Summary

Birth:
24 Dec 1922 1
Smithfield, NC 1
Death:
25 Jan 1990 1
Westminster, London, England 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Ava Lavinia Gardner 1
Also known as:
Ava Gardner 1
Full Name:
Ava Gardner 2
Birth:
24 Dec 1922 1
Smithfield, NC 1
Female 1
Birth:
24 Dec 1922 2
Death:
25 Jan 1990 1
Westminster, London, England 1
Cause: pneumonia 1
Death:
24 Jan 1990 2
Burial:
Burial Place: Sunset Memorial Park, Smithfield, NC 1
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Birth:
Mother: Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" (née Baker) Gardner 1
Father: Jonas Bailey Gardner 1
Marriage:
Frank Sinatra 1
1951 1
Divorce Date: 1957 1
Marriage:
Artie Shaw 1
1945 1
Divorce Date: 1946 1
Marriage:
Mickey Rooney 1
10 Jan 1942 1
Ballard, CA 1
Divorce Date: 1943 1
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Religion:
Baptist 1
Race or Ethnicity:
Scots-Irish, English, Irish, French Huguenot, and American Indian 1
Occupation:
Actress 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Social Security:
Social Security Number: ***-**-0401 2

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Stories

Ava Gardner Is Dead at 67; Often Played Femme Fatale

Ava Gardner, a North Carolina sharecropper's daughter who became one of the most bewitching movie actresses in the world, died of pneumonia yesterday at her home in the Kensington section of London. She was 67 years old.

The star's death was announced by Paul Mills, a longtime friend and film producer, who said she had been ill for some time, particularly with respiratory problems, and had a stroke more than three years ago.

The actress had lived quietly in London for more than 30 year after being hounded for decades by photographers and reporters who publicized her marriages to Mickey Rooney, the band leader Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra and her flamboyant escapades with matadors, international playboys and writers.

Working on Her Memoirs

Miss Gardner, who had been completing her memoirs, said in a recent interview, ''If you don't tell your side, the self-appointed biographers step in, adding to the abysmal lies.''

The actress, whose green eyes, chestnut hair, high cheekbones and sensual lips made her eminently photogenic, was known for femme fatale portrayals.

She brought a tigresslike seductiveness and a husky-voiced irreverence to roles as worldly, devil-may-care women, becoming adept at playing exotic vamps and free-spirited protagonists, as in films of such Ernest Hemingway stories as ''The Killers'' (1946), ''The Snows of Kilimanjaro'' (1952) and ''The Sun Also Rises'' (1957). In the loosely autobiographical ''Barefoot Contessa'' (1954), she played a fiery dancer who becomes a movie star.

Praise for Later Roles

She portrayed torch singers in ''The Hucksters'' (1947) and ''Show Boat'' (1951); an irrepressible playgirl in ''Mogambo'' (a 1953 role for which she won an Academy Award nomination); a tormented Anglo-Indian in ''Bhowani Junction'' (1956); a thoughtful cosmopolitan in ''On the Beach'' (1959), and a blowsy innkeeper in the film of Tennessee Williams's ''Night of the Iguana'' (1964).

Although she was mainly decorative in most of her early roles and many reviewers said her acting range was narrow, she won wide praise for many later performances. Nonetheless, she consistently denigrated her talent, remarking to a 1985 interviewer: ''Listen, honey, I was never really an actress. None of us kids who came from M-G-M were. We were just good to look at.''

Poverty in Childhood

Ava Lavinia Gardner was born on Dec. 24, 1922, in Grabton, a poor community outside Smithfield, N.C., to Jonas Bailey Gardner, a tobacco and cotton farmer, and Mary Elizabeth Gardner. Her father died when she was 16, and her mother then managed a boardinghouse.

Her childhood was marked by poverty and a wardrobe so meager it prompted ridicule from schoolmates. She took commercial courses in high school, and an older brother paid her tuition so she could continue secretarial studies for a year at Atlantic Christian College in Wilson, N.C.

