This might be my favorite quote from a Hollywood star:
“Deep down, I’m pretty superficial.”
Born to a poor cotton and tobacco farmer in North Carolina, Ava Gardner (1922-1990) was the youngest of seven children. She didn’t wear shoes until she was about 13 years-old. She regularly attended church.
Discovered by a still photographer in 1941, Gardner’s ethereal beauty drew the attention of MGM. Gardner and her sister Bappie moved to Hollywood where Gardner, after appearing in a dozen uncredited bit parts, finally got her big break in The Killers, 1946. As the ultimate femme fatale opposite Burt Lancaster, Gardner rocketed to stardom.
Fame and money are a heady brew and before too long Gardner was drinking heavily, dancing all night, and being courted by Mickey Rooney, MGM’s biggest little star. Her marriage to Rooney—he relentlessly cheated on her—lasted a year.
She did even worse by marrying crazy man, Artie Shaw, real name: Arthur Jacob Arshawsky, who was determined to educate his tobacco road wife. On their honeymoon, Shaw gave her a stack of books that included War and Peace and Das Kapital.
The egomaniacal band leader was further upset when he discovered that his movie star wife had no idea how to iron his shirts, and this seething cauldron was enraged when she didn’t fill his coffee cup to the precise level he indicated. Their disastrous marriage also lasted one year.
Can a woman do worse than Artie Show?
How about Frank Sinatra?
That train wreck of booze, abuse and public brawling dragged on for six long years.
Potentially a fine actress, Gardner took to the bottle and in her last years in Hollywood, a producer I know referred to her as, “A bloated and frightening predator.”
She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Mogambo, 1952, but The Killers stands as her best work.
My post on Ava prompted Shrink Wrapped, a fine psychiatrist, to reflect on beauty and narcissism.