Tempestuous Twosomes Week: Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra

avagardnerfranksinatraIt’s no secret that Frank Sinatra had the company of many, many ladies in his life. I mean, with a voice like his and those blue eyes, who could really blame the women who fell head over heels for him? Sinatra was married four times but it’s his second marriage to sex symbol Ava Gardner that gets the most attention and is the stuff of Hollywood legend.

Ava Gardner was a strikingly beautiful woman. She was called “the most irresistible woman in Hollywood” and was a huge box-office draw for MGM starring alongside the likes of Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, and Humphrey Bogart among countless others.

According to the recent HBO documentary, Sinatra: All of Nothing at All, Sinatra met Gardner at the MGM commissary while she was dining with then-husband, Mickey Rooney. Sinatra told her, “If I had seen you first, honey, I’d have married you myself.”

About a year went by until she saw Sinatra at a party in Palm Springs. This time, Sinatra was in bad shape.  MGM had let him go and his singing career was at a standstill. The two spent the time at the party together hitting the bottle and then hitting a small town with guns and shooting streetlights and store windows. A mirror of the explosive relationship that was to come. Despite the fact that Sinatra was still married to his wife, Barbara, Sinatra and Gardner embarked on an affair. He divorce Barbara after an eleven year marriage and three children., Just days later, he married Gardner in 1950.

“The trouble was Frank and I were too much alike.”

sinatragardnerTheir marriage only added to their problems. Sinatra’s career was still on the decline and their mutual explosive tempers and penchants for booze didn’t help. Sinatra was a very jealous man and self destructive. Gardner’s position as a vixen kept rising at MGM. During one of their arguments, Gardner threatened to leave him. Sinatra responded by attempting suicide. It was the first of many attempts throughout this short union.

Sinatra accompanied Gardner to Africa where she was filming Mogambo with Clark Gable and Grace Kelly. There he had a shower built for her and spoiled his wife with lavish gifts…that he couldn’t really afford. Their fights continued abroad in Africa and also during this time, it’s reported that Gardner had an abortion without telling him. It was also here that Sinatra got a copy of the book, From Here to Eternity. The book was expected to become one of the biggest screen adaptations for the time and Sinatra longed for the role of Maggio. Gardner suggested him for the role to Columbia Studio Chief Harry Cohn and he eventually got the part. From Here to Eternity launched one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood history. It was a huge success and brought Sinatra an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor but he would end up losing Gardner. The two separated in 1953.

Gardner left the states for Spain and wound up with a popular bull fighter. Sinatra found comfort in the bottle and in the company of other women. Gardner filed for divorce in 1954. Gardner never married again but Sinatra would marry twice more including a short lived marriage with Mia Farrow. In typical Ava “I give zero fucks” Gardner fashion, when she learned of the Sinatra-Farrow marriage she reportedly said “I always knew Frank would end up in bed with a boy.”

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