By Matt Micucci
Among the many tales of Hollywood romances, there is something particularly tragic and passionate that makes the one between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner stand out. This is the third and final part of the story of their tragic romance, which follows the immediate aftermath of their separation, divorce and heartbreaking entitled friendship thereafter.
Despite separating in 1953, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner did not officially divorce until 1957. Before then, a final attempt was made while Sinatra found himself in Spain where the actress lived, shooting a film named The Crime and the Passion, which she was originally meant to co-star in but from which she backed out at the last minute. They still found time to meet up, but the tension was heigthened by the fact that Sinatra was escorted by a singer named Peggy Connelly, whom he had been going out with for some time.
If one were to choose one particular track that symbolized this period in Sinatra’s life, it would be his second recording of the song he composed with Jack Wolf and Joel Herron and previously recorded in 1951. In his recording of the song for the album Where Are You in 1957, which as a whole is one of the saddest ballad concept albums in the crooner’s discography, one can sense a downright outpouring of grief and emotions.
Even years later, while in Rome filming Von Ryan’s Express in 1965, Frank taught of Ava enought to invite her to the villa that had been provided to him by the production team. Friends that joined them for dinner could still tell that he was trying to rekindle their relationship all those years later, and actor Brad Dexter, who joined them on one occasion, it was painful for him to see the woman he adored destroying herself with booze’
Ava had in fact taken to drinking even more than she ever had before – and she used to drink quite a lot. Despite her being the one who filed for divorce in 1957, many believed that the event took an emotional toll on her. As the years went on, her beauty started to fade, and she like many actresses of the big screen decided to live out the rest of her existance in her own privacy.
In 1968, Frank Sinatra battled a bad case of pneumonia and was relegated to the hospital. He sent Ava a wire, begging her to visit him in Miami. She flew in from London, but by the time she arrived, she was cranky and jet lagged, and seeing that Frank had recovered, she almost immediately left him again.
Decades later, tables turned when Gardner had a stroke. It was hard for her to speak, therefore she didn’t take any calles, except for the ones from her old lover, who did all the talking for her, as the nurses held the phone to her ear and he repeated for a thousandth time in his life that he loved her and that growing old was terrible.
Every year after their divorce, he sent her a beautiful floral bouquet. She kept a photo of her and Sinatra together from the early days of her relationship on her bedside table. She died on January 25, 1990 at the age of 67. He died eight years later at the age of 82. Their deaths filled the front pages of newspapers around the world.
Thus ended, permanently, the story of two people who fell in love with each other but were plagued by their own destructive insecurities. The story of a man who loved a woman too much, and a woman who didn’t think she could live up to the image that he had built of her. The story of one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading ladies of old time and one of the most celebrated entertainers of all time – Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra.