Ava Gardner Laid Bare

Day 231 of Colourisation Project – December 24

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born this day, December 24, in 1922, Academy Award nominated  actress, Ava Lavinia Gardner, was famous for playing femme-fatale roles and almost equally famous for her romantic off-screen life which was often as dramatic as the roles she played. 

Ava Gardner Bef & Aft

Publicity Still – Ava Gardner c 1950 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

A sultry American beauty, she appeared in many high-profile films from the 1950s to 1970s, including The Hucksters (1947), Show Boat (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), Mogambo (1953), which earned her the Best Actress nomination, The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Bhowani Junction (1956), On the Beach (1959), Seven Days in May (1964), The Night of the Iguana (1964), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), Earthquake (1974), and The Cassandra Crossing (1976).

A recently published memoir, Ava Gardner: the Secret Conversations, (2013) reveals in candid detail how hapless her three marriages were. Unlucky in love, she was married to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw, whom she referred to as “her starter husbands” before marrying Frank Sinatra in 1951. Sinatra, whom she considered the love of her life, left his wife to be with her. Unfortunately, their marriage was tumultuous and plagued by jealousy. They separated and reconciled several times before finally divorcing in 1957.

In between, during and after her marriages there were affairs with many of her leading men including Clark Gable, Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum; as well as film director, John Huston and writer, Earnest Hemingway.

In 1988 Gardner asked English journalist, Peter Evans to ghostwrite her autobiography, stating, “I either write the book or sell the jewels, and I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.” For Gardner, writing a memoir was akin to “digging around in my panties drawer,” but she needed the money. She summarised her own life thus, “She made movies, she made out and she made a fucking mess of her life, but she never made jam.”

However Frank Sinatra, her then ex-husband, wasn’t too happy about the memoirs being released and despite Garner originally approving most of Evans’ copy, she pulled the plug on the collaboration. She got cold feet after learning Sinatra had sued Evans and the BBC many years earlier for writing about his association with the Mafia.

Twenty years later Evans decided to resurrect the book (with the permission of Gardner’s estate) based on the taped conversations he had with Gardner. Unfortunately he died in 2012 before the book, Ava Gardner: the Secret Conversations was published.

Fuelled by alcohol, Gardner did not hold back in her profanity-laced conversations with Evans. She was prepared to lay bare her truth as she remembered it.  “I think the most vulgar thing about Hollywood is the way it believes its own gossip,”  she said before she went on to ask Evans to perpetuate it: “Why can’t we settle for what I pretend to remember? You can make it up, can’t you? The publicity guys at Metro did it all the time.”

Here’s a snippet of some of the things she had to say on her husbands.

On Mickey Rooney,

“The smallest husband I ever had, and the biggest mistake.

But I do owe Mickey one thing: he taught me how much I enjoyed sex. In bed, I’ve always known I’m on safe ground…Mickey was tender; actually he was sweet. He couldn’t have been a better first lover for a lady.

The little sod wasn’t above admiring himself in the mirror. All 5ft 2in of him! The complete Hollywood playboy, he went through the ladies like a hot knife through fudge. He was incorrigible.

He probably banged most of the starlets who appeared in his Andy Hardy films — Lana Turner among them. She called him Andy Hard-on.”

On Artie Shaw,

“Artie was difficult, he was complex, but I was stuck on him. To tell the truth, I was always a little afraid of him. Not physically.

Artie was another kind of bully. I was afraid of his mind. He was a dominating son of a bitch. He used to put me down so much I lost complete confidence in myself. When I went into analysis—that was something else he made me do—I insisted on taking an I.Q. test, because I was at the point where I thought there was something seriously wrong with my mind. Well, it turned out very well indeed. I didn’t have an enormous I.Q., but I did have rather a high one.

I owe Artie plenty. He made me get an education. I enrolled in the University of California because of him. I more or less didn’t work for a whole year because of him. I took correspondence courses. I was doing very well. B-pluses.

With Artie I’d get properly drunk. I got drunk because I was so insecure. I was completely out of my depth.”

On Frank Sinatra,

“We were fighting all the time. Fighting and boozing. It was madness. But he was good in the feathers…

Anyway, [one night] I heard this gun go off. We’d been fighting, of course. And drinking. Every single night, we would have three or four martinis, big ones, in big champagne glasses, then wine with dinner, then go to a nightclub and start drinking scotch or bourbon.

It was another one of those nights I ended up refusing to sleep with Frank. I was half asleep in my room across the suite and heard this gunshot. It scared the bejesus out of me. I didn’t know what I was going to find. His brains blown out? He was always threatening to do it. Instead, he was sitting on the bed in his underpants, a smoking gun in his hand, grinning like a goddamn drunken schoolkid. He’d fired the gun into the fucking pillow.

At least his overdoses were quieter…It was a cry for help. I always fell for it.”

Gardner remained good friends with Sinatra for the remainder of her life.


Gardner continued to act regularly up until 1986, when she suffered two strokes. She eventually succumbed to pneumonia in 1990 at the age of 67.

She is listed 25th among the American Film Institute’s Greatest Female Stars and has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street in Hollywood.


“Maybe I just didn’t have the temperament for stardom. I’ll never forget seeing Bette Davis at the Hilton in Madrid. I went up to her and said, “Miss Davis, I’m Ava Gardner and I’m a great fan of yours.” And do you know, she behaved exactly as I wanted her to behave. “Of course you are, my dear,” she said. “Of course you are.” And she swept on. Now that’s a star.”   –  Ava Gardner

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Hollywood, Photography, USA, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Ava Gardner Laid Bare

  1. Pingback: Susan Hayward – Brooklyn Bombshell | Random Phoughts

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