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Biography

Film actress, born Ava Lavinia Gardner, in Grabtown, North Carolina, on December 24, 1922. She was the youngest of six children of Mary Elizabeth and Jonas Gardner, an impoverished cotton and tobacco farmer. Gardnerís father lost his farm when she was two, and the family moved to Newport News, Virginia, where he worked in a sawmill and her mother ran a boarding house.

At age eighteen, Gardner visited her sister Bea in New York City. Beaís photographer husband took pictures of the beautiful Gardner and sent them to the casting department at MGM studios in Hollywood. MGM agreed to give Gardner a screen test, and she was hired in 1940 on a $50 a week contract. Gardnerís first film was We Were Dancing (1942). That same year she married actor Mickey Rooney, but the couple was divorced before their second anniversary.

Gardner met bandleader Artie Shaw at a Hollywood nightclub, and married him in October, 1945. Their marriage only lasted one year. In 1946 she starred in her first major film, The Killers, with Burt Lancaster. In 1950 she met the then-married Frank Sinatra and the two began a tempestuous romance. Sinatra divorced his first wife Nancy, and married Gardner in November, 1951. The couple were divorced in July 1957 after a three year separation.

Gardner was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Mogambo (1953), and the dark, sultry actress was also notable in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), and The Sun Also Rises (1957). After her highly publicized divorce from Sinatra, Gardner moved to Madrid in 1958 where she dated high-profile playboys, including the Spanish matatdor Miguel Luis Dominguin.

She continued to act throughout the 1960s, although Gardnerís roles became less significant over time. Her last major film was The Night of the Iguana (1964), and her last film was the made-for-TV movie Karem (1986).

Gardner moved to London permanently in 1968. Still beautiful into her sixties, she suffered a stroke in 1986, and died of pneumonia at her London home on January 25, 1990.

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