Insatiable Ava by Linda

ava31“If I had my life to live over again, I’d live it the same way. Maybe a few changes here or there, but nothing special. The truth is, honey, I’ve enjoyed my life. I’ve had a hell of a good time.”

Once coined as the 25th Greatest American Film Institute’s Female Stars, Ava Lavinia Gardner was sought out as one of the most beautiful women of her time. With a less than lavish upbringing, Ava drew a lucky hand when it came to fame. Her brother-in-law was a professional photographer and after submitting photos he had taken of her to MGM Studios, she received a phone call that would change her life. Al Altman sent her screen test straight to Hollywood.

avaAl received a telegram from the head of the studio, Louis B. Mayer proclaiming, “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, she’s terrific!”

That was when Ava Gardner signed a seven year contract with MGM Studios at the age of 18 in 1941.

Ava appeared in various roles but it was her lead in the big hit film The Killers (1946) that acknowledged her sex appeal. Even amongst her many appearances in film – it was her fiery, crude and blatant disregard for proper etiquette that brought attention to her being. She had this man-eater essence that made men and women gravitate to her.

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I’ve never received as much love as I’ve given.”

Notoriously known for her three failed marriages, Ava was quite the Runaround Sue. And although she may have been alone, she was never lonely. Take that any way you would like but this woman brushed heart ache aside like a tumble weed in the desert and left it behind. As the “most irresistible woman in Hollywood”, she didn’t have a problem calling Marlon Brando out on his erectile dysfunction or getting completely blitzed with Winston Churchill.

Trial and Error

“When you have to face up to the fact that marriage to the man you love is really over, that’s very tough, sheer agony. In that kind of harrowing situation, I always go away and cut myself off from the world. Also, I sober up immediately when there is genuine bad news in my life; I never face it with alcohol in my brain. I just rented a house in Palm Springs and sat there and just suffered for a couple of weeks. I suffered there until I was strong enough to face it.”

Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner After MarriageAva was hell bent on staying a virgin until marriage. She met Mickey Rooney when she was 18. She described him as “The smallest husband I ever had, and the biggest mistake”. Her first day at the MGM lot she was introduced to Mickey, wearing a bowl of fruit on his head for a wholesome role (which was typical) who was enamored by her stunning looks.  He reeled her in with the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood lifestyle until she agreed to marry him.

“He wasn’t what I’d call a handsome man, but there was definitely something appealing about him. He had thick, red-blond wavy hair, crinkly Irish green eyes, and a grin that was… well, it definitely wasn’t innocent honey!”

However, Mickey was a dog and ruthlessly unfaithful which led to the demise of their marriage. Ava engaged in relations with him throughout the divorce and up until the time he enlisted which is when she did most of her pin-up work. Divorcing Rooney was a hardball move and could have been potentially damaging to Ava’s career if she did not play her cards right.

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Ava’s second marriage was also a short lived disaster. Artie Shaw, was a bandleader and jazz musician with a slight dominant complex. He continuously belittled Ava and purposely tried to make her feel stupid – stupid to the point where she took an IQ test.

I didn’t have an enormous IQ, but I did have a high one.”

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Only a week after their anniversary, he left her for another woman.

“That bastard broke my heart.” 

The most well known relationship and marriage though, would be that of with Frank Sinatra. Frank left his wife Nancy for Ava and the riotous relationship they had could manufacture a 300 page novel, easily. ava12Booze, jazz, shooting out windows of fancy stores, intense arguments involving words that cut like a butcher’s knife, and passionate love making created a deadly pattern for this couple. Their fights were equivalent to walking on fire with the yearning of not getting burnt. To be completely frank (no pun intended), Ava drove Sinatra crazy like a prepubescent teen with raging hormones. She was the one woman that couldn’t be tamed, pressing his buttons simultaneously resulting in nuclear melt downs. Their fights were turbulent to the point of self mutilation on Frank’s part. He slit his wrist in a desperate attempt to make Ava stay. Waking up at the hospital with the final realization that she was finished left him with a grief that sent his then lackluster creative block to soar. Sinatra’s career began to ascend after the break up with lyrics like ‘I could have told you she’d hurt you, she’d love you a while – then desert you.’

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The difference with her and Sinatra was that their relationship lasted longer than her previous marriages. They also remained close friends until her dying day. Ava considered Frank to be the love of her life but they were insanely similar in a way that created friction that could not prevail.

ava22“Maybe, in the final analysis, they saw me as something I wasn’t and I tried to turn them into something they could never be. I loved them all but maybe I never understood any of them. I don’t think they understood me.”

Winding Down

ava4In 1968, Ava moved to London and finished her acting career officially in 1986. Running low on money, she used her resources and agreed to have Peter Evans produce a book based on interviews with her to create a memoir.

“Either I write the book or sell the jewels. And I’m kinda sentimentalava23 about the jewels.” The interviews were conducted in her last years, after having two strokes that constricted her once beautiful face with late night phone calls and awkward sit downs of reminiscing about past experiences, regrets, etc. She was always wishy washy about whether she would let Evans release these most intimate thoughts she shared but at the end ultimately gave a mild consent. Once the work for the book was finished, Ava gave Peter a promise: when she died she would send him a sign.

Ava died at the age of 67 of pneumonia on January 25, 1990. On that day, the roof of Peter’s writing room was greeted by the crash of a 200 year old oak tree.

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(December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990)

“I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.”

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