final film ever was KAREM, a made for TV film in 1986. Her acting career never left her satisfied. As one biographer put it, "her looks made have made
that inevitable". She was and still is considered the most beautiful actress in Hollywood history. Ava had suffered a couple of strokes which did slow her down somewhat but not for her zest for life. She continued
to work on her autobiography entitled "Ava, My Story", which was concluded before she died in London, on January 25, 1990 of pneumonia at the age of 67. She never got to see the book in final print. Ava was
laid to rest in Smithfield, North Carolina in the Gardner family plot. An Ava Gardner Museum is located there.
IMDb mini-biography by
Born on a tobacco farm, where she got her lifelong love of earthy
language and going barefoot, Ava grew up in the rural South. At age 18, her picture in the window of her brother-in- law's New York photo studio brought her to the attention of MGM, leading quickly to Hollywood and a
film contract based strictly on her beauty. With zero acting experience, her first 17 film roles, 1942-5, were one-line bits or little better. After her first starring role in B-grade Whistle Stop (1946), MGM loaned her
to Universal for her first outstanding film, Killers, The (1946). Few of her best films were made at MGM which, keeping her under contract for 17 years, used her popularity to sell many mediocre films. Perhaps as a
result, she never believed in her own acting ability, but her latent talent shone brightly when brought out by a superior director, as with John Ford in Mogambo (1953) and George Cukor in Bhowani Junction (1956). After
3 failed marriages, dissatisfaction with Hollywood life prompted Ava to move to Spain in 1955; most of her subsequent films were made abroad. By this time, stardom had made the country girl a cosmopolitan, but she never
overcame a deep insecurity about acting and life in the spotlight. Her last quality starring film role was in Night of the Iguana, The (1964), her later work being (as she said) strictly "for the loot". In
1968, tax trouble in Spain prompted a move to London, where she spent her last 22 years in reasonable comfort. Her film career did not bring her great fulfillment, but her looks may have made it inevitable; many fans
still consider her the most beautiful actress in Hollywood history.
Frank Sinatra (7 November 1951 - 5 July 1957) (divorced)
Artie Shaw (17 October 1945 - 25 October 1946) (divorced)
Mickey Rooney (10 January 1942 - 21 May 1943) (divorced)
(1995) Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#68).
Her singing voive was dubbed in the film "Show Boat, " with Annette Warren's voice.
Some biographies wrongly state her birthplace Grabtown is an alternate name for Brogden where she went to school. The
two are in different counties, and 124 km apart.
Mother, Mary Elizabeth 'Molly' Gardner, nee Baker; father, Jonas Gardner, tobacco farmer, died of bronchitis 1935.
Youngest of 7 children, her older
siblings were Raymond, Melvin 'Jack', Beatrice 'Bappie', Elsie Mae, Inez and Myra.
Her early education was sketchy; by 1945, she had read two books, the Bible and 'Gone with the Wind'. In later life, she more
than made up for this lack by continual self-education.
She sang in her own voice for Killers, The (1946) but in all MGM films her singing voice was dubbed (to her disgust).
Flamenco became one of Ava's
favorite pastimes after she learned it for Barefoot Contessa, The (1954); increasingly proficient and needing little sleep, she often danced all night.
While in Spain, she also became a bullfight fan.
a promotion for Little Hut, The (1957), a small island in Fiji was renamed Ava Ava and leased to a contest winner. (see New York Times, 30 April 1974, pg. 37).
She was continuously under contract at MGM, 1941-1958.
There is an Ava Gardner Museum of memorabilia in Smithfield, North Carolina; see link, above, to their web page.
Some biographies wrongly state her
birthplace, Grabtown, as an alternate name for Brogden, where she went to school. The two are in different counties, and 77 miles (124 km) apart.
She spent her final years as a recluse in her London apartment -
her only companions were her longtime housekeeper Carmen Vargas and her beloved Welsh corgi, Morgan. Sinatra paid all her medical expenses after her 1989 stroke which left her partially paralyzed and bedridden. Vargas
took her body home to her native North Carolina for private burial. None of her ex-husbands attended.
After her death in 1990, Ava's long time housekeeper, Carmen Vargas, and her dog, a Welsh Corgi named Morgan
were taken in by her former co-star Gregory Peck.
Once met J.R.R. Tolkien and neither knew why the other was famous.
All three of her marriages were childless.
"All I ever got out of any of my marriages was the two years Artie Shaw financed on an analyst's
"I have only one rule in acting -- trust the director and give him heart and soul."
