Ava Gardner was born on December 24, 1922 in Johnston County, North Carolina. Although Ava was raised in a loving home by parents Molly and Jonas, her father's dreams of becoming a prosperous farmer/landowner were never realized and the family hovered on the brink of poverty. Ava was a remarklably beautiful child, blond and rosy cheeked, with a penchant for the stage. As a young child Ava became captivated by movies and became fascinated by stars such as Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. At the age of 19 Ava travels to New York to visit a friend and manages to catch the eye of an MGM executive. Although Ava meets with MGM studio heads, her screen test is considered a flop. One shining light emerges - every man who sees the screen test falls in love with the beautiful auburn haired beauty. Ava is shipped to Los Angeles where she is given voice and acting lessons in preparation for her first movie role. As Ava begins her first role in Babes of Broadway she meets the legendary actor, Mickey Rooney, who instantly becomes besotted with Ava. Although Rooney played the boy next door in films, in reality Rooney was a major playboy. Shortly after the two begin dating Rooney requests Ava's hand in marriage. After repeated requests, Ava says yes and agrees to become Mrs. Rooney. Although there is initial opposition to the marriage by studio head Louis B. Meyer, Rooney stands his ground and marries Ava, the woman he loves. Although the marriage is passionate and fiery, Rooney's drinking and gambling forces Ava to realize that she is not cut out for marriage to Mickey Rooney. Ava moves forward towards divorce, saddening Rooney and driving him to despair and depression. In 1944, divorcee Ava begins to date the wealthiest man in the world, Howard Hughes. Howard is maniacal and manipulative, spying on Ava, while keeping underage mistresses of his own in his mansion. Although Hughes attempts to dominate Ava, she is unwilling to be any man's plaything. As Ava's career continues to gather steam she cuts Hughes down to size and sends him packing. Ava then meets legendary musican Artie Shaw. Ava learns through the grapevine that Shaw is a legendary playboy, already having four wives, including actress Lana Turner. As they begin dating, Ava loses focus on her career and finds herself totally caught upin Shaw's world. Shaw and Ava marry in October of 1945, making it Shaw's fifth marriage. A difficult man, Shaw is critical of Ava's education and intellect, subjecting her to scathing verbal abuse which results in low self esteem. At this time Ava's career is on the upswing, buoyed by a dazzling performance in the Hucksters and a role with Burt Lancaster in the Killers. However, despite her acting success, nothing can save the floundering marriage of Artie and Ava. As Ava prepares to divorce her second husband, she takes up again with Howard Hughes. It is at this time that Ava makes the most powerful connection of her life when she meets Frank Sinatra. At this time Frank Sinatra was the most popular singer in America, both talented and charming. Despite his status as a married man with children, Ava and Frank's attraction propells them towards a clandestine affair. Having had enough of his infidelity, Frank's wife, Nancy Sinatra, files for divorce and names names, propelling Ava and Frank into the eye of the hurricane. Despite all the bad press and accusations of indecent behavior, Ava and Frank continue their crazy love affair, alternating between breaking up and pledging their eternal love. When Ava and Frank finally wed, they are both incredibly famous and wealthy in their own rights. Despite their passionate love, Ava and Frank can't seem to hold their relationship together as they battle over petty jealousies, trust issues and rumored infidelities. Once again, Ava finds herself walking away from a marriage as she prepares to divorce the love of her life. As her third marriage crashes and burns, Ava heads to Europe in order to rebuild her life and forge a new identity for herself.
This report prepared by Sandra Calhoune