Feature

Ava Gardner: ‘Love Is Nothing’

Separating the outlandish inclinations of an intrinsically wild woman, Lee Server brings the true Ava Gardner to life.

Hollywood called her 'œthe most beautiful animal in the world,' but lore has it that the camera never did her justice. Raised on a North Carolina tobacco farm, Ava Gardner was 18 when she signed an MGM contract and moved to L.A. Mickey Rooney fell for her first and never got over how voracious his young wife was in the bedroom. Howard Hughes tried to win her attentions and she knocked his teeth out with a bronze ornament. Twice divorced by the time she was 23, she might have known better than to mess with love again. But then, in 1948, she started up with a married and faded star named Frank Sinatra. When the press asked what she saw in the 119-pound crooner, she quipped that 19 of those pounds were between his legs. When her friend Lana Turner warned her that the affair wouldn't last, she said, 'œWe're gone for each other. This is for keeps.'

A reader can't help but like the Ava Gardner in Lee Server's new biography, said Frank McLynn in the London Literary Review. While it remains 'œa tossup' as to 'œwhich was the greater prima donna' in Gardner and Sinatra's legendarily rocky six-year marriage, she seems to have lived every moment of life at full throttle. Because her film catalogue is less remarkable than the drama she lived offscreen, Server's book is best read as 'œblack comedy,' with a 'œsensational hedonist' as its leading lady. By the time she was 40, Gardner had earned renown for 'œinterminable pub crawls,' urinating in hotel lobbies, and her taste for Gypsies and bullfighters. But in his 'œenthralling' 500-page account of all this excess, said Peter Bogdanovich in The New York Times, Server 'œcannot really hide his essential fondness for her.'

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