At 18, she visited her eldest sister, Beatrice, in New York City, on a journey that transformed her life. Her brother-in-law, Larry Tarr, a commercial photographer, took a portfolio of pictures of her and sent them to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She was given a screen test in New York that was made without sound because of her heavy Southern drawl. The 1941 test won her a seven-year M-G-M contract and intensive diction lessons as well as a starlet's standard classes in acting, calisthenics, makeup and fashion.

Her next five years were notable for tiny roles in a score of mostly forgettable movies, a blizzard of publicity pictures - and two brief marriages, to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw. Each marriage ended in separation after less than a year and finally in divorce.

The 69-year-old Mr. Rooney, upon learning of her death, said yesterday, ''My heart is broken with the loss of my first love.''

Ava with husbands Mickey Rooney, left, and Artie Shaw, right.

Ava Gardner Is Dead at 67; Often Played Femme Fatale Part II

Stardom at 24

Miss Gardner later attributed the brevity of the first marriage to the couple's youth and to other people's domination of their lives. A press agent invariably accompanied them, even on their honeymoon. Of the second marriage, Miss Gardner said, Mr. Shaw insisted she read scores of books and insulted her intelligence in public.

Despite the personal setbacks, Miss Gardner won stardom at the age of 24 as a gun moll who betrays her lover (Burt Lancaster in his film debut) in ''The Killers.'' Other early starring roles were in a musical, ''One Touch of Venus'' (1948); a melodrama, ''The Great Sinner'' (1949), and a fantasy, ''Pandora and the Flying Dutchman'' (1951).

Miss Gardner's third marriage, to Frank Sinatra in 1951, was one of the most publicized Hollywood unions of the time. The couple had bitter public quarrels and separated in 1953 but tried a series of brief cross-country, trans-Atlantic reconciliations. They were finally divorced in 1957.

In a 1986 book, ''His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra,'' Kitty Kelley attributed the following quotation to the actress:

''You start with love, or what you think is love, and then comes the work. I guess you have to be mature and grown up to know how to work at it. But I was the youngest of seven kids and was always treated like the baby, and I liked it and played the baby. Now I'm having a helluva time growing up.''

On TV as Nero's Mother

In 1958 Miss Gardner left M-G-M and became an independent actress, earning up to $400,000 a movie, most of them made in Europe. Her films included ''55 Days at Peking'' (1963), ''Seven Days in May'' (1964), ''Mayerling'' (1969), ''The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean'' (1972), ''The Blue Bird'' (1976) and a handful of disaster epics.

She did not appear on television until 1985, portraying Agrippina, Nero's scheming mother, in ''A.D.,'' a lavish mini-series about the first Christian century, and reviewers hailed her as still very much a star. Asked about her reluctance to accept television roles, she replied: ''Television is a lovely thing for people of my age to watch, but it's for young people to make. The kids were very nice to me.''

In the 1950's, the actress was deeply in love with Spain, bullfighting and, reportedly, a succession of bullfighters.

Her celebrated candor made her friends and enemies. When she arrived in Australia to make ''On the Beach,'' she enraged many people by remarking, ''I'm here to make a film about the end of the world, and this sure is the place for it.''

Sympathetic interviewers described her as an outgoing, earthy woman who had a lively sense of humor, particularly about herself, and deep family loyalty. Looking ahead to retirement, Miss Gardner once remarked: ''When I'm old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in.''

Survivors include two sisters, Beatrice, of Hollywood, and Myra, of Smithfield, N.C., and nieces and nephews.

At her wish, she is to be buried beside her parents in North Carolina.

From a Moll to Guinevere

Ava Gardner appeared in about 60 movies, starting in 1942 and ending in 1981. These were the films for which she was most noted:

The Killers

The Hucksters

One Touch of Venus

Show Boat

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Mogambo

Knights of the Round Table

The Barefoot Contessa

Bhowani Junction

The Sun Also Rises

The Naked Maja

On the Beach

The Night of the Iguana

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

The Cassandra Crossing

The Kidnapping of the President

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