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 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 missiles.
In 1988, only two years before her death, Ava Gardner, living in semi-seclusion in London, unable to get work, and running dangerously low on funds, asked the late British author Peter Evans to ghostwrite her autobiography.
Deadpanned Gardner: “I either write the book or sell the jewels, and I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.”
Only now, years after Ava and Evans’ death, has this frank memoir been published. Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations is a sad and intimate book about the fate of a great Hollywood star. Born poor in rural North Carolina, Ava was given a Hollywood screen test thanks to a radiantly innocent photo of 18 year-old Ava displayed in a shop window.
After meeting with Ava in her London flat, Evans realized that the aging star was deeply conflicted about publishing an honest memoir. He also realized that she was a hopeless drunk. But the lure of working with one of Hollywood’s legendary stars trounced the author’s common sense. Already, in the preliminary stages, Gardner, drunk, depressed, and lonely, was calling Evans in the middle of the night, and rambling on, quite candidly, about the glorious, yet often sordid past. Evans, a solid, if sleep-deprived pro, faithfully recorded her reminiscences in a notebook he parked on his night stand.
Said Ava about her great rival, Elizabeth Taylor: “She was pretty. I was beautiful.”