“With her I reached the highest heights of happiness and misfortune”: the impossible love of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner in Spain | Pleasures

By chance of fate, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra ended up being neighbors in 1946 at the Sunset Tower in West Hollywood. She had just divorced her second husband, musician Artie Shaw. He, as on so many other occasions, had run away from the house he shared with his wife, Nancy Barbato, with whom he had three children. By then everyone was aware of the latent marital crisis that Frank and Nancy were dragging on. Although officially it would not be until three years later that the actress and the one nicknamed “The Voice” would begin a movie relationship.

The beginning of their passionate story began in the fall of 1949. After a crazy night in Palm Springs, our protagonists got into a Cadillac. Sinatra could think of nothing better as he entered Indio, California, than to grab a revolver from the glove compartment and shoot wildly. Several shop windows and lampposts were blown up, and he even accidentally injured a man who was passing by. By paying $ 30,000 they were released on bail and, back in Los Angeles, they continued to see each other secretly. As Marcos Ordóñez pointed out in the essential Drink life: Ava Gardner in Spain, “They were both passionate, insecure and fickle. They both liked the night, alcohol and chain cigarettes, and they longed to turn their life into one continuous party. They had the same energy, the same devilish character and an insatiable longing for stimuli. ” They were such for which.

It would not be until a date as marked as Valentine’s Day 1950 that Nancy would take the step of filing for divorce. However, happiness would not last long. A month later, Artie Shaw invited Sinatra and Ava to one of his concerts in San Francisco’s Bop City. Eaten by jealousy, Frank suggested to his beloved not to go. As expected, he ignored her. Suddenly the phone in Shaw’s apartment rang. “I was just calling to say goodbye to you,” he said. “Where are you going, Frank?” Gardner replied. “I’m going to a place you can’t accompany me to, babe,” he replied. Two shots were immediately heard. Fearing the worst, Ava went looking for him and found him sitting on the bed smiling with a book in his hands. That was what prompted her to head to Spain to participate in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. At the age of 28, in mid-April, the actress arrived in Tossa de Mar. Thus began her long idyll with our country.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman It was not only an event on the Costa Brava, but the first Hollywood production recorded entirely in Spanish soil. It was certainly a box office flop, but the shoot itself left endless anecdotes for posterity. Without going any further, the press of the time fed an alleged romance between Ava and the bullfighter, as well as the poet, Mario Cabré. There is no doubt that he fell deeply in love with the star and that at least one morning they woke up under the same sheets. But from there to being together there is a big difference. You can already imagine what happened when journalist Cecilia Ager echoed the news in Variety. On May 13, Frank arrived at the Barcelona airport with the face of few friends. He did not come exactly empty-handed: beyond several boxes of Coca-Cola, in one of his suitcases he wore an emerald necklace valued at $ 10,000. The following day, Gardner proudly wore the jewel before the photographers gathered in Catalonia. Back in the United States, Frank denied the gift because their divorce had not yet materialized.

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner on the Costa Brava. Photo: Getty

As Ava herself recounted in her 1988 memoir of her affair with Cabré: “Frank said he would never forgive me. And he never forgave me ”. Despite their constant fights and their little scenes motivated mainly by jealousy, on November 7, 1951 they were married. His was predestined to be a time bomb. She being one of the most popular faces of the Metro, and he was a singer gone downhill (in those days, of course), at the end of 1952 Ava excused herself for a few days from the filming of Mogambo to abort. A few months later, he did it again for the second time. He longed to have a child with her; Gardner no. In the summer of 1953, after a notorious fight in London, the American put land in the middle and flew to Madrid. Sinatra did not accompany her, as she had to return to the United States to promote her role in From here to eternity. For months they had no contact.

Ava temporarily settled in a suite at the Castellana Hilton because neither the Palace nor the Ritz looked favorably on show business people. In August 1953, in one of his usual night and alcoholic outings in the capital, he met in Chicote who would be one of his most famous lovers months later: the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín. In fact, the three of them spent Christmas together that year in Madrid. The night of December 26, they finished it in the tablao of Villa Rosa. “As soon as Sinatra left Villa Rosa, Ava began to rant against him and everything, mixing insults in English and Spanish. There was no way to silence her, until Luis Miguel got up and slapped her a couple of times. One of the diamond earrings she was wearing was blown off and it was impossible to find it. It was six o’clock in the morning. Many left, but Ava wanted to continue the party. And we ended up at my house, on the street of Povedilla, where my father prepared garlic soups for everyone ”, the memories of Lola Flores collect. The volcano and the breeze written by Juan Ignacio García Garzón. Sinatra knew perfectly well that his wife was disloyal to him, but he was not exactly a saint. On March 25, 1954, when he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for From here to eternityAva simply congratulated him with a telegram.

