Birth Name: Ava Lavinia Gardner
Born on December 24, 1922 in Smithfield, North Carolina, US
Died on January 25, 1990 in London, England
The daughter of a poor Southern sharecropper, Gardner attended local school and at age 18 went to New York City, where she took a screen test. Her extraordinary beauty won her a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. In Hollywood she received acting and diction lessons while playing bit roles in a score of minor motion pictures in the 1940s. Her first important role was opposite Burt Lancaster in The Killers (1946), and she went on to starring roles in such films as The Hucksters (1947), One Touch of Venus (1948), Show Boat (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), and The Barefoot Contessa (1954). Her husky voice and seductive personal presence had made her one of the best-known American actresses by the early 1950s. But Gardner was not content to be typecast as a “sex symbol,” and her sensitive characterizations in such pictures as Mogambo (1953), Bhowani Junction (1956), On the Beach (1959), and The Night of the Iguana (1964) received critical praise. She was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953 for her performance opposite Clark Gable in Mogambo. Gardner left Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1958 and became an independent actress. She continued to appear in films through the 1960s and ’70s, though usually in less-important roles than before. Gardner’s typical screen persona was that of an earthy, free-spirited, and irreverent woman of the world. She was married three times, to the actor Mickey Rooney, the bandleader Artie Shaw, and the singer Frank Sinatra.