Ava Gardner was born on December 24, 1922, in Grabtown, North Carolina. Gardner signed a contract to be an actress with MGM in 1941, but it wasn’t until her appearance in 1946’s The Killers that she became a star. Gardner’s off-screen life was often as dramatic as the roles she played, with marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra. Gardner died on January 25, 1990, at age 67, in London, England. Actress Ava Gardner was a sultry beauty famous for playing femme fatale roles, and for her marriages to Frank Sinatra, Artie Shaw and Mickey Rooney. Ava Gardner – Mini Biography (TV-PG; 3:11) Ava Gardner’s performance in “The Killers” made her an instant star. Gardner’s off-screen life was often as dramatic as the roles she played, with marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.
She was her parents’ seventh child. When Gardner was 2 years old, she and her family were forced to leave their tobacco farm. Her father then worked as a sharecropper, while her mother ran a boardinghouse. The family always struggled financially, a situation that worsened when Gardner’s father died when she was 16.Ava Gardner was studying to be a secretary when her photographer brother-in-law sent pictures of her to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. A striking beauty with dark hair and green eyes, Gardner’s photos convinced the studio to give her a screen test. This led to her signing a seven-year, $50/week contract with MGM in 1941, when Gardner was 18 years old.
Limited to bit parts at first, Gardner slowly worked her way up to larger roles. But it wasn’t until she was loaned to Universal Studios to appear as seductress Kitty Collins in 1946’s The Killers that Gardner became a star. That success led to the actress landing better parts in movies like The Hucksters(1947), Show Boat (1951) and The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952). She also appeared in Mogambo (1953), a role that earned Gardner her only Academy Award nomination.
Even as her acting career developed, Gardner’s beauty was always a large part of her appeal. For her role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), as a dancer whose rags-to-riches story echoed Gardner’s own, MGM touted her as “The World’s Most Beautiful Animal.”
After living in Spain for several years, Gardner moved to London, England, in 1968. She remained close to Sinatra, who called her hospital room after her 1986 stroke and later helped with her medical bills. Ava Gardner died from pneumonia in London on January 25, 1990, at the age of 67. She was buried next to her parents in North Carolina.