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner with Lola Flores. Photo: Getty

After ending his relationship with Dominguín in the summer of 1954, Gardner began to decorate a farm in La Moraleja, called La Bruja, which he had bought for $ 66,000. In 1955 he finally settled there. Previously, she had seriously considered divorcing Frank, but what she did not count on is that in 1956 her still husband would return to Spain to participate in Pride and passion the Stanley Kramer. His goal was clear: he wanted to be as close as possible to Ava to win her back for the umpteenth time, despite the fact that she was seeing the Italian actor Walter Chiari. As usual, their fiery fights marked those weeks. Obviously, it didn’t help much that we say that the interpreter of My Waywill arrive in Madrid on the arm of the singer Peggy Connolly. Neither is his attitude during filming. “Sinatra was permanently pissed off and didn’t give a damn about everything. He could not get his Cadillac from the United States, and Luis Megino Sr. gathered heaven and earth to fix that. In production they had an authentic fleet of the Mercedes house. They had a dozen wonderful cars, and Sinatra was loading them one after another. They were rolling in the mountains, and Sinatra would ride the Mercedes off-road and tear them apart. In half an hour the crankcase or whatever it was, “said producer Teddy Villalba in the aforementioned book by Marcos Ordóñez.

During the recording, specifically at the Felipe II hotel in El Escorial, one of the couple’s most memorable chapters took place. At dawn, sitting at the bar counter, Sinatra discovered that there was a piano in the corner. As soon as he saw him, he began to hum a song and asked those present for a telephone and a conference in Madrid. “Hey, honey,” he was heard saying. Sure enough, he was calling the actress’s house. He began to sing very softly, never letting go of the phone, crestfallen and thinking that she was listening to the other attentively. However, it wasn’t until a little over an hour later that Ava inadvertently walked through the bar door dressed only in a white mink coat. He wore nothing underneath. She hugged him from behind, hung up the receiver and, without a word, they went to her room. The next morning he woke up with several scratches on his face.

Although they divorced in 1957, they were always in contact. Those who attended his spectacular sprees in the apartment he bought in the early sixties at number 11, Doctor Arce, undoubtedly give good faith of it. “She always ended up running away from her parties, due to alcohol or loneliness. He went upstairs, where his dressing room, his bedroom, and that wonderful terrace that overlooked the pool was. Many nights she and I end up talking for hours, by the pool. Other nights I remember her staying alone, talking to Sinatra on the phone, too many hours. That is my memory: her upstairs, alone, or with one or two friends, and 40 people dancing downstairs. Fortunes were spent on those conferences. He still had a great dependence on that love, as if it were strong alcohol. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Ava and Sinatra were very similar. They had the same ups and downs, the same fury of living, that wild mix of generosity and possession. And I understood that their relationship had failed. There was no way it would go well. They were two electrified biorhythms. When they agreed on the same point it was wonderful. When not, sparks flew. They loved each other, they needed each other, but chemistry was impossible. ‘Neither with you nor without you’, as in the song. I think it was Perico Vidal who told me a very accurate phrase one day: ‘Frank would die for Ava, but not with Ava,’ ”Carlos Larrañaga explained in Drink life: Ava Gardner in Spain.

La boda de Frank Sinatra y Ava Gardner  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the summer of 1965, when journalist Jimmie Davies asked Ava if Sinatra could have made him happy, her response was, “Frankie is too much like me. A madman without peace. Fragile like me. And, ultimately, a mistake like so many others ”. The singer rebuilt his life by marrying Mia Farrow on July 19, 1966 (“I always knew that Frank would end up in bed with a boy,” were his words), but two years later he would divorce again. The date coincided with the departure of Gardner from Madrid, since since then he lived his last years in London.

Before moving to the British capital, she spent a few days with him in Miami, since just when she broke up with Farrow, she suffered pneumonia. He did not hesitate to call his ex-wife, who came with her maid, her secretary, and thirty trunks. “Ava and I are spending a few days together. We are not rebuilding any old love. We’ve said a lot of unpleasant things to each other, but deep down, we’ve always remained great friends. Our friendship is indissoluble, and a part of our relationships can never die. I have been ill and she has come to see me: that is what matters. Ava has been a fundamental woman in my life. Knowing her gave a new course to my existence as a man and as an artist. With it I reached the highest peaks of happiness and also of misfortune. We both have the same sense of humor, we know how to look at things head on and call them by name. For the moment we keep each other company, like two old men. We dust the past. We tell each other old stories and drink the odd Coca-Cola ”, Sinatra confessed about the reunion. When Gardner died on January 25, 1990 at age 67 of pneumonia, he was unable to attend the funeral. He sent a large bouquet of flowers with a card that sums it up perfectly: “With my undying love, Francis.”