“The most complete and engrossing biography yet of this exotic Southern girl...Excellent.”—Liz Smith
She was the sex symbol who dazzled all the other sex symbols. She was the temptress who drove Frank Sinatra to the brink of suicide and haunted him to the end of his life. Ernest Hemingway saved one of her kidney stones as a sacred memento, and Howard Hughes begged her to marry him—but she knocked out his front teeth instead.
She was one of the great icons in Hollywood history—star of The Killers, The Barefoot Contessa, and The Night of the Iguana—and one of the few whose actual life was grander and more colorful than any movie. Her jaw-dropping beauty, charismatic presence, and fabulous, scandalous adventures fueled the legend of Ava Gardner—Hollywood’s most glamorous, restless and uninhibited star.
In this acclaimed first full biography of Gardner, Lee Server recreates—with great style and vivid detail—the actress’s life, from her beginnings as a barefoot North Carolina farm girl to her heady days as a Hollywood goddess. He paints the full spectacle of her tumultuous private life—including her string of failed marriages to Mickey Rooney, Sinatra and Artie Shaw—and Gardner’s lifelong search for adventure and love.
Ava Gardner: “Love is Nothing” is both an exceptional work of biography and a richly entertaining read.
At the ripe old age of 32, having collected three ex-husbands-Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra-Ava Gardner waxed introspective: "I still believe the most important thing in life is to be loved." Server's (Baby, I Don't Care) deliciously entertaining tome bursts with Hollywood dish and Oscar-worthy dialogue and is written in a crackling style that reads like great pulp. "Love became her terrible habit," he writes, "something hopeless to resist, impossible to get right." A Tobacco Road urchin turned "statue of Venus sprung to succulent life," Gardner ditched her secretarial aspirations and started at MGM in the early '40s as a contract actress earning $50 a week. She became an international star, drawing huge crowds on both sides of the Atlantic. But life wasn't always sweet for the gorgeous star of Show Boat and The Barefoot Contessa; her steamy affair and marriage to Sinatra ranks among the most notorious of Hollywood love stories. Gardner's career, hard drinking and screen-worthy love affairs are all chronicled in Server's page-turner prose, doing justice to one of cinema's most beautiful faces.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
May 15, 2007
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Excerpt from Ava Gardner by Lee Server
She was born in Johnston County in the red-dirt heartland of North Carolina, beyond Smithfield, at the western bend of the old Grabtown Road. The baby was delivered from her mother at ten o'clock that December 24, 1922, healthy, noisy as hell. In the morning family and friends gathered around a candlelit Christmas tree and cheered the new arrival and everyone had a look at the infant girl and listened to her yell. Two cakes--one chocolate and one white coconut--were baked to honor a twice-blessed day--a Christmas/birthday ritual forever after. Though one cake was intended to honor the baby Jesus, the girl would come to think of them both as tribute to her alone. They named her Ava Lavinia Gardner, the first after a beautiful maiden aunt, and the second because it sounded so pretty.
Her people were from the Piedmont plateau, the wide central strip of rolling hills between the Allegheny Mountains and the low-lying coastal plain and wind-whipped barrier isles to the east. Her bloodlines were a composite of the Piedmont's migrant herds: English, Irish, Scotch-Irish, a drop or two of French Huguenot. They had come to North Carolina over the previous century and a half, come down the Pioneer Road, down the Great Valley Road in the era of European settlement of the Carolina backcountry that started in the 1750s. Few whites lived in the region before that time. Neighboring Virginia and South Carolina were settled and prospered, but North Carolina long resisted greater colonization due to its hazardous Atlantic harbors and the lingering stigma of Roanoke Island, the death-cursed lost colony where English America had falteringly begun. The land was as it had been since its creation, granite mountain, forest and foothill, ancient seabed plain, home to wildlife and for ten thousand years to scattered tribes of Amerindians: the Bear River, Cape Fear, Catawba, Cheraw, Cherokee, Coree, Chowan, Eno Hatteras, Kajawee, Meherin, Nachapunga, Neuse River, Occaneechi, Pamlico, Saponi, Secotin, Sissipahaw, Sugaree, Tuscarora, Waccamaw, Wateree, Waxhau, Weopomeoc. A young London-born naturalist and Crown surveyor named John Lawson would make the first formal exploration of the interior lands, traveling far along the upper reaches of the Neuse and beyond, visiting the tribal settlements and recording the unspoiled terrain and abundant natural resources. He would publish an avid account of his experiences in a volume titled A New Voyage to Carolina, producing much interest in the forgotten colony and helping set off a wave of migration to inland North Carolina that would last for more than a hundred years. Now arrived newcomers by the thousands from Virginia, Pennsylvania, England, Wales, Ireland, half a million from the ports of Ulster alone. The wilderness was cleared for farmland, the hills and valleys echoed with English drinking songs, Scottish reels, and Goidelic hymns, and the Native American tribes were all but eliminated by war, smallpox, and syphilis. Some years after the publication of A New Voyage to Carolina, and in thanks for spreading the good word about their homeland, some Tuscarora Indians would find John Lawson and stick his body full of sharpened splinters of kindling and set them on fire.
The backcountry settlers were scattered across a rural landscape in a region without cities and only primitive transportation routes before the railroad came, limiting trade with the outside world. The residents of the Piedmont were simple farmers, most of them, working fifty acres or less.