Plucked from poverty with no education, Ava Gardner enchanted Hollywood for years with she beauty and sophistication.

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WHO to be AVA GARDNER? Some would certainly say she was the many beautiful creature God had ever created. Even as a teenager, so innovative were her looks the in film, she would certainly portray duchesses, baronesses, and gentry the opposite the best leading males of the day: as Guinevere in Knights of the round Table (1953) opposite Robert Taylor; Venus, the Goddess that Love, in One Touch that Venus (1948) opposite Robert Walker; Pandora in Pandora and also the paris Dutchman (1951) the opposite James Mason; and also as Maria Vargas in The Barefoot Contessa (1954) opposite Humphrey Bogart. Also legendary director man Ford, that she considered “the meanest man on earth and also thoroughly evil,” who directed she in Mogambo was smitten by she beauty. It was Ford, she acknowledged, who brought out the best in her together an actress and also she came to adore him. Plenty of men adored Ava, and also Ava adored men. Her biggest friendships were with men. As for woman friends, she had couple of and took just two right into her confidence—her sister, Bappie, and also her longtime maid and companion, Mearene Jordan, a black color woman who Ava loved favor a sister. In spite of her thick southerly accent and utter lack of experience as one actress, Ava, in ~ 17, was signed through MGM as a Hollywood contract player in 1941 ~ above the merit of she incomparable beauty, beauty alone. She ended up being a movie queen, to be heralded as among the most beautiful females in the world, inundated through priceless gifts from her three husbands and also a multitude that lovers, and swarmed by adulating crowds. Yet the loneliness that pervaded throughout her childhood, and also ripened through her hourglass figure, haunted Ava until she passed away on January 25, 1990, in ~ the period of 67.

AVA LAVINIA GARDNER to be born in Grabstown, north Carolina, a one-road, unincorporated town in rural Johnston County that was so small, if you blinked driving through, you’d miss it. She mother, mar Elizabeth “Molly” Gardner, a warm, loving, devout Baptist woman of Scottish descent, to be 39 year old once Ava, she seventh and also last child, to be born top top Christmas night in 1922.

“It showed up that there to be this totality other person, Jesus Christ, whose birthday a lot of of human being tended come confuse with mine,” Ava created in her autobiography, Ava, my Life, released posthumously at her direction, in 1990. “I to be personally outraged. It to be a long time before I forgave the lord for that.” she father, Jonas Baily Gardner, was a solemn, hardworking sharecropper and tobacco farmer who struggled to keep his big family clothed and also fed.

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“When you space dirt poor,” Ava reflected plenty of years later, “and there is no method of concealing it, life is hell.”

At first, the child thought the candlelit tree decorated with homemade ornaments, and also the countless relatives that came because that Christmas dinner to be celebrating she birthday, no His. Her mother, whom she adored almost as much as she did she father, baked 2 special cakes—one chocolate, the other coconut—because “Mama taken how lonely simply one present for Christmas and also your birthday can be.”

It was she father, a strong, quiet man, who laid down the regulation of the household. Jonas Gardner called his four other daughters by your Christian surname but always called Ava, his favorite, “Daughter.” She favored that in appearance. He to be tall, lean, with soft, wavy black color hair, a slit chin, and also the green, sparkling eyes, i beg your pardon she inherited. From the time she could walk, Ava worked alongside her father in the tobacco fields. Years later, she could relate in an excellent detail just how tobacco was planted, harvested, and also dried; the plenty of hours she invested working in the fields, and also the many nights she remained up through her dad to make certain the suitable temperature in the tobacco barn was maintained to flue-cure the leaves. Except for school and church, she go barefoot to conserve wear and tear on her one pair that shoes. Every her life, being barefoot was one of her best pleasures. Emotion the heat earth in between her toes carried her back to she happy childhood. Indeed, those early on days would certainly be the happiest period in her tumultuous, colorful, spectacular, too-short life. Her youthful rage against the mr was fueled by one tragedy after another—not the the very least of which to be the ns of both she parents by the time she was 20.

“God didn’t take care of anything,” she remarked bitterly in ~ the finish of she life. “I hated religion.”

AVA was VISITING HER favorite SISTER, Bappie, and her husband, Larry Tar, a experienced photographer, in new York City when Larry asked his sister-in-law come sit because that him. Though just 17, she had actually a timeless elegance about her. Tar to be so pleased v the outcomes that he displayed the photographs in the front home window of his fifth Avenue studio. Shortly after, a representative of Loews Theaters, which to be then to be owned by MGM, saw the photographs and also reached the end to the studio’s talent scouts. A display screen test in brand-new York to be arranged for Ava; however, once she opened up her mouth, the manager ordered the cameraman to prevent rolling. She North Carolina accent was so thick, no one might understand her. The director simply had actually Ava walk throughout the room and also arrange some flowers in a vase ~ above a table. Once MGM boss Louis B. Mayer saw her display test, that exclaimed, “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, she’s terrific!” and also Ava was offered a typical seven-year contract.

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Ava was as well young to go alone to Hollywood, and her mother, that was experiencing from cancer, was as well ill come travel. So Bappie, whose marital relationship was on the rocks, attach her as a chaperone. One of the first things MGM was determined to do was to eliminate Ava’s phibìc Carolina drawl.

“I was sent out to Gertrude Vogeler, the voice coach, a mrs I pertained to love very dearly. She to be a beautiful old lady, really old, an extremely gray-haired, an extremely overweight, v a million cats—well, that seemed prefer a million anyway—and an ancient Chinese chef who was funnier 보다 anything ever before seen in the movies. Gertrude resolved of her own residence on Whittier Drive. She had a tough time with me, but she was so loving and skillful. I have the right to remember her sitting the opposite me, she motherly bosom going up and down, do the efforts to gain my voice a pair of octaves closer to mine navel. ‘Sit ~ above it, Ava,’ she said. ‘Sit on that my, beauty! Make her voice come up from under there—down there. That’s good, that’s good!’ Gertrude had actually the many beautiful voice herself. And she was not simply a voice coach, she to be an institution. You’d go back to the cottage, and by God, you’d discover you were right into yoga exercises and also breathing and all kinds of stuff. Girlfriend were not going come breathe just from the throat, you to be going come speak from down there—down there. Every time ns went ago to Los Angeles because that years ~ that—as I’m sure so countless other of her pupils did—I went ago to kiss she on the cheek and say give thanks to you.”