Ava was a lifelong Democrat
Coming from the conservative South, Ava was nonetheless a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party. Her father had idolized Franklin D Roosevelt, and when in 1942 Ava met Roosevelt at the White House, she was in awe. Louis B Mayer was said to have summoned her up to his office at MGM to warn her that getting involved in politics could ruin her career, but it didn’t stop Ava from lending her support to the 1952 Democrat presidential hopeful, Adlai Stevenson.
Ava was Mike Nichols’s original choice for the role of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate
It might be hard to imagine anyone but Anne Bancroft in the iconic role of Mrs Robinson, but before turning to Bancroft Mike Nichols tried his hardest to convince Ava to appear in the film. Ava was intrigued by the enthusiastic young director and the script, but eventually backed out, objecting to the explicit love scenes between Mrs Robinson and the young Benjamin Braddock.
Ava was the inspiration behind Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita
Ava spent a good deal of time in Rome during the 1950s, and her nightly escapades were well documented by the paparazzi. After reading an article about Ava and her co-star Tony Franciosa getting into a fight with the paps, Fellini thought up a story cantered around a glamorous Hollywood star visiting the Eternal City. In the 1960 film, the part was played by Anita Ekberg, who in one scene even wore a replica of Ava’s dress for the film.
Ava was near-sighted
What often appears on the screen as a sultry, slightly squinted gaze was a result of the fact that Ava was near-sighted, and when away from the cameras she often wore glasses.
Ava was a woman of letters
Perhaps not the first thing one would associate with a screen goddess, Ava maintained long-term correspondence with some of the great minds of her day, including writers like Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and Robert Graves, directors like George Cukor and John Huston and her political idol Adlai Stevenson.
Ava and Frank Sinatra remained life-long friends
Despite the fact that their tumultuous marriage ended in divorce in 1957, Ava and Old Blue Eyes remained close friends for the rest of Ava’s life. In later years, when Ava moved to London, they would spend hours on the phone, and when Ava suffered a stroke on a visit to Los Angeles in 1986, Frank visited her in the hospital and covered her medical bills. According to Sinatra’s daughter Tina, Ava was the love of his life, and someone he never got over losing.
Ava was a great cook
Ava Gardner might not have been a domestic goddess but she was a great cook. She favoured Southern cuisine, and her southern fried chicken was legendary among friends. While she maintained her famous figure throughout her life, Ava was not keen on dieting, with hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and coca cola among her favourite go-to treats.
Ava had a lifelong love for corgis
Frank Sinatra gifted Ava with her first corgi puppy in 1952. She named it Rags, and he became her beloved companion until his death in the late 1960s. Two more corgis would follow: Cara and later Morgan, who outlived his mistress, and after her death was adopted by Ava’s great friend, Gregory Peck.
Ava’s modern attitude predated Women’s Lib
Nearly two decades before second wave feminism and Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique, Ava demonstrated a liberated attitude to women’s issues. Following her divorces from Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw, she would break with conventions by going out to restaurants and nightclubs unescorted. She also had a brave attitude towards marriage, family planning and motherhood, believing in a woman’s right to choose long before it became acceptable.
Ava spent more years in London than anywhere else
Although chiefly associated with the glamour of Hollywood and the Spanish fiesta, Ava actually lived in foggy London town longer than anywhere else. She first visited the city in 1951 while filming Pandora and the Flying Dutchman and she was immediately enchanted by it. It would be another fifteen years before she made it her permanent home. Her last address, 34 Ennismore Gardens in Knightsbridge, bears a commemorative blue plaque dedicated to her memory, as well as a memorial urn in the gardens of the square, erected there by Ava’s housekeeper and faithful companion in 1990.
Ava: A Life in Movies by Kendra Bean & Anthony Uzarowski (Running Press, £20) is available now.