Like today, tabloids and magazines of the 50’s were full of gossip, scandal, and all kinds of weird stories. And unlike today scandal did not make you all the more famous; it could destroy any actor’s career in seconds. So the actors of the day kept their scandalous lives out of the public eye if possible. If they were smart, and many were, they’d spin a scandal and make it work to their advantage.
I love reading old magazines, it gives me a feel of what the country and world was dealing with at the time and how people responded to news, gossip, and scandals. History can tell us a lot. I read an article on Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner from Modern Screen magazine dated December 1951. It had some pretty juicy gossip on these two.
You ain’t getting off that easy….
It’s 1951 and Frank is married to Nancy Sinatra, and has 3 children. Frank is fidgety and he wants out of the marriage because he wants to marry Ava. Nancy isn’t going to give him a divorce without making his life a living hell. Frank waited and while he waited he courted Ava. Shocking for the day! One day he stormed into Ava’s Nevada hotel room filled with great excitement because after spending thousands of dollars for lawyers, and waiting 2 long aggravating years, Nancy capitulated and agreed to give him the divorce. His joy would be short lived because Nancy announces via Newspapers the next day her attachment suit. Yea, she would give him a divorce but…she slapped a lien on some property to pay for unpaid alimony, 1/3 of his annual salary, and 10% of whatever he made over his annual salary for the rest of her life. She wanted all of this before she agreed to the divorce. You are not getting off too easy Blue Eyes….
What could Frank do? Nothing really, he wanted Ava bad, so the two went ahead and planned the wedding. According to the article a lot of people had their doubts about this marriage; after all it would be Ava’s third marriage. The article points out how the two came from two very different walks of life. Frank “is a city boy who goes in for natty clothes, hectic night life, strange acquaintances.” Ava “is a girl with simple tastes. She likes blue jeans and shirts, no makeup, lots of children, strong family ties.” An unnamed Hollywood sage in the article, who had predicted that Elizabeth Taylor and Nicky Hilton would last a year if that, said, “There is no doubt that Ava and Frank are very much in love, but marriage, as both of these intelligent people well know, consists of more than love. Will Frank turn out to be a better husband than Mickey Rooney or Artie Shaw?” He goes on to say how Frank is “charming,” and had a “winning personality,” but…Frank had a hard childhood and had tried to compensate for it all his life. He goes on to say how during separations from Nancy, Frank “went overboard for Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and many others.” So in other words, what made Ava any different than the others?
Obviously Frank had some issues huh? The sage wondered if Ava had what it takes to keep Frank “happy physically, mentally, and socially.” Ava he said, was not “a social creature.” He said she hated the Hollywood parties, Frank on the other hand loved them, and he had to constantly be on the move, “otherwise he isn’t happy.” He went on to say that statistically people who married a third time usually ended up marrying a fourth and fifth time. He then says, that he wishes them all the best but…”I’m convinced that it won’t be their last marriage.”
A Southern Belle’s Story…
Ava was a quiet southern girl, who became a star as she put it, “by accident…the whole thing was a total fluke.” She never really liked the Hollywood life; she just went through the motions. Did what she thought others wanted her to do. In fact, she states that giving up Hollywood for the life she really wanted, “wouldn’t be giving up much.” All she wanted was, “a happy marriage, a large family, and lots of kids.” She didn’t worry about an academy award; she wanted an “award for marriage.” She had already experienced heartaches in her two previous marriages and desired to live a “normal life;” you know the house, dog, kids, and white picket fence. But honestly I don’t know how she fooled herself into thinking that Frank was it. She definitely had rose colored glasses when it came to Frank. She felt at the time that she would be a “fine wife,” she understood his problems and was willing to “tolerate” his habits. When anyone criticized Frank’s behavior, she was quick to defend and protect him. Whatever…
Fast forward to 2013 we know the marriage was not a match made in heaven; it was a stormy 6 year union. Although they divorced six years later, they remained friends until Ava’s death in 1990 at age 68. She never really found happiness so she turned to alcohol for comfort. She married Mickey Rooney at 18, and Mickey turned out to be a player. I love Mickey, but honestly what did she see in him? He was 6 inches shorter than her and nothing really to look at. In the book, Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, the author says that Mickey would not let out; he pestered her until he got a date. She married him a year later. She stated that Mickey cheated on her over and over again, once while she was recovering from surgery at the hospital. Gardner remarked: ‘He went through the ladies like a hot knife through fudge.’ Go figure…little Mickey. Life is so funny sometimes. That marriage lasted a year.
She later embarks on an affair with Howard Hughes whom she described as a generous man but a racist. Hum…Gardner admitted that the two had explosive arguments and in one instance, she threw a marble ashtray at his head while he dislocated her jaw. Oh joy.. The studio conveniently hushed up the trouble. Temper, temper…. She then marries bandleader Artie Shaw in 1945, who had left his wife to marry her. Artie, according to Ava destroyed her self image. He was a bully who made her feel so rattled that she began to smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and started to drink heavily. Artie dumps Ava a year later for another woman. Ah yea Ava, you’re not so special ya know… If he dumped number 1, he’ll dump you. This douche bag ended up marrying 8 times! This dude was an absolute loser. Ava certainly knew how to pick them :/
It only happens in the movies….
Her marriage to Frank was really not too different from the previous two. The couple fought viciously and drank heavily. It’s a miracle one did not kill the other. Ava continued drinking from the cup of forgetfulness until she passed. Gee, Ava’s movie life was not as exciting as her real life. I guess we can say that the Hollywood sage who predicted doom before the marriage even started was right. The naysayers of 1951 just knew that a country girl with a “dream” who wanted to marry a city boy with lots of “charm,” pizzazz, and who had to constantly “compensate” for an unhappy childhood, was a disaster-prone union from the onset. And they were so right. So no, Ava and Frank did not live happily ever after, sadly for Ava that only happened in the movies.