Ava Gardner, publicity still for The Killers, 1946.
The love affair—and I’m using that term loosely—between Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra was doomed from the start. Both stars were emotionally immature with little impulse control. Both were alcoholics, and both had a history of affairs with equally unstable partners.
And so The Voice and The Shape plunged into a tsunami of a relationship and a six-year marriage (1951-1957) punctuated by unbridled passion, threats of suicide, and metronomic doses of violence.
In the Autumn of 1949, Gardner and Sinatra, not yet lovers, were both guests at the Palm Springs home of producer Darryl F. Zanuck. The liquor flowed, and the two stars locked in on each other like lethal missiles.
Ava said, “You’re still married.”
Frank responded, “No, doll, it’s all over. It is done.”
For hours they drank and flirted. Ava’s career was going through the roof. Her smoldering role as the femme fatale in The Killers—one of the best noir movies ever—catapulted her into the Hollywood stratosphere.
For a shoeless farm girl from North Carolina with no father and little education, Hollywood stardom was a dangerous perfume. In a few short years Ava went from being a sensitive, prim and proper virgin to a notoriously promiscuous, hard-drinking woman.
To read the complete story by yours truly, please head on over to Big Hollywood.