"When I lose my temper, honey, you can't find it anyplace."
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 must have seen more sunrises than any other actress in the history of Hollywood."
"I haven't taken an overdose of sleeping pills and called my agent. I haven't been in jail, and I don't go
running to the psychiatrist every two minutes. That's something of an accomplishment these days."
"Nobody ever called it an intellectual profession."
Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Actress. (b. Jan. 24, 1922, Smithfield, N.C.; d. Jan. 25, 1990.) One of Hollywood's legendary "love goddesses," this green-eyed brunette beauty combined
feline grace with passionate intensity, and while she never claimed to be (nor was ever recognized as) a great actress, she held her own in a number of memorable films. Gardner was born into a poor family, and had no
loftier ambition than to become a secretary in New York until her picture was seen by MGM's East Coast talent executive. A screen test was arranged (deliberately silent, because her Southern accent was so thick) and she
was judged to have potential. She flew west to Hollywood and cheerfully signed a term contract with the studio, which promptly enrolled her in acting classes and took hundreds of publicity shots of her before she ever
stepped on a movie set.
Gardner spent several years playing undemanding bit parts in MGM Bs such as We Were Dancing, Joe Smith, American, Kid Glove Killer, Calling Dr. Gillespie (all 1942), Pilot No. 5, Hitler's
Madman (both 1943), Swing Fever, Three Men in White, Maisie Goes to Reno (all 1944), and She Went to the Races (1945). She even appeared briefly in an MGM "Our Gang" short, Mighty Lak a Goat for which her
scene was reportedly directed by thenhusband Mickey Rooney. In 1943 she was loaned to lowly Monogram Pictures to play the ingenue in Ghosts on the Loose aside from being mauled by the East Side Kids and ogled by Bela
Lugosi, her responsibilities were minimal. It took another loan-out assignment, that of a femme fatale in Universal's Hemingway adaptation, The Killers (1946), to make audiences sit up and take notice. Her good reviews
prompted MGM to try her opposite the King himself, Clark Gable, in The Hucksters (1947), in which she played a self-assured nightclub singer. Gardner acquitted herself nicely and was promoted to full-fledged stardom.
In most films, her presence was basically decorative, but she contributed memorable performances to Show Boat (1951, as Julie, the beautiful mulatto, for which she performed several Jerome Kern songs that made it to
the soundtrack album but were redubbed for the film itself), Mogambo (1953, opposite Gable in this remake of his earlier success Red Dust with Gardner snagging an Oscar nomination for her interpretation of the
tarttongued character played in the original by Jean Harlow), and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa (1954), in a part she seemed born to play, an earthy Spanish dancer who's transformed into a screen
goddess-but destined never to find personal happiness.
In 1957, life imitated art once again. Gardner divorced singer Frank Sinatra that year (they had married in 1951 following a tempestuous courtship) and,
after playing American expatriate Lady Brett Ashley in the film adaptation of The Sun Also Rises adopted her character's lifestyle and moved to Spain, where she was surrounded by adoring European jetsetters and
matadors. Years of these hedonistic pursuits took their toll on her beauty; by the time she'd turned 50 she looked at least 10 years older. But as a mature, worldly actress, she delivered several interesting,
multilayered performances. Her other husbands were actor Mickey Rooney (whom she wed shortly after joining Metro) and bandleader Artie Shaw.
In later years Gardner lived in London, but spent one season as a cast
member of the TV series "Falcon Crest" (1985) and shortly before her death completed an autobiography, "Ava," which was published posthumously in 1990. More than one obituary declared her the most
beautiful woman who ever stepped in front of a camera, and she was once in fact "voted" The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.
OTHER FILMS INCLUDE: 1947: Singapore 1948: One Touch of Venus 1949: The
Bribe, East Side, West Side, The Great Sinner 1951: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, My Forbidden Past 1952: Lone Star, The Snows of Kilimanjaro 1953: The Band Wagon (in a cameo as herself); 1953: Knights of the Round
Table 1956: Bhowani Junction 1957: The Little Hut 1959: The Naked Maja, On the Beach 1960: The Angel Wore Red 1963: 55 Days at Peking 1964: Seven Days in May, The Night of the Iguana 1966: The Bible 1969: Mayerling
1972: The Devil's Widow, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (as Lillie Langtry); 1974: Earthquake 1975: Permission to Kill; 1976: The Blue Bird 1977: The Cassandra Crossing 1979: City on Fire; 1980: The Kidnapping of
the President; 1981: Priest of Love 1985: The Long Hot Summer (telefilm); 1986: Harem