Her parents, Mary Elizabeth 'Molly' Gardner and Jonas Gardner, were of Scottish and Irish descent. Her father died of bronchitis in 1935. She was one of 7 children born to them. Her older siblings were Raymond, Melvin 'Jack', Beatrice 'Bappie', Elsie Mae, Inez and Myra.
Ava Gardner and Ernest Hemingway, or as she called him "Papa", were good friends. She went on to star in three films based on his work, including The Sun Also Rises (1957), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), and The Killers (1946).
An Australian wrote that Gardner's swearing was "like a sailor and a truck driver were having a competition." Even after she threw a glass of champagne at him, his only thought was "the only thing I could think was how bloody gorgeous the woman was.".
Production set designer of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) John Hawkesworth said Gardner "could eat twice as much as anyone and drink three times as much.".
While dating, Frank Sinatra gave her a Corgi puppy, named Rags, for her birthday. After Rags died, she continued to buy Corgi dogs, owning Cara and then Morgan.
Ava lived in beautiful Newport News, VA for a time when her parents ran a boarding house there.
Gardner has been portrayed by different actressed throughout the years. In 1992, Marcia Gay Harden played her in the TV biopic Sinatra. In 1998, Deborah Unger took her turn in the TV movie The Rat Pack. And, more recently, Kate Beckinsale played her in the 2004 Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator.
Ava's favorite director was John Huston.
Ava once appeared as a Mystery Guest on What's My Line?
There is a statue of Ava overlooking the bay at Tossa de Mar in Spain. Tossa de Mar is where Ava filmed the 1950 movie Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.
MGM loaned Ava out to Monogram Studios in 1943 where she appeared in Ghosts on the Loose with Bela Lugosi. Ava later recalled Lugosi as being a nice man.
Ava's first screen test for MGM was shot silently because of her heavy Southern accent.
Ava's housekeeper and nursemaid during her final years went to work for Gregory Peck after she died.
Towards the end of her life Ava said she might not have been a great actress but she always tried to put her heart into every performance.
Many critics thought Ava should have been nominated for an Academy Award in 1965 for her performance in Night of the Iguana.
To the great astonishment of the director, Ava did her own stuntwork in the 1974 disaster film Earthquake.
Ava appeared in three films based on Ernest Hemingway stories: The Sun Also Rises, The Killers, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Ava's third husband, Frank Sinatra, nicknamed her Angel.
Ava was under contract to MGM Studios from 1941 to 1958.
Ava claimed that the first book she ever read was Gone With the Wind.
Ava's singing voice in Show Boat was dubbed by Annette Warren.
Ava enjoyed watching bullfights and had several affairs with bullfighters when she was residing in Spain.
Ava had a tempestuous affair with George C. Scott on the set of The Bible in 1965.
Ava was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1953 for Mogambo.
During the final year of Ava's life former husband Frank Sinatra paid for her mounting medical expenses.
Humphrey Bogart denigrated Ava as a little hillbilly girl from North Carolina after working with her in The Barefoot Contessa.
Ava was close friends with singer Lena Horne.
Ava admitted to having an abortion during the filming of Mogambo.
Ava had a recurring role on Knot's Landing during the 1985-86 season. It has been said that she joined this show for financial reasons.
Ava resided in London, UK for the last 26 years of her life.
In the mid-50's Ava moved to Madrid, Spain where she resided for eight years.
Ava's show biz career began when her brother-in-law, a professional New York City photographer, took pictures of her which were seen by an MGM talent scout.
After graduation from high school, Ava enrolled in the Atlantic Christian College secretarial program.
Smithfield, NC, where Ava grew up has an Ava Gardner Museum. It's located at 375 E. Market Street in downtown Smithfield.
Ava is buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Smithfield, NC where she grew up along with her parents and siblings.
Ava Gardner: Although no one believes me, I have always been a country girl and still have a country girl's values.
Ava Gardner: Maybe I just didn't have the temperament for stardom. I'll never forget seeing Bette Davis at the Hilton in Madrid. I went up to her and said, "Miss Davis, I'm Ava Gardner and I'm a great fan of yours." And do you know, she behaved exactly as I wanted her to behave. "Of course you are, my dear," she said. "Of course you are." And she swept on. Now that's a star.
Ava Gardner: [in 1985, on why she came out of retirement to appear on a prime-time soap opera] For the loot, honey, for the loot.
Ava Gardner: I wish to live until 150 years old but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.
Ava Gardner: I made it as a star dressed, and if it ain't dressed, I don't want it.
Ava Gardner: What's the point? My face, shall we say, looks lived in.
Ava Gardner: Everybody kisses everybody else in this crummy business all the time. It's the kissiest business in the world.
Ava Gardner: After my screen test, the director clapped his hands gleefully and yelled, "She can't talk! She can't act! She's sensational!"
Ava Gardner: I couldn't imagine a better place [Australia] for making a film on the end of the world.
Ava Gardner: I haven't taken an overdose of sleeping pills and called my agent. I haven't been in jail, and I don't go running to the psychiatrist every two minutes. That's something of an accomplishment these days.
Ava Gardner: I don't understand people who like to work and talk about it like it was some sort of goddamn duty. Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.
Ava Gardner: When I lose my temper, honey, you can't find it any place.
Ava Gardner: I have only one rule in acting -- trust the director and give him heart and soul.
Ava: All I ever got out of any of my marriages was the two years Artie Shaw financed on an analyst's couch.
Ava: I must have seen more sunrises than any other actress in the history of Hollywood.
Ava (about acting): Nobody ever called it an intellectual profession.
Ava: What I'd really like to say about stardom is that it gave me everything I never wanted.
Ava: Deep down I'm pretty superficial.
Ava: I think the main reason my marriages failed is that I always loved too well but never wisely.
Ava: Doing nothing feels like warm water to me.
Ava: Because I was promoted as a sort of a siren and played all those sexy broads, people made the mistake of thinking I was like that off-screen. They couldn't have been more wrong.